Release Date(s)1975 (April 10, 2018)
Studio(s)Rizzoli Film/Seda Spettacoli/Howard Mahler Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
Many consider Dario Argento’s Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso and The Hatchet Murders) to be the final word on giallo films. It was definitely a return of sorts for Argento, who had briefly walked away from the genre to focus on other types of projects. He had arrived on the scene with three entries in what became known as his “Animal” trilogy: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o’ Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, but Deep Red is where his artistry came to fruition, creating a film that’s one of his most popular, but also one of his most respected.
The fairly standard tale of American jazz pianist Marcus (David Hemmings) who works in Rome and witnesses the murder of his neighbor which propels him to investigate who was behind it all on his own borrows similar ideas from The Bird with Crystal Plumage. The most apparent correlation is the catalyst for the story, meaning that he knows that he either saw something or can’t quite understand what he saw the night of the murder. This detail ultimately winds up being the vital clue in discovering the killer’s identity, which isn’t resolved until the final minutes. Also hot on the trail is local photojournalist Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), who is Marcus’ comic foil, as well as the eventual object of his affections, ultimately serving a larger purpose.
Gender politics between the two characters and how it relates to the main plot thread are explored more fully in the original Italian version (also known as the Director’s Cut). The U.S. version truncates much of this material in favor of a leaner, meaner version of the film without any excess character moments or overarching themes. Which version is better is open for debate, but for me, the extra material often slows the pace of the film down. The thrust of Marcus’ investigation is ostensibly stopped dead in its tracks at multiple points to allow for its inclusion. On the other hand, it also plays into the film’s aesthetic. Regardless, Deep Red is an effective film in both versions, specifically due to Argento’s use of horrific, yet beautiful, death imagery.
Over the years, Deep Red has seen many different releases on home video from companies of all sorts. More recently, Blue Underground and Arrow Video had their hands on it on both sides of the Atlantic for DVD and Blu-ray. The release we’re taking a look at now basically duplicates the 2016 Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video with one notable difference, which I will get into later. The film itself is presented with a 4K restoration from the original Techniscope camera negative with an interpositive element used for missing frames. It’s a sumptuous presentation and easily the best the film has ever looked on home video. Well-refined grain with high levels of fine detail are on full display with a potent encode to get the most out of them. Deep black levels with excellent shadow detail are also present with perfect brightness and contrast. Besides the crispness and clarity of everything, the color palette is also gorgeous with big, beautiful primaries and excellent skin tones. The presentation is also stable and clean with no immediately visible damage leftover. For the Director’s Cut, there are several audio options: Italian mono LPCM, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD, and an English/Italian mono LPCM hybrid, which substitutes Italian dialogue for the sections that weren’t overdubbed in English. It also comes with English subtitles. The Export Version comes with a single English mono LPCM track and optional subtitles in English SDH. I personally found the original mono tracks to be the most effective. The 5.1 offers up some extra space for the sound effects and score to breathe in, but little of anything else. The Italian track sounds more natural by comparison, despite the fact that David Hemmings voices himself on the English track. Across all of these options, dialogue is clear (although slightly loose due to being recorded in post-production), sound effects have plenty of fidelity, Goblin’s score comes through blisteringly well, and there are no leftover distortions or dropouts. Your mileage may vary as to which tracks are the best option, but for my money, the mono tracks are the clear winners.
This package also comes armed with a large amount of bonus material as well. On Disc One, which features the Director’s Cut of the film, there’s an introduction by Claudio Simonetti; an audio commentary by filmmaker and Argento expert Thomas Rostock; and Profondo Giallo, a 33-minute visual essay about the film by Michael Mackenzie in 3 chapters (A Symphony of Slaughter: Deep Red and the Substance of Style, Brains and Brute Strength: Gender in Deep Red, and The Final Word: Deep Red as the Giallo to End all Gialli). Also included is a set of Archival Special Features, which consists of Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento’s Deep Genius, a 12-minute interview with the director himself; The Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi Remembers Profondo Rosso, a 19-minute interview with the actress herself; Music to Murder For: Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red, a 14-minute interview with the composer from Goblin himself; and Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop, a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome by owner and Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi. Additionally, the film’s Italian theatrical trailer in HD is included. On Disc Two, which contains the Export Version, only the U.S. theatrical trailer in HD is featured. In the package itself is a set of 6 lobby card inserts; a double-sided poster; and a 38-page insert booklet with the essays “Dario Argento’s Deep Red” by Alan Jones and "Deep Red: The Quintessential Giallo" by Mikel Koven, as well as restoration details. All of this is housed in beautiful and sturdy cardboard packaging.
Since this is basically a reprinting of Arrow Video’s previous Limited Edition Region B Blu-ray set, it’s worth nothing that this release doesn’t include the CD soundtrack from that release. Also missing from the 2-Disc Arrow Video DVD set is an Easter egg featuring Claudio Simonetti speaking about the remake of Suspiria. Missing from various overseas DVD releases is the documentary Dario Argento: Il Mio Cinema. Missing from the Blue Underground release is a set of interviews with Argento, co-writer Bernardino Zapponi, and the members of Goblin, as well as music videos by Goblin and Daemonia for the film’s main title “Profondo Rosso”.
Arrow Video’s original Limited Edition release of Deep Red went out of print almost immediately after going on sale. For those who missed out on it and don’t mind picking it up without the film’s soundtrack, this is a dynamite package. The film looks and sounds amazing and the supplements offer plenty of extra value. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons