Deep Red (1975) Dario Argento

Back in theaters in a restored 4K version, with the spread of Cat People, Profondo rosso is not only a film manifesto for the cinema of Dario Argento and, more generally, of the Italian giallo: it is also one of those films from which he never get tired. seeks, for the sake of the happiness of his intuition and the formal beauty of the building, which even today, no matter what people think about it, is quite capable of frightening, disturbing and bewitching.

scarlet poster

Return to the hall deep red, almost fifty years after its original release, is an opportunity to return to reflect (and in such a work, reflection and speculation will probably never be enough) about one of the classics of post-war Italian cinema, and not just about gender. Among the recognized masterpieces of Dario Argento are only Suspiriafor true Argentines, vying with him for the title of the best film of the Roman director – and the film-manifesto of the whole Italian thriller, the film is actually a work of caesura, a “bridge” between the director’s most thriller period (“The Animal Trilogy”, consisting of Bird with crystal feathers, cat with nine tails AND Four gray velvet fliesnot wanting to be considered atypical five days) and the subsequent horror phase began with Suspiriaand then continued with Hell. It is in this sense that the choice of a name – which, as you know, has replaced the worker one that it was Saber-toothed tiger – seems more appropriate and suggestive than ever: no more long and figurative titles of previous films, complete with the presence of an animal name (a formula later copied from other Italian thrillers of the time), and no dry single-word titles of subsequent works yet (tradition , which Argento will retain for the next decade and beyond). Just two evocative words that end up being a literal description and a “mirror” (equally concrete) of what we see on screen; all for a work that encapsulates and organizes the intuitions of the previous ones, in a container that begins to explicitly embrace the fantastic and the fabulous. Without losing a single gram of deliberate filth shown in previous works.

Crime and painting

Profondo Rosso, David Hemmings and Gabriele Lavia in a still from the movie
Profondo Rosso, David Hemmings and Gabriele Lavia in a still from Dario Argento’s film

Synopsis reported for the record only: American pianist Mark Daly, a jazz teacher at a conservatory, witnesses from the street the brutal murder of Helga Ullman, a parapsychologist who has come to town for a series of conferences. Having run into the woman’s apartment, the man can only state her death, while he sees from afar a figure in a raincoat, which quickly moves away. With the help of a journalist Gianna Brezziwho hopes for a scoop of life, Mark begins investigating the crime; the two discover that the woman held a conference shortly before, during which she sensed the presence of evil in the audience. The two’s investigation reveals that the murder is connected to a mysterious baby lullaby and an unidentified villa, but the situation immediately becomes extremely dangerous: all the people who help Mark and Gianna end up being victims of a killer who seems to be able to predict everything. their moves. The truth, perhaps, is hidden in the vague memory of the night of the crime; a kind of subconscious vision (a picture or maybe something else) that Mark can’t focus on.

Collection of visions

Profondo Rosso, Giuliana Calandra in a disturbing episode of the film
Profondo Rosso, Giuliana Calandra in a disturbing scene from a film by Dario Argento

As said at the beginning, deep red has all the attributes of a caesura, but also a generalization of all the proposals that the director has spread in previous films: there is a reflection of the gaze and its ability to hold a revealing detail, which, however, the brain is not able to develop and fill with meaning on a conscious level (an element that is already present V Bird with crystal feathersand even upgraded to hidden vision posthumous V Four gray velvet flies); there is the occasional witness, often from abroad (here Mark is an American, and we assume he has not been to Italy for a long time), who falls into the killer’s crosshairs, and yet cannot escape the mixture of fascination and disgust at his actions and his motives; there are glimpses of the killer’s world, testifying to his derailed consciousness (here a masterful sequence of opening credits – then with shooting and small variations, later – with the caress of the camera with children’s trinkets and balloons, puppets and knives, emblems of delirium that has lost all connection with the human mind ); there are subjective moments that force us to accept the killer’s point of view – with its repulsive yet fatally attractive charge – and highly graphic murders in which grim details – far from groundless Grand Guignol’s display – take on the overflowing consistency of a waking nightmare.

