Blu-ray Review: DEEP RED

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
Blu-ray Review: DEEP RED
If I were to ask your average horror fan what they knew about Italian horror, it wouldn't take long before Dario Argento's name came up.  Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) is a big reason for that.  Produced in 1975, following a string of early gialli that came to a screeching halt with the leaden Five Days In Milan, Deep Red is Argento's first true and bona fide masterpiece.  His earlier films laid the ground work for much of Italian genre cinema in the 70's, however, none was as fully realized, nor as fully Argento as Deep Red.  The combination of his writing and direction, the masterful cinematography of Luigi Kuveiller, and of course, the ground breaking progressive jazz-rock score of Goblin turned what could have been an average film into an international hit, and with good reason.

When professional pianist Marcus Daly, played expertly by David Hemmings, witnesses a murder in his apartment building, he becomes a part of a massive mystery.  While talking to the police at the crime scene afterward, he meets tabloid journalist Gianna Brezzi, played by Argento's lover and collaborator Daria Nicolodi.  Together they try to find the answers that the cops seem incapable of piecing together.  Marcus is sure he is knows something, but he can't quite put his finger on what it is that he is forgetting.  Marcus and Gianna walk backward through time trying to assemble a motive from the increasingly gruesome clues, and find a suspect in the one murder that turns into many the deeper they dig.

I won't spend too much time with the synopsis.  First of all, I would wager that a large percentage of our readers have seen this.  Secondly, Deep Red is really a film that needs to be experienced first hand, and the first time is always the best.  So much of this film is a personal experience, and when it works, it is astounding.  Once you've seen the answer, you can't unsee it, and all subsequent viewings lose little bit of their bite.  Deep Red revolves around the idea that we can trust no one, not even our own memories, and uses that mistrust to create a perfect mystery.  We in the audience are just as sure we know the answers as Marcus is, but we can no better piece it together than he can. 

What is worth discussing is the package that Arrow Video gives this film, and it is a doozy!

First of all, we get both the "director's cut" 126 minute version, and the English language, 105 minute international cut of the film on separate Blu-ray discs.  Many people say that the shorter version actually helps the film move a little bit better and the pacing is more effective, but I disagree.  The longer international cut adds more character background and flows better.  To each their own, now we have the choice to watch either in equally well-restored 1080p high-definition, unlike A Bay Of Blood, where the Italian version was in upscaled and unremastered HD.

Deep Red has been released numerous times on home video, from VHS forward.  I have owned at least half a dozen different editions of this film, and I do not feel the slightest bit robbed at having another here.  The image on Arrow Video's Blu-ray is by far the best that the film has ever seen on home video.  While it doesn't know the brilliant clarity of most modern films, it does acquit itself rather well.  There are a few flecks and spots here and there, and a couple of frame jumps, but nothing overly distracting.  The image really comes to life in the many close-ups and macro shots provided by the cinematographer, Luigi Kuveiller.  Where the image does not fare quite as well is the wide shots, they are often a tiny bit muddy and details can appear indistinct.  Even in this case, it is far and away better than what we have had to deal with before.

Audio also gets a hefty boost.  Both cuts get an English Language mono track, which I'm sure sounds pretty accurate to the way the film was initially shown.  In the longer version, the English track is intermittently spliced with subtitled Italian dialogue where the English was never dubbed.  This is irritating, but I wouldn't quite go so far as to call it jarring.  The real winner in this package is the Italian language DTS-HD 5.1 track.  Wow.  That track is awesome, the dialogue is noticeably clearer and brighter, the sound effects are more, um, effective, and holy crap, Goblin's score sounds AMAZING.  I don't know who supervised that mixing, but kudos to them for building Goblin's score into the prominent feature of the film that is deserves to be.  Honestly, most of the 5.1 separation is in regard to that score, and it is wonderful.

The extras are bountiful as well, and mostly worthwhile.  First off, disc one.  There is a wonderful candid interview with Daria Nicolodi where she talks not only about her experience with Argento on Deep Red, but also films and projects before and after that one, as well as her personal relationship with the maestro.  She is very personable and seems to enjoy talking about her contribution to the giallo genre (21 min).  There is also an informative interview with Claudio Simonetti of Goblin.  He talks a little bit about the history of the group, how they came to be involved with Argento and take on the scoring of Deep Red, the first of many collaborations.  This interview is nice, but less interesting that Nicolodi's, however, for those interested in Goblin, it is a must see (16 min).  Rounding out the interviews is one with the master himself, Dario Argento.  This interview is as informative as one might expect, even though Argento's laconic personality makes him a less than compelling interview subject.  He talks about his entire career, with special focus on Deep Red.  We get the feeling that some of this interview will be recycled in other Arrow Video releases to come, but it is still welcome to hear him speak about his own work (14 min).  The only other extra on disc one is a very informative academic commentary track from Argento expert Thomas Rostock, the track is in English and very well done.  I'm not a commentary geek, but I liked this one.  Disc two holds a single extra in the form of a tour of Argento's fantastic Profondo Rosso store in Rome, run by fellow director and friend Luigi Cozzi (Star Crash).  This is a breezy watch, not a whole lot of substance, but still pretty cool for those of us unlikely to make a trip to Rome anytime soon.  The only disappointment I have with this feature is the tour of Profondo Rosso's basement museum.  The museum is home to lots of cool artifacts from Italian horror, both that of Argento and others.  The tour would be wonderful, except that it is often so dark that it is hard to see anything.  Still, it is fun to watch, and I caught a few glimpses of neat stuff in that basement (15 min).  The final inclusions are the American and Italian trailers, both lovely to watch and all video extras are in 1080p high definition.

As is customary with Arrow Video Blu-ray releases, much effort was put into the packaging, and it shows.  This release comes in a windowed slip cover and the case itself is a four paneled flipable one, so you may chose any one of for artwork's to display on your shelf.  In the case of Deep Red, we have original artwork from Arrow Video regular Rick Melton, as well as the American, French, and Italian one-sheets.  Also included is a two-sided poster with the American one-sheet and custom art.  Inside we find a 4 page booklet with an essay about Deep Red from Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento, the most respected academic overview of Argento and his oeuvre. 

All of this and the package is completely region free and can be played anywhere in the world!

I recommend this package highly!  A great treat for collectors and Argento fans alike. 
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