Deep Red: Argento’s Other Masterpiece of Giallo Filmmaking

Trying to review a Dario Argento film is difficult. Not because of the quality of the filmmaking, but rather to be totally honest, one must ignore the glaring issues of story. As was the case with Suspiria, so it is with Deep Red, Argento’s other great film.

Fortunately, when I re-watched the film, I happened to get the best version of the film. As was the case with Suspiria, there are several different versions floating around, edited for U.S. theaters. The disc I got from Netflix was the full version, and boy howdy, is it good. This was the first time I’d seen the entire film the way that Argento intended, so even though there are a couple logic flaws, the story holds together great.

The film stars David Hemmings as Marcus Daly, a musician in Italy to teach jazz. After class one night, he walks home and finds his friend, drunk on the street. After a short conversation, his friend eventually wanders back into the bar. Marcus turns and from that moment on, the film is a galloping, joyous, and uncomfortable ride until the end. He witnesses a murder through a window, and when he tries to stop it, winds up in the middle of a police investigation. An intrepid reporter joins up with him to figure out who and why the murderer is choosing victims. Saying anything more would probably kill the enjoyment of the story, so in this case, less is still very much more.

The film is, of course, photographed beautifully. Argento uses the Italian architecture to fullest advantage, with all its angles and curves presented prominently. The acting, beyond the always terrific Hemmings, ranges from good to competent, with no one being glaringly bad.

The development of Deep Red is interesting because originally Argento was going to have a jazz score, but apparently was unimpressed with the music written for it. So this was the first time he brought in The Goblins (who went on to write the music for Suspiria) to write and perform the score. Great choice.

When the script was being developed, Argento and fellow writer Bernardino Zapponi made conscious choices for how the murders take place. They used ways to die that the entire audience could identify with, and to say anymore would be a travesty that would ruin it for anyone never seen it before. Plus, don’t watch the trailer, which tells too much.

Word of warning: The film is in both English and Italian with subtitles, so if you are one of those folks who can only enjoy a film if you don’t have to read once in a while, then you might want to stay away from this one.

Try to find the original, full film that Argento made with the run time over two hours. The story makes more sense and the characters don’t do things that you don’t expect them to. I’ve seen three versions of Deep Red now, and this one makes the most sense and is the most satisfying.

See it. Ten headstones out of ten.

Until next time, Deadies…

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