Continuing Arrow Video’s campaign to reinvigorate ageing ‘giallo’ exploitation cinema with the freshness of high definition, Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975) is released today on Blu-ray disc. Beginning with the violent slaughter of a psychic, Argento’s cult thriller soon develops into a gripping detective murder mystery following music teacher Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) and his flirtatious, sensual reporter ‘partner’ Gianna (Argento regular Daria Nicolodi).
As with Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), Argento once again skilfully dances along the line between high and low film art. This isn’t to say by any means that his films lack intelligence, but their greatest success is that they don’t smugly call attention to their brains and complexity. One can read whatever they want into Argento’s trademark impressionistic lighting, but at base level his films are very simply a visual treat. Deep Red’s sumptuous visuals are further complemented by the film’s pulsating prog rock soundtrack, courtesy of Romero favourites Goblin.
In the lead role of Marcus, David Hemmings is a suitably wet but watchable civilian-cum-private eye, and proves more than competent at ratcheting up the tension levels, most notably during an extended sequence involving a shiver-inducing animated doll.
Deep Red arguably owes a great debt, both thematically and in terms of narrative, to Hitchcock’s horror classic Psycho (1960) and further explores Hitchcock’s Freudian nightmare of obsession, childhood trauma, repression and ideas of the ‘uncanny’. Those even vaguely familiar with the latter half of Psycho will likely find themselves ‘solving’ Deep Red long before it reveals its final twists, but reaching the end before the film does is perhaps no bad thing given the quality of the ride. The preceding 90 minutes are an honest, gripping, and sexily shot joy, which looks almost better than perfect in Blu-ray HD.