Embrace delirium

Profondo Rosso, Daria Nicolodi in a still from the movie
Profondo Rosso, Daria Nicolodi in a still from a film by Dario Argento

It was this consistency of content and staging that Argento desired, as opposed to the more realistic structure that co-writer Bernardino Zapponi I would like to give to the film, to make deep red generalization of the cinematic proposals of the first Dario Argento: here, starting from the setting – a fantastic metropolis, reconstructed with Roman and Turin exteriors, smoothly mixed with places created ad hoc (the famous Blue Bar) – we are in a hyper-realistic universe that will soon abandon any connection with concrete reality, embracing delirium and irrationality. The constantly moving camera with soft long shots that carefully study and envelop the characters (even in the most seemingly calm episodes) immediately hint at the permanence of the nightmare. The most realistic moments are few and short, and often take on a comedic tinge – largely delegated to dialogue between the two protagonists. David Hemmings AND Daria Nicolodi; for much of the film, the staging forces the viewer to adopt the perspective of a ghostly voyeur, a prisoner of a nightmare who mercilessly chains him to the vision but irresistibly pulls him. Famous movie soundtrack goblins – complemented by previous jazz compositions by Giorgio Gaslini – adds an uncanny charm and fits perfectly with the imagery: just think of the long scene in which Hemmings explores the villa and the much more traditional and hopeful effect – and less able to penetrate the skin – that the scene could have formed if it wasn’t for the progressive rock roar of the Roman band. For almost the entire 127 minutes of Argento’s film, the viewer experiences a fairy-tale dimension that invades and overlays everyday life: the killer is a dark and omniscient presence that opens doors, enters homes, and listens to secrets at will. And his cathartic ending – we don’t think we’re doing a big spoiler here – reflects the superbly delusional sequence of his actions.

This dark joy

Profondo rosso, disturbing episode from the movie
Profondo rosso, an unsettling scene from a film by Dario Argento.

This is a movie you never get tired of watching. deep red, not only a film-manifesto of the cinema of Dario Argento and the Italian thriller in general, but also a work capable of generating that genuine cinephilic enthusiasm that any fan of the seventh art (and not only horrors) can recognize and make it his own: every frame and every movement camera, no matter how it was known and now remembered, (re)creates that pleasure from seeing – that healthy enjoyment of the look that accompanies every self-respecting classic. Thus, a work designed to scare – and yet quite capable of it, with a level and quality fear, unknown to most subsequent horror films, Italian and otherwise, becomes the source of another, but complementary feeling: that inexhaustible pleasure, that is, that inexhaustible pleasure that one feels when finding and recognizing the artistic embodiment that one feels in one’s heart. A reliable sensation is also above all, when this manifestation embraces the dark side of the human soul, the most inexpressible feelings and the most animal impulses. It is necessary and necessary to direct through cinema and in general through art. Considering the film’s production twists and turns and the contrasts that accompanied its creation (as is often the case with classics), one can only rejoice that deep red it was just that: that Argento, that is, the modified and partially distorted, realistic structure that Zapponi wanted to give to the script, that the Gaslini soundtrack was largely abandoned (including the first version, “terrible”, according to the director, that later would become a well-known children’s memorial service featured in the film) for an obscure progressive rock band that was preparing to become a legend. Masterpieces, most often, are born that way.


Profondo Rosso, new movie poster



Original name: deep red
Director: Darius Silver
Country/year: Italy / 1975
Duration: 127′
Type: horror, thriller, crime
Throw: Daria Nicolodi, Fulvio Mingozzi, Gabriele Lavia, Lorenzo Piani, Salvatore Puntillo, Aldo Bonamano, Clara Calamai, Dante Fioretti, David Hemmings, Eros Pagni, Furio Meniconi, Geraldine Hooper, Giuliana Calandra, Glauco Mauri, Jacopo Mariani, Liana Del Balzo, Macha Meryl, Nicoletta Elmi, Piero Mazzinghi, Piero Vida, Vittorio Fanfoni
Screenplay: Bernardino Zapponi, Dario Argento
Photo: Luigi Cuweiler
Assembly: Franco Fraticelli
Music: Goblin, Giorgio Gaslini
Director: Savior Silver
Production house: Rizzoli Films, Seda Spettacoli
Distribution: cat people

Release date: 07/10/2023


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Journalist and film critic. I am or have collaborated with various web and print publications including (in chronological order) L’Acchiappafilm, and Since 2018, I have been a consultant for the Stelle Diverse and Aspie Saturday Film psychoeducational reviews organized by the CuoreMenteLab in Rome. In 2019, I founded the Asbury Movies website, of which I am the Editor and Managing Director.

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