Deep Red (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

The Reddening

Love or hate his filmmaking, no can deny the stylish power of Italian director Dario Argento’s string of blood-curling films in the 1970s. A master of the macabre, Deep Red is one of the Italian director’s most beloved films, an intricate giallo starring David Hemmings. Featuring a throbbing score by Goblin, Argento employs his innovative visual style in this memorable thriller. Deep Red may very well be Argento’s most accomplished giallo as he pushes the genre’s formula beyond its limits.

A pianist witnesses the brutal slaying of a psychic. Racing to the scene, Marcus (David Hemmings) just misses the killer’s exit. Shortly after, Marcus gets the nagging sense he missed an important clue at the scene of the crime. Encouraged by one of his friends, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), Marcus investigates the murder on his own. Playing amateur detective, Marcus soon finds himself ensnared in a bizarre web of murder and mystery where nothing is what it seems. Along the way he meets a female journalist more interested in him personally than helping solve the murder, Gianni (Daria Nicolodi).

Deep Red’s innovative and thoughtful visuals reminds us why Argento is often called the Italian Hitchcock

Often resembling a fragmentary dream or waking nightmare, Deep Red is one of the more mystifying, hypnotic films from Argento. The simple whodunit formula is twisted with a powerful array of innovative camera tricks and unusual set pieces, even for a bloody giallo. Argento has built a deep symbolic foundation for Deep Red, touching upon gender and identity themes typically not found in the normally superficial world of gritty, gory slashers. The gnawing sense of unease keeps the viewer off balance.

The esteemed horror director’s body of work includes other genre classics such as Suspiria and The Bird with the Crystal PlumageDeep Red’s innovative and thoughtful visuals reminds us why Argento is often called the Italian Hitchcock. It’s a cool, hip and thoroughly modern giallo, one ahead of its time in 1975. Several key elements would become commonly ripped off in the coming decade by other horror directors, including John Carpenter.

Arrow Video includes both the longer Italian version and the tighter international version. The shorter “export cut” works as a lean, mean slasher. The longer Italian cut is a more traditional giallo in structure. Each version has its benefits for fans and both should be seen for comparison.

Video

Let me unequivocally state this 4K restoration struck in 2014 by CSC looks magnificent. This limited edition set from Arrow Video is now the definitive word on Deep Red, blowing Blue Underground’s earlier Deep Red BD out of the water. The Italian director’s cut gets its own BD-50 in a flawless presentation, while a shorter English-language version made for international markets gets a BD-25. The preferred option is clearly the longer director’s cut for true fans, while the shorter international cut is a historical curiosity.

Deep Red was shot in the cheaper Techniscope format common to Italian cinema in the 1970s. The new 4K film scan was struck from the original 2-perf Techniscope camera negative, restored by CSC. It was found that the negative was incomplete and a handful of missing frames were taken from a vintage interpositive to complete the restored director’s cut. This is a beautifully rich effort with incredible grain reproduction and fine detail replication. The elements are in phenomenal shape, looking better than ever.

Essential to Deep Red’s innovative cinematography are its rich colors and deep black levels, which turn out perfectly in this proper scope presentation framed at 2.35:1. The lush magenta saturation and ripe flesh-tones paint an extraordinary rendition of the film’s bloodiest moments. Rarely does a modern film scan show such respect to the vintage color grading. This is a perfect color timing that respects Argento’s intentions.

Italian films from the 70s rarely are restored and this edition of Deep Red shows the dramatic improvements in fine grain reproduction and clarity that can be achieved, even from fairly ordinary Techniscope elements. Any limitations seen in this video are strictly due to the film itself.

Audio

The director’s cut offers the following tracks: Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, and English/Italian (Hybrid) DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track. Forget the gimmicky, modern surround track. The surround elements sound highly artificial for a movie originally made in mono. Goblin’s score is helped but these post-dubbed Italian productions simply don’t offer the type of sound design needed for a 5.1 mix. The larger soundstage adds modest improvements in punch and depth.

Fans will want to check out the mono English and Italian dubs, which both offer decent dialogue reproduction and smooth clarity rendering Goblin’s score. Hemmings does voice himself in the English dub, but the Italian dub felt a bit more natural to my ears.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font, inside the scope framing at all times.

Extras

Arrow Video brings the contents of their well-reviewed UK Deep Red set to America, duplicating the first two discs. The only real loss is the missing Goblin soundtrack CD that couldn’t be licensed in the States. Making this attractive to hardcore fans that already own that UK release is improved packaging. This time the stiff cardboard material is a real improvement for dedicated collectors.

2-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of two versions of the film
  • Original Italian Mono audio
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • 6 x postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring two original artworks
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Limited Edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film and an archive piece by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

DEEP RED: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (BLU-RAY DISC 1)

  • Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock
  • Introduction to the film by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin
  • Profondo Giallo (32:57 in HD)  – a brand new visual essay from Michael Mackenzie offering an in-depth look at Dario Argento’s early films and the road to Deep Red
  • Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento’s Deep Genius – the Deep Red director on the creation of a giallo masterpiece
  • Lady in Red – Daria Nicolodi Remembers Profondo Rosso
  • Music to Murder For! – Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red
  • Rosso From Celluloid to Shop – a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
  • Italian Trailer

DEEP RED: THE INTERNATIONAL THEATRICAL CUT (BLU-RAY DISC 2) [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]

  • International Version [105 mins]
  • US Theatrical Trailer

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The unaltered images below are taken from the Blu-ray. For an additional 11 Deep Red screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 9,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.