The Uncut and US Export Cuts of this suspenseful Giallo masterpiece dazzle in 4K UHD, capping off Arrow’s trilogy of excellent Argento releases
Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high-quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From cult and genre fare to artful cinema, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.
Pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is the latest of Dario Argento’s unfortunate reluctant sleuths who are wrapped up in a chilling murder case. This time, the victim is world-renowned Lithuanian psychic Helga Ullmann (Macha Meril), found slaughtered just after she’d called out someone in the audience of her demonstrations for their twisted and perverted crimes. Daly’s wracked with a frustrating fractured memory of the incident, notably the seeming “disappearance” of a painting in Ullmann’s apartment that could provide a clue to her killer’s identity. Teaming up with local Turin investigative reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), Daly digs deep into the scant clues left behind, which reveals a more disturbing portrait of a killer with an insane drive to recreate the melodic murderous fantasies of a suppressed childhood trauma.
Released at the peak of the Italian Giallo craze and its own writer-director’s equally wild career, Deep Red serves as the quintessential Dario Argento film, full of fantastically surreal murderous madness, anchored by dazzling cinematography, disturbing yet insidiously fun murder sequences, and the first of many banger scores by frequent collaborators Goblin. Having existed in multiple variant cuts over its nearly 50-year existence, Arrow Video’s Limited Edition set unites both Deep Red’s US cut and the widely-lauded original uncut Italian version in 4K UHD for the first time.
Bridging straight-up suspense films like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails with the more overtly-supernatural Suspiria, Inferno, et al, Deep Red feels like the ultimate Argento film for its wide palate of kinds of horror, humor, suspense, and drama. Opening with a psychic reading and closing with decapitation-by-elevator, there’s enough to make the most seasoned viewer cringe with discomfort and dread throughout Deep Red. In crafting each sequence, Argento and co-writer Bernardino Zapponi have noted their drive to explore more psychological and unconscious urges beneath traditional Giallo shocks, rooting them as much in collective experiences of incidental, normally inconsequential pain (scalding water, corners on furniture) as much as in childhood trauma or shocking turns of violence. This approach also allows Argento and his team to explore other avenues that can be borne from these fertile origins: from our primal fears can come supernatural terrors as much as real ones. Ullmann’s murder isn’t just chilling because of its sudden occurrence, but also in how motivated it is in Ullmann’s extrasensory gifts: an immediate urging to snuff out how much she could know as much as what she does know. As a result, the subsequent murders also take on this approach that directly aligns this Giallo more towards horror than suspense unlike ever before. Argento and team frame the killer as if they were their own vengeful spectral force, always unseen except for their brown raincoat and genre-trademark leather gloves, leaving no trace but that of their victims’ ravaged corpses in their wake.
These pulse-pounding scenes are broken up by Argento’s unique sequences of bizarre levity, as seen in his other work. But in Deep Red, Argento also seizes upon the opportunity to look into how flawed his characters’ moral centers truly are. At the picture’s start, Hemmings’ Marcus Daly is as misogynistic as he can be charming, which becomes the butt of many of Argento’s jokes throughout. In a genre known more for its beautiful yet brief and underdeveloped scream queens, Nicolodi’s Gianna Brezzi refreshingly takes Daly to task throughout for his backward worldview, whether it be through arm-wrestling, muscling their way through crime scenes, or investigating the spooky dusty halls of a school’s creepy archives. The running subplot of Daly’s alcoholic friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) also takes period taboos of homosexuality and substance abuse and frames them as subjects just as fascinating to explore as the other horrific sights in Deep Red. While the association can be seen as problematic today, it’s notable that the film doesn’t frame Carlo’s sexual identity as a source of horror or luridness–but as a trait that deepens our understanding of a troubled and compelling character. They’re touches to Deep Red that not just elevate the characters and their complexity, but add to the effectiveness of the horror sequences that they populate.
To this reviewer, Deep Red also rivals Suspiria for representing Argento’s ingenuity and craft behind the camera. There are amazing shots that play with shadows and reflections that build tension in such unexpected places, from blink-and-you’ll-miss-them faces in mirrors in the corners of frames, to the usage of mirrors and steam as a key plot point at one sequence. While not explicitly a jump scare, one shot of an eyeball appearing in the darkness can make viewers’ blood run cold. And the film’s finale, which pulls off Deep Red’s most disturbing character fate in split-second edits without ever showing viewers a thing, is a masterwork of gut-churning power of suggestion in a film that so far had been content to bare it all.
With both US and International cuts preserved in 4K transfers once downscaled to Blu-ray, as well as a new commentary added to an already treasured collection of commentaries, interviews, making-of featurettes, and promotional ephemera, Arrow’s limited edition UHD of Deep Red is an absolute must for any fan of classic horror.
