Deep Red (1975) – Pure Giallo Brilliance

Deep Red - Movie Poster

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Deep Red (1975), otherwise known as Profondo Rosso, provides another strong entry into the impressive catalog of Dario Argento. Released during the “giallo craze” in Italian cinema, this film pushed beyond the boundaries of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) into audacious and self-indulgent territory. This film also marks the first collaboration between Dario Argento and famous Italian musician Claudio Simonetti. Many consider Deep Red to be a definitive work in the giallo sub-genre of films.

Deep Red - The murder of Helga
The murder of Helga provides one of the most iconic giallo scenes

Argento’s Continuum

Deep Red provides a fascinating study in the evolution of both the work of Argento and the giallo style of Italian horror film. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage showed an evolution from the early black and white of Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Yet, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage remained conservative in comparison to later entries into the giallo sub-genre. Argento ups the ante in Blood Red by pushing farther into the spectacle of black glove murders by a faceless killers. Argento also adds the subtle supernatural element of clairvoyance to spice up the mix.

Additionally, Argento departs from the competent yet conservative music of master musician Ennio Morricone to the much more flamboyant stylings of Claudio Simonetti and his band, Goblin. While music is important to all movies, Simonetti is crucial to Dario Argento’s overall sense of style. The theme song, “Profondo Rosso”, clearly departs from the standard soundtracks of the time.

Deep Red Storyline

Like most Argento giallo, the film centers around a string of murders committed by a mysterious killer wearing black leather gloves. This time, musician Marcus Daly, played well by David Hemmings, witness one of the murders in an apartment above the streets of Turn. A reporter names Gianna outs Marcus as a witnessed to the crime. Soon the killer comes for Marcus. Marcus takes matters into his own hands by trying to identify the killer before he becomes a victim. This search takes him through the sordid history of a local family and a murder that has been hidden for decades.

Deep Red - More fantastic photography from a Dario Argento film
Dario Argento films always display brilliant cinematography

Familiar Faces

Argento staple and former love interest Daria Nicolodi plays the role of Gianna. Gianna assists Marcus after feeling bad about outing him as a witness and putting his life in danger. Their relationship provides a lighthearted theme to an otherwise brutal affair. Their relationship brings a bit of charm that positively impacts the overall entertainment value of the film. Deep Red also stars Gabriel Lavia as Marcus’ drunk friend Carlo. Lavia also starred in Beyond the Door (1974)one year earlier.

As with any good giallo film, Dario Argento sends the viewer through many twists and turns. Everyone, from a young girl that murders reptiles, to even Gianna becomes a suspect. Only in the final frames does Argento reveal the identity of the killer. Only then do all of the pieces fall together. Argento punctuates his masterpiece with one of the most brutal deaths of all, leaving a deep red pool of blood reflecting Marcus’ face back at him.

Deep Red - The city of Turin provides an awesome backdrop for murder
Marcus and Carlo argue on the streets of Turin in another great shot

Deep Red Production

Supposedly, the director filmed Deep Red on location in Turin, Italy. Rumor has it that Dario chose this location because the high concentration of Satanists in the city. While Malevolent Dark can’t see the connection, we’ll file this under ‘PLAUSIBLE’. Again, Deep Red intrigues because it delves for the first time into the supernatural. Deep Red predates Argento’s supernatural masterwork, Suspiria (1977) by two years. Suspira would lead to two other films in Agento’s witchcraft series “The Three Mothers Trilogy“. He would also revisit the idea in Phenomena (1985). In Deep Red, the idea of clairvoyance only offers an interesting aside and doesn’t sully the films status as a pure Italian giallo.

Dario Argento and the black gloves

Many of the scenes involving the killer feature Argento himself in the role. His philosophy behind this being that he could handle duties more efficiently, saving time and money. Being that the killer’s identity is totally obfuscated from view, the audience is none the wiser.

As Argento evolves his giallo continuum, he ratchets up the blood. In Deep Red, we see a significant escalation in the blood supply from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This film doesn’t quite reach Tenebrae (1982) levels, but it certainly dials up the gore. Carlo Rambaldi provides the special effects for the film. Overall, the effects are good, but in most instances not really what drives the effectiveness of the kill scenes. The bigger impact comes from the capable hands of the cinematographer, Luigi Kuveiller capturing the action with technical proficiency.

Deep Red - The iconic creepy doll
Who invited the creepy doll? Seriously, who did it?

A glimpse into madness

One of the most beautifully shot scenes is a strange moving still-life portrait to the sounds of Simonetti’s “Profondo Rosso” theme. The camera slowly scans a table of strange trinkets, toys and murder weapons curated by the unknown killer. The scene efficiently provides psychoanalysis of the killer without a single word. While the viewer can not fully understand the mind of the killer, they can quickly conclude their reason for murder is deeply rooted in a childish past. This scene gives way to the death of Helga, a psychic, one of the more iconic scenes from the film.

Deep Red, The Deep Read

When looking through the vast catalog of giallo films, one could get lost arguing the best of breed. Many point to Deep Red as one of the best giallo films ever. Certainly, it had a profound effect, not only on the genre, but also the direction that Argento would take with subsequent films. Argento, successfully employs visual techniques that would later define much of his work. This includes his kills taking center stage by employing technical photography, gore and music to create a complete experience. The decision to experiment with the supernatural proves crucial to Argento’s later direction.

Deep Red (1975) may very well be the best giallo ever made. It certainly has fantastic style, great music and all of the blood one could want from an Italian horror film. With this film, Argento elevated giallo as an art form. Minimally, Deep Red is essential viewing to anyone that loves giallo. However, those not familiar with the genre will still find something to behold.

Deep Red (1975) - Pure Giallo Brilliance - Malevolent Dark
deep red movie poster e1624544262107

Director: Dario Argento

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:32

Editor's Rating:
4

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