Enough of this larking around, let's get on to the film proper. I saw Deep Red about eighteen years ago in a freezing cold, grimy little house in Hull. It didn't really compare to my other Argento favourites at the time. So I haven't watched it since. Until now, for this special Dario Argento season. I must say that it's way better than I'd originally thought.
Marcus Daly (David Hemmings - looking suspiciously like Rik Mayall) is a pianist who witnesses a murder. He teams up with ace reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) to discover the identity of the mysterious killer who funnily enough has a liking for black leather murdering gloves and keeping his/her face hidden.
Yep, we're in giallo territory and all of the usual giallo trappings are present and correct: logic that makes less sense than the answers on 3-2-1, the aforementioned murdering gloves, a preposterous central conceit that leads to the final reveal of the killer, great music (by Goblin - their first collaboration with Dario), heightened sound effects and, of course, stylishly shot murders.
It's not the goriest of offerings but it contains the Dario staple of slamming a lady's head through a plate glass window, a woman getting her head par-boiled in a bath and an incident where a mantlepiece meets a poor fellow's teeth at great velocity. The effects are all quite pleasant but the blisters on the face of the scald victim are particularly realistic.
But strangely I don't enjoy it for the killings - although they do help - I like it for two other reasons. The first is the creepy tension filled atmosphere when Marcus enters an old house at night and starts chipping away at a wall to reveal a painting. This scene lasts ages but the score and the slow reveal of the image keep it thoroughly engaging. My other reason is the relationship between the two leads, who are both supremely watchable throughout. At many times Deep Red plays more like a romantic comedy than a thriller. For evidence, look at any of the scenes that contain the tiny Lupin style car. This light-hearted feel adds a different flavour to a film that is very dark on occasions.
Deep Red falls a little foul of Argento's technical giddyness. Just as Opera was marred by steadicam overuse, Deep Red suffers from macro abuse. A few shots are okay but he does tend to overdo it a tad. But this film also shows Dario taking in wider influences (possibly introduced to him by Daria Nicolodi). One scene includes a virtual recreation of Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks', even down to the way that the characters all sit perfectly still.
One last reason to watch this film: if you've seen Don't Look Now, one scene will be permanently engraved on your brain due to its ability to make the viewer squirm and back away from the screen. Deep Red has a similar moment with a deeply disturbing clockwork child-sized doll.
Deep Red has definitely gone up in the Dario rankings. It will be interesting to see how Suspiria and Tenebrae fare against it. (Inferno was one of my previous favourites but in a bizarre twist of events the uncut version has spoilt it for me. I really don't want to see a cat eating a live mouse. I prefer the cut version for once.)
If you like this you could also try:
Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Four Flies on Grey Velvet.