US poster art
4 and a half stars

" When was the last time you were
Now there's DEEP RED...
You will NEVER forget it!!!"

directed by: Dario Argento
starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicoldi, Gabriele Lavia

choice dialogue:

"I can feel this room...I feel...a presence...a twisted mind sending me thoughts...murderous, perverted thoughts!"

slash with panache?

        Argento made this, his best ‘giallo’ (but arguably not his best picture- my vote still goes to the supernaturally themed SUSPIRIA (1976)- his next film), after the trio of ‘psycho-thrillers’; L’ UCCELO DALLE PIUME DI CRISTTLO (BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE)(1970), IL GATTO A NOVE CODE (CAT ‘O’ NINE TAILS)(1970) and QUATTRO MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO (FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET)(1971).

       David Hemmings ,(star of BLOW UP (1967)), plays an English pianist living in Rome, who becomes involved in a series of vicious David Hemmings and the bloody aftermathmurders after he witnesses the death of a psychic- who only hours before had felt the presence of ‘madness’ at a lecture she was attending. Hemmings watches, from the street, as the killer forces the woman through an upstairs window (nearly decapitating her)- leaving her impaled on broken glass. He rushes up to her apartment to find her dead - her murderer, apparently, vanished. He attempts to unravel the identity of the killer, along with Daria Nicoldi (in a fairly minor role), and soon becomes the target for homicidal attention.

       Argento’s film is visually a wonder to behold. It is stylish and stylised. A veritable candy shop of delicious visual morsels! Argento delights in detail; prowling close ups of a children’s doll with a noose around its neck -which is lying next to a flick knife, a slowly revolving shot of an eye- black kohl being applied to the lids, a squirming lizard- impaled on a child’s pin. These shots appear, sometimes without warning, cut into the more traditional ‘whodunit’ story line. For much of its running time DEEP RED is a traditional, albeit very successful, thriller. But Argento often and masterfully changes gear, using a juxtaposition of imagery (childhood innocence and insanity), to herald the next onslaught of fear. Often the seemingly innocuous sound of a child singing will become a cue for the camera to prowl, picking up speed to the increasingly delirious sounds of the group 'Goblin'. Usually culminating in some fiendish and bloody business. Visually, at least, DEEP RED was a transitional picture for Argento. Many of the most striking visual elements were reused- expanded and further abstracted, for SUSPIRIA; the face pushed against glass in the lone illuminated window and the vibrant and lush reds of the swishing curtains in the theatre are just two examples.

       DEEP RED is a film of some ferocity. The violence is very explicit; teeth smashed repeatedly onto the corner of a table, hatchet wounds 'grand guginol' a la Dario Argento!blossoming red. The Aurum encyclopaedia of Horror goes as far to describe it as: "...this series of Grand Guginol sketches." But Argento’s movie is so much more! It is, in turn; exciting, perverse and often chilling- no more so than the scene when the laughing mannequin hurtles out from a blackened doorway, rattling unnaturally towards a bemused, but terrified, man. A grotesque prelude to his death by the hands of the killer, who is lurking in the shadows.- ( that scene is a personal favourite : ) !)

       A beautifully constructed film, with an intriguing and rewarding denouement- all, seemingly, disparate threads coming together wonderfully. The best giallo of the 1970’s, made by a film maker at the height of his powers. Go see!

       (One thing that is often criticised about Argento movies, in fact most Italian genre offerings, is the acting style. For those raised on American movies it can seem a little ‘theatrical’, but it really is a shame to miss out just because a small cultural difference. And once you get a taste for it, naturalistic US cinema seems awfully dull!)

BODYCOUNT 7  bodycount!   female:3 / male:4

(and one minor bird and one lizzard!)

       1) Female hacked to death with a hatchet and almost decapitated
       2) Minor bird stabbed (aftermath only shown!)
       3) Female teen hacked to death with machete
       4) Male has mouth (repeatedly) whacked on table and mantelpeice edges- and then is stabbed through the neck
       5) Lizzard impaled on pin (aftermath and squirming creature shown)
       6) Male has head crushed by car
       7) Male stabbed to death
       8) Female decapitated by descending lift

home       to pyscho-a-go-go: reviews-1927-1977