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    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)



    Released By: Blue Underground
    Released On: 05/17/2011
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Film:

    It is entirely safe to say that Deep Red is the film that ruined Dario Argento for me. It's actually entirely safe to say that Deep Red is the film that ruined the entire giallo genre for me. That isn't to say that Deep Red is a bad film; on the contrary, it is one of my favourite films. Unfortunately for Mr. Argento and the rest of the contributors to Italian horror/thriller cinema, it was the first of its kind that I saw; and nothing of its kind has lived up to it since.

    The creation of Dario Argento and established writing talent Bernardino Zapponi, Deep Red (or Profondo Rosso) was released in 1975, following already successful Argento films such as The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat o' Nine Tails. Shot largely in Rome, the story centers around jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), who has the misfortune to witness the brutal murder of a noted parapsychologist. Rushing to the scene, he finds that he has apparently barely missed the killer, but the police and media are quick to label him as an eyewitness; somebody that the murderer obviously doesn't want hanging around.




    Enlisting the help of Gianna Brezzi (the wonderful Daria Nicolodi) a sassy news reporter, Marc makes the decision to solve the crime without the help of the police, tracking down a number of leads that will eventually lead him to an abandoned villa where a brutal crime has taken place. But with the killer staying one step ahead of him, Marc quickly learns that he can't afford the luxury of trusting anyone; including Gianna and his good friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia). Running out of time with his leads being dispatched in a number of gruesome ways, Marc must find the killer before he meets a similar fate.

    Deep Red is not a perfect film by any means. The 126-minute version of the film (and yes, there are a few different versions out there) is widely regarded as the superior version, though it does suffer from some (very) minor pacing issues. There are also a number of “What in the hell was that?” moments that viewers more familiar with traditional cinema will probably scratch their heads over. And, as is the case with a number of films in the genre, there are some definite over-reaches to cover the plot holes. That being said, those moments are, in the context of the film, inconsequential. Deep Red is such a visual experience that it pulls the viewer into the film and essentially dares them to take their eyes from the screen, or spend too much time thinking about minor details. This is literally a “blink and you'll miss it” experience.




    Deep Red is also one of the few films that it contains no poor or even mediocre acting. Each performance is top-notch, right down to the bit parts. The level of talent on display here is phenomenal, and something that Argento would not match in later films. The strong performances definitely contribute to the encompassing nature of the film; despite the surreal visual experience, the characters are so rooted in reality that it is almost impossible not become part of that world for the running time.

    Interestingly, one of the most pioneering aspects of the film is the score. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Goblin. Although I do enjoy some snippets of their work in films, I just flat out don't enjoy them, and will now proceed to duck the barrage of projectiles from the giallo camp. With that out of the way, it is, however, impossible for me to deny the influence of this score on multiple films that followed it. John Carpenter's signature piano piece in Halloween is the most easily identifiable copycat, actually, a number of Carpenter's scores appear to have been influenced by the work of Goblin, but he is not the only borrower of this style of scoring, nor is it limited to the horror genre. It is also worth noting that I am in the minority on this one, and many fans of Argento's work and of music in general will sing the praises of Goblin's progressive Moog synth soundtracks.




    It is the opinion of a number of film fans that subtitles are a distraction, and reading them takes your attention away from the film. While I have always attributed this to being lazy, or the unwillingness to experiment with different genres and nationalities of films, I do feel that reading the subtitles while watching Deep Red affects the film negatively. The cinematography, the direction, everything visual about this film is so compelling, to have subtitles on the screen is akin to hanging a nametag around the neck of the Mona Lisa. What new viewers to the genre should take into consideration is that almost every frame of this film can be viewed individually as a work of art. The murder scenes, especially, are a strange experience to see when viewed in their entirety, but breaking them up reveals the creativity inherent in the planning behind each sequence. Without seeing the film, it is hard to explain, but fans of Argento's work will more than likely agree. I could go on all day about the Argento's direction and the cinematography of Luigi Kuveiller, but in this case, the visual aid is required.

    In case any of this has been lost in translation, I will state that Deep Red is a masterpiece of cinema, the film that all others of its ilk strive to emulate. It is the definitive example of moving photography as art, and if it is your first voyage into this genre, nothing will ever live up to the precedent that it has set.




