A psychic who can read minds picks up the thoughts of a murderer in the audience and soon becomes a victim. An English pianist gets involved in solving the murders, but finds many of his avenues of inquiry cut off by new murders, and he begins to wonder how the murderer can track his movements so closely.Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
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Olga! Come back here this minute!
[Olga walks back to her father]
What is it?
You little witch. I told you not to do that again!
[Slaps Olga across the face]
Now off you go- go on!
[Olga gives her father an evil smirk as she backs away]
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In the early 70s, Italian director Dario Argento took the world by surprise with the release of his first three movies, three excellent entries in the "Giallo" genre that had been growing in popularity across the 60s. In only two years, the success of "L' Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo" ("The Bird with the Crystal Plumage"), "Il Gatto a Nove Code" ("The Cat o' Nine Tails") and "4 Mosche Di Velluto Grigio" ("Four Flies on Grey Velvet) turned Argento into the new rising star of horror, and his "animal trilogy" into classics of the Italian thriller. However, after this huge success he decided to move away from the Giallo for a while, and in order to explore something different, he made two TV dramas and a comedy named "Le Cinque Giornate" ("Five Days in Milan"). While this offered him the chance to try something new, it also allowed him to prepare his return to horror with what would be known as one of the best Giallo thrillers ever made: "Profondo Rosso", known in English as "Deep Red".
The film is the story of Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), a British piano player who is spending some time in Italy as a music teacher. One night after work, as he walks towards his apartment, he watches through the building's window and notices his neighbor Helga (Macha Méril) struggling with an unknown man. Helga, a psychic, gets brutally killed in front of Daly's eyes, who runs towards the apartment in a futile attempt to save her. After being interrogated by the police, Daly notices that he could have seen the killer's face among a group of portraits on the wall, but he can't truly figure out what's missing. This thought becomes an obsession and Daly decides to investigate the murder of the psychic with the help of reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), however, his obsession becomes dangerous as he becomes the killer's next target.
Written by Bernardino Zapponi and Dario Argento himself, the film's plot revolves around the solving of the mystery while putting special attention to Marcus' obsession with the missing clue he may have caught the night of the murder. While Argento is famous for preferring surrealism to logic when writing his screenplays, the story in "Profondo Rosso" is carefully constructed and takes advantage of every element of the Giallo genre to tell it's mystery. And mystery is the key of the film, as the secret of the killer's identity is exploited to the max in order to create wonderful set pieces of suspense and horror. The care taken to develop the characters is another of the things that make "Profondo Rosso" to stand out among similar films, a not only Daly's obsessions are explored, but his relation with Gianna becomes an interesting source of romance, some comedy, and lots of suspense.
By the time he directed "Profondo Rosso", Dario Argento was already a master of his craft with a defined style, and the whole look of the film demonstrates it. With his excellent visual composition and inventive use of the camera (with cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller), Argento shows that he knows how to build up suspense and tension in the audience; and together with the excellent make-up by Giuliano Laurenti and Giovanni Morosi, Argento creates some of the most amazing murder scenes ever put to film. Giallo films are famous for making an art of their murder scenes, and in "Profondo Rosso" Argento takes that idea to the next level. The effective score by Giorgio Gaslini and the band "Goblin" is the icing on the cake, as it completes the unnatural haunting atmosphere that the whole film has.
Leading the cast is David Hemmings as Marcus Daly, in what seems to be almost a reprisal of his role in Antonioni's 1966 film, "Blowup" (which was another of Argento's inspirations). Hemmings is excellent in his role, and effectively portrays Daly's own descent into darkness as he gets more involved with the killings. Argento's regular collaborator Daria Nicolodi stars as Gianna Brezzi (in her first work with Argento), an interesting role because the character demands her to downplay her beauty in favor of the awkwardness of the role. Nicolodi is charming, and very natural, making hard to not fall in love with her character, the typical wisecracking reporter of mystery films. The rest of the cast includes many interesting characters (everyone is a suspect here), and the supporting actors do a very good job. Gabriele Lavie is specially great as Carlo, making probably the most likable character of the film.
While definitely one of the best Giallo films ever made, "Profondo Rosso" is not exempt of flaws, at least in my humble opinion. The most noticeable I found was the fact that at times the plot kind of drags, wasting too much time in details that do not advance the plot. This makes the long runtime feel even longer than it should, and due to this some audiences may feel the film is boring. Fortunately, this doesn't happen too often and it's more a minor quibble than an actual flaw. Another detail that bothered me was the bad dubbing the film has, and I don't mean the English dubbing, the original Italian work of audio is really bad, and diminishes the value of many of the performances due to bad synchronization between audio and voice work.
As one of the modern masters of horror, Dario Argento's career is one of enormous value for horror fans, and among his many works, "Profondo Rosso" is an essential one. A remarkable work of style and technique, "Deep Red" is a movie that simply grabs you and doesn't let you go until it ends, making an excellent experience and a good companion piece to Argento's follow-up, the masterpiece "Suspiria". Without a doubt "Profondo Rosso" is one of the best murder-mystery films ever made. A true jewel. 9/10
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