Having witnessed the brutal murder of psychic medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril), jazz instructor and musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) works with news reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) to solve this horrendous crime. As the body count rises, the two must work quickly to discover the identity of the killer in order to prevent themselves from becoming the next victims.
As simple as the plot synopsis may sound, Deep Red, or Profondo Rosso, is anything but basic or simple. Having thrown out the conventional narrative and replaced it with ideas of gender conventions, Argento sought out to tell a giallo that was more of a technical marvel than a traditional narrative structure. Certainly not as nightmarish, psychedelic or nonlinear as Suspiria, Deep Red is a fine balance between the two styles. With expansive angles, sweeping cameras, and a flair for theatrics, this film and its cinematography remain some of the most technically astounding works in horror/gialli.
Speaking of balance in styles, the film marks as a transition point, both figurative and literal, between the paint by numbers whodunnits of his early career and the supernatural horror films that would dominate his next few years, Deep Red marks the culmination of everything that has come before in giallo and brings it to its perfection point. While Argento would later return to giallo with Tenebre and Opera, he, nor any other filmmaker, would hit this level of perfection again, bringing together new ideas and classic tropes in a spirited and unmatched way.
Having not one, but two incredible opening sequences, Deep Red opens with a violent murder scene, shown through overcasting shadows, while a child’s song is playing. After returning from the minimally styled credits, the film returns to another opening sequence where we meet the psychic Helga giving a speech in an auditorium. The curtain draws like in a play as the camera swoops into action, flying above the seats, panning and zooming in lively ways. The constant movement of the camera makes it the most important character in the feature. As the narrative ebbs and flows, the technical marvel on display boasts an engaging bravado that seamlessly fits the jagged story.
Most of you already know the cultural significance of the film including the use of mirrors, how Marcus and Carlo are the opposites of each other (see mirrors), homosexuality, both hidden and open, and the masculinity tug of war. I won’t meander too long on these subjects but I will note that these themes are even more significant in today’s society which highlights the importance of this film.
Moving onto this particular transfer, Arrow Video sourced a brand new 4K restoration of the film from Laboratorio L’Immagine Ritrovata in 2014. The aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, delivers an even more incredible view than the previous versions of the film. With high grain visible, the new 4k restoration brings crisp shots that add further depth to the dark sequences. Previous releases of this film contained moments of pulsating color, which are still present here, although much more subtle and harder to catch with the untrained eye. The overall presentation is leaps and bounds beyond any other transfer that has come before it, aside from the 2016 UK version of this release which is the exact same transfer and product. Add in the mono and 5.1 audio tracks, available for both versions of the film, and this renders all releases that came before it obsolete.
A profound work of genius and as seminal as Argento’s follow up, Suspiria, Arrow Video has given this classic the ultimate treatment in a very limited three-disc set. If you are an Argento fan or just a lover of horror, this is possibly one of the best overall re-releases of the past decade, rivaling even the behemoth Scarlet Box Set.