While this kind of renaming is par-for-the-course for the international market (trust me, if you've read this site you know the story), as good and well-respected as Suspiria is, many fans might take personal exception to its primacy over Deep Red. It's a cracked fact that Deep Red is often cited as Argento's unassailable masterpiece! Just take a look at its status on any given review aggregate site, then have a Coke (with EXTRA ICE) and a Smile!
As a Giallo Mystery, Deep Red definitely delivers the shocks, suspense and terrors that have made Giallo much more than mere "Pulp". Still, Profondo Rosso does occasionally fall into the same Profound trips and traps that mark and mar even some of the best Italian Thrillers out there, even those made by the renowned and respected out there like Deep Red Dario!
Deep Red kicks off when a famous psychic named Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril) who goes full on Crossing Over with John Edward on her intrigued audience until she accidentally "reads" the wrong viewer! This unseen audience member is called out by Helga as a murderer who will surely murder again.
Fortunately for Mystery fans, but quite unfortunately for forlorn Helga, she's a much better psychic than most of the Universally Big Douches in that line of work. See, she's RIGHT. The murderer will murder again... murder HELGA, that is. This is much to the shock of the laid back Jazz Musicians within earshot. While Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) is far too drunk (and ambivalent) to do shit's worth of good, able-bodied pianist Marcus Day (David Hemmings) is just the man to spring into action and show up on the scene. Oh, he's far, far too late to do any good, but he does show up on the scene. It's sort of like whipping out your Shell Card AFTER you've run out of gas on the side of a deserted road miles away from anything but hare droppings and angry coyotes.
But I digress!
Though he's too late to hero-up, he is determined to help the police in any way he possibly can. He starts by racking his brain for just about anything he can find... because he knows he's missed something. He even goes so far as to attempt to rack the pink mush that Carlo calls his own brain. Sadly, Carlo has almost as many moments of clarity as Mr. Magoo, due to his non-stop, binge drinking and drag-queen chasing (he has his tastes, man). When teaming up with Carlo fails, Marc joins freaky forces with Helga's old buddy-ro Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri, looking like Benny from ABBA) and, more fortunately, an eager reporter named Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi, as usual).
As Marc and Gianna become more skilled in their sleuthing of this Groovy Giallo, it seems that instead of getting closer to the Killer, the Killer is increasingly closer to those meddling kids! The bodies start to pile up and the Blood keeps on Dripping DEEP RED. The real question is which of them might be the next victim and whether any of their helpers or hinderances might become another piece of the pile, too. Along the way, the Deep Red Defective Detectives run afoul of Supt. Calcabrini (Eros Pagni), novelist Amanda Righetti (Giuliana Calandra), creepy little kid Olga (Nicoletta Elmi), remarkably unconvincing transvestite Massimo Ricci (Geraldine Hooper, who may actually BE a woman) and Carlo's Mommy Martha (Clara Calamai), who seems just as inebriated as Carlo is, without having a single sip of the sauce! Whoa.
Where the mystery leads is anybody's guess, but the good news is that it's great fun watching the characters GET there. Argento's screenplay (written with Bernardino Zapponi) proudly offers up every single clue in ways that are as hard to decypher to the viewer as they are easy to make sense of once the climax is revealed. Oh, trust me, they're all there and they work well to finalize this rich tapestry. What's more, Argento and Zapponi hold all their cards close to the chest and repeatedly TRUMP what they've already done with revelation after revelation until the Deep Red Ending drips slowly across the silver screen. The mystery and the resolution are both brilliant and incredibly frightening.
And the story is made even richer by the surreal camerawork that Argento and his cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller employ to depict not only the killer's point of view, but also the killer's psyche in the way the objects of obsession are viewed. The same strange and voyuristic camera eye that Argento employed on the macro-level in Tenebrae is seen on the micro-scale here... and it works just as well. Bravo!
Sadly, there are a few things that keep Deep Red, or Profondo Rosso, from being quite as Deep or Profound as it could have been. The dubbed acting can be distracting quite a lot of the time and, on occasion, the delivery can be as melodramatic as a stage-play's rehearsal. When Argento actually shows us Mauri's character practicing on stage for an upcoming play, I hardly noticed the difference. A related distraction comes from the fact that Deep Red was cut various times for various releases in various territories. A very edited and censored version was released in the United States under the title The Hatchet Murders, while the Deep Red released in England was all hatcheted up by the BBFC. The Anchor Bay release tries (as they usually do) to offer the most complete cut of the film possible. This means, of course, that they have had to reconstruct the English-Language print with footage from the Italian-Language cut. Where no English-Language track is available, the characters spontaneously switch to Italian with English Subtitles, often right in the middle of a conversation... then they switch back again. The characters like to keep things International, I'll give them that!
One thing that might have deserved a little closer editing, however, is the music soundtrack. While composers and performers like Giorgio Gaslini and the band Goblin are nobody to take lightly in the credits, there are moments in which the action fits the score almost as well as Mary Lou Retton's Olympic Tights would fit an Elvis Impersonator. Oh, most of the time the music is fitting and interesting (in that progressive electronic kind of way). On the other hand, there was the occasional scene of intense action and suspense that was accompanied by music that sounded like Mister Rogers was following Trolley into the Land of Makebelieve to hook up with X the Owl and Lady Elaine Fairchilde, man! I was like "Is Marco trying to catch a Killer or chase down Mister McFeely to mail an Urgent Postcard to his Baby back home?"
I was half surprised that the Killer's ubiquitous Toys didn't include figurines of Daniel Striped Tiger and King Friday XIII! Oh, what, yarn voodoo dolls and de-stuffed animals were okay, but Ana Platypus was going too far?
Okay, I'll stop with the MisteRogers' Neighborhood references. I just... love that show, man!
Clearly, so did Goblin!
Moving on... There are reasons that Deep Red is considered one of the best films of its kind, but be warned, this is neither a primer, nor an introduction to films of this kind. While this is light on the profanity and almost nonexistent on the nudity, there is enough violence and horrific brutality to fill up two or three films made by the other guys. Further, Argento knew just how to make these hit home, using imagery that anybody in the audience could easily relate to, due to its realism and every-day nature. Ouch.
Yes, this is an all-around good film, not without its flaws, both inherent and inherited, but really quite good in its mystery, artistry, use of color, drama and suspense. It helps when you've got actors like David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi in the leads, but it might have also helped if a few more takes or musical choices could have been employed here and there. Regardless, Deep Red/ Profondo Rosso is still a resounding success (by any name or re-name) and it easily earns Four Stars out of Five!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find out why some Japanese Guy is billing himself as WorldsGreatestCritic Part 2! Not that I'm really that upset about it... I just have to question his taste. See you all in the next reel, no matter where in Italy, California, Japan, Louisiana or Makebelieve-Land you might be!
Any takers to join me for my new film "Deep Pink"?
Don't worry, nobody dies in it... in fact everybody's smiling big-time!
Click here for more reviews and have an Extra-Icy Coke and a Smile for yourself!