    Video/Audio/Extras:

    I'd be lying if I said that writing this review didn't make me nervous. A lot of fans have been waiting to compare Blue Underground's Blu-Ray of Deep Red to existing versions. First off, this release does contain two versions of the film, the full-length version (which runs 126 minutes) and the “International Version” as it is known in some circles, the 105-minute version. Though there are a number of people who feel that the truncated edition cuts down on some of the pacing issues that I mentioned earlier, the full-length version is the first one that I became familiar with, and the definitive version in my opinion.

    Both of these versions are presented in a 2.35:1 ratio, and the film looks gorgeous. That's not to say that it's flawless, the age of the film definitely shows through here and there. From what I can see, there has been limited if any digital grain scrubbing, but the film doesn't appear to be too grainy, as has been mentioned in a few reviews about previous releases. There are some instances of dirt and scratches, and a strange flaring effect in just a couple of scenes. This is a slight distraction, but on the whole, the picture is fantastic, vibrant, and blows the previous DVD editions out of the water. A glitch that was mentioned on the Arrow blu (I do not have the Arrow version, and am only comparing to reviews by reputable sources) at around the 45-minute mark does not exist on this version. The haloing effect mentioned in one review of the Arrow disc, thought to be a reflection in the lens of the camera, does exist on Blue Underground's release, and in other scenes where it is more prominent, appears to have been intentional. Click on the images throughout the review for full size screen caps!

    The subtitles are yellow and perfectly visible throughout the running time, and are synched to the dialogue, not running ahead of where they should be. While viewing the full-length version with the English track on, subtitles will automatically appear during the sequences that remain in the Italian language, another problem reported with the Arrow version. I noticed one instance of a quality control issue in a character saying, “Let's sit town”.

    The only flaw that was definitely noticeable in the video transfer was during scenes that were not dubbed into Enlish; the “extended” footage. The transition into these scenes is marked by a very noticeable shift in the picture. This may exist on the master, or could be a product of adding scenes from another source. The quality does not degrade during these scenes, but that shift at the beginning is fairly obvious.

    Blue Underground has also provided a number of audio tracks with this release. First up is a brand new DTS-HD MA 7.1 Italian audio track. Quality wise, it sounds fantastic, though I am still undecided on how much I like it. For the most part, the noticeable audio is still up front where it should be, and dialogue, sound effects, and score are all well balanced and very coherent. I thought that I detected a slight compression in the LFE track that renders the bass a bit flat, but nothing drastic. During the moments when the Goblin score is most prominent, the surrounds come to life, though some may find the mix to be a bit off. Overall, though, the track sounds great, and it's still a step up over the previous DVD releases.

    The downside to the audio is that although the original Italian mono track is included for the purists (and I'm not really one of them; though I do like having the option), it is a Dolby Digital track and therefore compressed. That and the English and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are still adequately presented, though, and sound very good in their own right. After checking all of the tracks out, my preference is still the DTS-HD option.

    The extras that Blue Underground included on the disc were the subject of much speculation. First up is an interview featurette that runs 11 minutes and was released on a previous Anchor Bay DVD release. Comprised of interviews with Dario Argento, co-writer Bernardino Zapponi, and Goblin, it covers the topics of Argento's career, casting, scoring the film, the violent murders in the film, and the influence of Goblin's score on other composers. There are a few other details mentioned, but at 11 minutes, there isn't really enough time to get as in-depth as it should. The interviews are presented in SD format.

    Next up are the U.S. and Italian trailers, looking pretty beat up and showing their age, though that does maintain some of the cool factor about them.

    The Goblin Music Video is brand new, shot in Acquario Studio in Rome in 2010, and features the band playing the Profondo Rosso theme. The sound is fantastic, despite a Dolby Digital 5.1 compressed track, and looks great with an AVC encoded video. The video is directed by Luigi Pastore.

    Next up is another music video featuring the Profondo Rosso theme, this time by the band Daemonia. The footage is pretty poor and in SD format, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It's directed by Sergio Stivaletti, and features some of the worst acting ever, with the band making evil faces at the camera, and some pretty terrible digital effects. It's just….well, it's pretty bad.

    The Final Word:

    Deep Red should be in every film fan's collection. Though light on extras, Blue Underground has done a great job transferring and mastering this film for high definition. Ultimately, fans may find themselves deciding between presentation of the film and amount of supplements; for me, integrity of the film presentation is the most important, and Blue Underground has surpassed expectations in this area.






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