Director: Dario Argento
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 127 Minutes
This product was provided by Arrow for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Dario Argento’s Deep Red stands as not only one of the director’s best pieces of work but marks the zenith of the giallo subgenre, a film to which all other gialli should be compared. A compelling mystery, shockingly brutal violence and a kick-ass score from Goblin help make this one of the best giallo films and high on my list of the top horror films ever made.
David Hemmings stars as a jazz pianist who witnesses the murder of a famous telepath one evening and decides to put on his detective cap and figure out who’s behind this murder. He teams up with a precocious reporter, played by Daria Nicolodi, and the two set out to discover the secret behind the killing as the body count begins to rise.
Argento’s gloriously macabre mystery thriller plays out nearly beat for beat with the director’s first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but it’s presented in a more stylish, pronounced way, clearly showing that Argento has refined his aesthetic and, in the five years since Crystal Plumage was released, honed his craft into the masterwork that is Deep Red.
Having seen the film twice before and completely falling in love with it, I began watching the newly released Arrow Films Blu-ray – not so much for the content as the quality of the new 4k restoration. After noticing a few scenes I never saw previously, I realized this is the full, uncut, 127-minute version that U.S. audiences never received when it first hit theaters and on several subsequent home releases.
In fact, 22 minutes were excised from the “export” version that drastically change the theme of the film, by removing nearly all of the relationship arch between the two leads. While there were a few uncut versions available in the States in more recent years, most of them – specifically the Anchor Bay one – still had minor changes, primarily being a dog-fight sequence and one where a girl kills a lizard by stabbing a needle through it. Personally, I could have done without these shots, but I’m still glad to finally have seen the version the director intended.
The film was shot in English but was dubbed in both English and Italian, like many Italian releases of this time, but, because the export version was cut before English dubbing occurred, the English track contains moments of dialogue in Italian with subtitles. It’s a bit jarring at first to hear a character speaking in English one moment and, in the breath, hearing his voice change completely, in Italian to boot. Unfortunately, this something that can’t be avoided. If anything, this shows just how much of the film was removed for the States.
It’s a fantastic movie no matter which version you see, but the full, uncut version dives deep into themes of gender dynamics, a topic that many gialli tackle, but few handle it with such vigor and humor as Deep Red. The export version is almost completely devoid of these humorous, almost slapstick moments, which add a layer of levity to an otherwise grim narrative, and help deepen our understanding of the two leads- a relationship that, although competently exhibited in the export version, doesn’t hold as great a meaning to the thematic elements of the plot.
The Blu-ray contains an audio commentary track by Thomas Rostock, a filmmaker and an Argento expert, along with a slew of featurettes involving the making of the film and its impact on cinema. Most of these bonus features were made available on previous Arrow releases, but there’s a new video essay from Michael Mackenzie, who articulately and deftly examines the film and why many consider it a genre masterpiece.
For the die-hard fans of Deep Red, the special, limited edition version that Arrow released in April is still probably the best way to go, considering it contains both versions of the film and a ton of extra collectors’ stuff, but if you don’t want to pay the premium price to pick that one up and just want to experience the film in its best form possible, this Blu-ray is the way to go. Deep Red is peak giallo, and Arrow has once again given it the treatment it deserves.