Deep Red (AKA Profondo Rosso) is Dario Argento’s 4th foray into the Giallo genre, and it was his second film after finishing the ‘Animal’ trilogy – The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, The Cat O’ Nine Tails and Four Flies On Grey Velvet. Historically, Deep Red is fondly remembered as Dario Argeno’s greatest cinematic venture, sometimes called the greatest film of the Giallo genre, despite receiving negative reviews upon it’s original release. Deep Red is the perfect amalgamation of all the techniques that Dario Argento had introduced in the animal trilogy: it has the deep and evolving mystery of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, it contains the character centric storytelling of The Cat O’ Nine Tails, and it has the abstract sequences and artistic imagery, as well as the psychological elements, from Four Flies On Grey Velvet.
As well as being one of Dario Argento’s best works, Deep Red is also Dario Argento’s most important movie. Deep Red the first film made by him which included music composed by the legendary Claudio Simonetti and his band – Goblin – instead of having music composed by Ennio Morricone (who’s talents were wasted on Dario Argento’s past films), the film also had a lead role by Daria Nicoladi, who would later become Dario Argento’s wife, and the film was the first in Dario Argento’s repertoire to introduce his particular brand of hyper-violent gore and crazily imaginative death sequences, each more violent than the previous.
As a Giallo film, Deep Red contains a mystery that’s incredibly focused and quite straight-forward. The film’s story revolves around a pianist who witnesses the death of a psychic, and through curiosity, fear and determination, he sets out to solve the mystery of her killer, leading him to hidden paths and dark secrets. As far as cinematic mysteries go, Deep Red is one of the best. Unlike Dario Argento’s earlier films, which thrived on red herrings and dead ends, which never helped carry the story along, every plot point raised in Deep Red is very important to the story, creating a complex, yet comprehensible mystery. The film contains no dead ends, nor any impossible feats of logic, thus, the story is gripping from beginning to end because of the simple fact that everything makes logical sense and nothing distracts from the film’s main story. Also, there’s a lot of subtext and subtlety scattered throughout the story which allows a viewer to make very logical connections between one clue and another. For example, one scene at the beginning of the film clearly shows something referenced by the end of the film that breaks open the whole mystery, however, it’s quite hard to spot, and I only noticed it on my most recent watch through of the film, but it’s a clever inclusion that’s clearly inspired by his earlier works. By the end of the story, Deep Red wraps up every little plot point and answers every question that needs to be answered, leaving a viewer feeling quite satisfied with the story that they have just witnessed.
Dario Argento’s writing shines in Deep Red through the films believable and witty dialogue, comedic sensibility, and an almost progressive approach to the portrayal of female and homosexual characters. After seeing how Dario Argento approached homosexual characters in his past films, it’s very refreshing to see Deep Red portray homosexual characters as sensible, down-to-earth human beings with personality, as Dario Argento’s previous portrayals of homosexual characters has been more like larger than life, comedic characters who are mainly the butt of the joke, making the earlier works seem a little awkward at moments, despite how fleeting those characters may have been. In Deep Red, the comedic moments are there, but the focus of the film is on the overall mystery, and the dark atmosphere that’s present in nearly every scene.
Nonetheless, Dario Argento’s clear understanding of atmosphere and tension is the backbone of the film’s storytelling. The film creates it’s tension through slow, quiet sequences shown from the point of view of both the killer and the victim which is backed up by the dark, atmospheric music from Goblin, and the film’s fantastic cinematography. However, what makes the suspenseful scenes of Deep Red far superior to those in Dario Argento’s earlier works, is the fact that Deep Red has better pacing than his previous works. For example, particular scenes in The Bird With The Crystal Plumage tried to be suspenseful for too long, off-setting the pacing and asking too much from an audience, but no scene in Deep Red overstays it’s welcome, and no scene of suspense is played out to irritation.
On the other hand, Dario Argento’s well written script is backed up by a cast of great actors. Daria Nicoladi is quite a decent actress, and Gabriele Lavia gives a grate portrayal as the drunken, gay pianist Carlo, but David Hemmings’ portrayal of Marcus Daly, the protagonist pianist, is fantastic. David Hemmings was one of the finest English actors from the 1960’s, appearing in such films as Blow Up, Barbarella, Gladiator and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. His acting style has a charisma reminiscent of the late Rik Mayall, as he is able to pull off scenes both serious and comedic with a very down-to-earth sensibility. Although his performance is dulled by the dodgy dubbing that characterized a lot of Italian films in the 70’s, his performance is quite enjoyable to witness, and his portrayal of Marcus Daly is one that stands out amongst the films of Dario Argento.
The strongest aspect of Deep Red, however, is the artistic quality that’s brought to life by the film’s production team. Every single shot of Deep Red is breathtakingly picturesque, thanks to the film’s stylish lighting, concise editing and beautiful cinematography, making each scene a visual delight. I don’t believe that any shot in Deep Red was underwhelming, from start to finish, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Deep Red also contains many abstract, psychedelic sequences – such as scenes of a running doll, a table of toys and an opening eye in the darkness – that are brought to life by slow, sweeping camera angles and dynamic lighting. All in all, Deep Red is a treat for the eyes. The film’s visual qualities are impressive, striking, and overall, memorable, standing out from the majority of Dario Argento’s other works.
In my opinion, Deep Red is the greatest Giallo film that I’ve ever seen. After watching this film, it’s easy to understand the reputation that proceeded Dario Argento’s name through the 1980’s/1990’s. His earlier works were very good, but there were just as good, if not better Giallo films that were being made around the same time such as What Have You Done To Solange?, Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key, The Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardhe and the classic Blood And Black Lace. However, Deep Red is something else entirely. I’ve never seen a Giallo film come close to the quality of Deep Red, and the film truly stands out as one of Dario Argento’s greatest films. It displays his particular style very clearly, and his style is one that’s invigorating to witness both back then and today. I thoroughly recommend that one witnesses Deep Red. Although it’s not my favourite Dario Argento film, it’s a fantastic film that should never be missed out or looked over.