Deep Red (1974)

It's funny when you have a memory of a particular film as being confronting and intense, and on the reviewing you only experience disappointment This is just what's happened to me after watching Dario Argento's "Deep Red". I'd seen it about 15 years ago and remembered it as a blood-drenched nightmare of a movie, all jangled histrionics, pounding rock music and masterful gore effects.

Oh well, it's still a good film. There's no denying the skill and imagination in a lot of the scenes. For the unititiated, it's basically a "giallo" film, where a stalking slasher rips through a portion of the cast, to have his or her identity revealed at the end. They are almost always clad in black, with black gloves. There's a reasonably simple plot. pianist David Hemmings witnesses a vicious murder and is drawn to investigate. A reporter wants to be in on the act. His unstable musician friend becomes a logical candidate as more killings occur, but the identity of the hatchet murderer is not revealed until the last few minutes.

I think I saw a censored version, because a lot of the editing seemed very choppy. Rock group the "goblin's" score was interesting, but so loud and insistent (and dated) that it distracted me from the tension. The dubbing was annoying too. I'd like to see this one in a restored, "Director's cut" as it were. Bring on the subtitles, I say.

On the positive though, some of the cinematography was very effective, especially the close-ups of the killer's personal possessions. Acting wasn't a big issue here, but Hemmings was adequate - that's about all I can say for him. Most of the cast are just fodder to be slaughtered, so we don't need Marlon Brandos here.

Some of the murders are pretty nasty. We have a woman's head repeatedly dunked in boiling water. A man's teeth bashed out on a marble mantelpiece. Heads run over by trucks and a decapitation via a diamond necklace, caught in a descending elevator. All the good stuff! You can see where Argento's imagination truly comes to the fore.

The director is seen as an "auteur" amongst horror fans. It's fairly easy to see why. There's a definite continuity between his films, a love of loud, overbearing scores, creative (and sadistic) violence and a distancing from character, so that the look of the piece becomes ascendant.

Worth a look to horror fans, but I would recommend "Suspiria" as a better introduction to Argento- an amazing movie with flawless cinematography, amazing audio and better acting. Check out my review for an elaboration on all of this.

17/10/01.

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© Boris Lugosi, 2001.