Arrow presents Deep Red in 4K Dolby Vision HDR in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, sourced from a 4K restoration of the original camera negative conducted by L’Immagine Ritrovata. As the negative was cut to create the English-language version known as The Hatchet Murders, the restoration team had to re-splice the film together (sometimes mid-shot) and digitally restore shots as close to their original condition as possible. For the Export Version, a 35mm print of The Hatchet Murders was scanned in 4K and is presented on the accompanying Special Features 4K UHD disc.
Both films’ mono audio mixes were also restored from their respective prints into DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, with the longer uncut version also receiving a re-mixed 5.1-surround mix. The audio tracks for both films may appear slightly off, due to the nature of post-production dubbing for Italian films of the time. Intriguingly, Deep Red’s uncut version also includes the Mono English dub from the Export Version, with Italian audio substituting in cut scenes where English dialogue was never recorded.
Both discs include English text and English SDH subtitles only for the main features.
Deep Red completes Arrow’s hat trick of stellar Argento releases, providing picture and audio quality that’s as crystal clear as can brutally be. While the previous Blu-ray iteration of Deep Red vividly brought to life the vibrant textures and patterns of Argento’s blood-stained 70s Turin, this Dolby Vision HDR pass truly works wonders. Shadows and reflections are particularly well-represented throughout, with a lack of artifacting or artificial film grain passes creating a true-to-life image full of chilling darkness and extremely deep focus shots. Clarity of detail is evident from frame one, with the chintz of period Christmas decorations, the glint of a newly-bloody knife, and individual threads in the footwear of a mysterious observer all preserved with equal care.
The accompanying sound mixes further elevate the package, with an ear for viewer enjoyment carefully balanced alongside Arrow’s aim of careful historical preservation. Each of Deep Red’s audio tracks are robust restorations, with dialogue, SFX, and Goblin and Giorgio Gaslini’s score all equally balanced throughout. The Hybrid English/Italian track is quite an achievement, fully realizing the uncut version of Deep Red for audiences who would prefer to hear David Hemmings’ performance in his native language while seamlessly filling in the few yet crucial scenes where such audio is impossible to recover (or never existed).
Disc One: The Original Version (Profondo Rosso, 2 hours 7 minutes)
- Audio Commentaries: In addition to their original 2018 commentary track by Argento historian Thomas Rostock, Arrow has recorded a new commentary by critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson.
- Deep into the Red: A 2018 interview with writer-director Dario Argento and an archival interview with actress Daria Nicolodi.
- The Medium Wore Black: A 2018 interview with actress Macha Meril (Helga Ullmann).
- 16 Years in Red: A 2018 interview with Deep Red production manager Angelo Iacono.
- Death Dies: A 2018 interview with composer and Goblin frontman Claudio Simonetti.
- Carlo Never Dies: A 2018 interview with actor Gabriele Lavia (Carlo).
- I am the Screaming Child: A 2018 interview with actor Jacopo Mariani (Young Carlo).
- Bloodstained: A 2018 interview with actor Lino Capolicchio, Dario Argento’s original choice for Marcus Daly before he was replaced by David Hemmings.
- Trailers: The original Italian trailer for Deep Red and a 2018 trailer for Arrow’s restoration.
- Image Galleries: Broken into Posters, Lobby Cards, Promotional stills, Japanese press book and flyer, and Soundtrack covers.
Disc Two: The Export Version (The Hatchet Murders, 1 hour 45 minutes)
- Profondo Giallo: a 2018 visual essay by Michael Mackenzie featuring an in-depth appreciation of Deep Red, its themes, and its legacy.
- Introduction: Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti introduces the film, produced by Arrow in 2018.
- Rosso Recollections: A 2010 interview with director Dario Argento.
- The Lady in Red: A 2010 interview with actress Daria Nicolodi (Gianna Brezzi).
- Music to Murder For!: A 2010 interview with composer Claudio Simonetti.
- Trailer: An archival trailer for The Hatchet Murders’ original 1975 theatrical release.
Limited Edition Exclusives:
- Two Cuts: Both cuts of Deep Red–Profondo Rosso and The Hatchet Murders–are presented here across two 4K UHD discs.
- Collector’s Booklet featuring essays by critics Alan Jones and Mikel J. Coven, as well as a new essay by critic Rachael Nisbet.
- Reversible Artwork featuring the film’s theatrical art as well as newly-commissioned art by Obviously Creative, tying into Arrow’s other Argento 4K releases The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails.
- Double-Sided Poster featuring the above artwork.
- Six Lobby Cards printed double-sided, featuring the new Obviously Creative artwork and lobby card recreations from Italy and Spain.
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