Blue Underground has lovingly doled out the uncensored English version of what is likely Dario Argento's best film (right up there with Suspiria), and the result is a gorgeous image transfer that make this one seem almost brand new.
If you've ever wondered why Argento is so revered by so many, this would be the disc to use as your primer.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A
I'm not here to debate Dario Argento's place in the hallowed genre-specific halls of Italian Giallo horror/thriller directors, because despite all the fan love the guy gets I haven't been as full-on enamored of his catalog as so many others have. For me, too many of his films have been choppy and ham-handed, almost as if someone was offering a parody of Argento. That's not to say he hasn't made some great films, because without a doubt he has; I just don't think EVERY Argento film is a masterwork. The 1977 release Suspiria is one of his well-deserved benchmarks - the first in the 'Three Mothers' trilogy and a wonderfully twisted shocker that is probably what most people think of when they think Argento. I also lean towards The Stendhal Syndrome, a lesser celebrated Argento film from 1999 that is festooned with some of the director's most gorgeous and troubling visual imagery.
Deep Red, however, is Argento truly firing on all cylinders.
The thing is it may have been tough to properly love and appreciate Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) - an influential 1975 thriller that was bandied about for decades in various chopped up incarnations, whether it be the Italian or U.S. prints - and the ability to view a complete, uncut original version was damn near impossible. Anchor Bay thankfully issued a beautifully restored Italian cut (in its 121-minute+ form) a decade or so ago and that was one of the first opportunities to see Deep Red in its truest, most Argento-ish. For this review we're going to look at Blue Underground's uncensored English version, an impressive 2011 disc with a restored 115-minute print offered up "for the first time ever", if the back cover hyperbole is to be believed.
Set in Rome, the film centers on an American pianist (David Hemmings) who witnesses the savage hatchet murder of a celebrated psychic at the hands of a mysterious killer who dresses a bit like Rorschach from Watchmen. For plot reasons that are never entirely clear (a common Argento miscue) Hemming's likeable Marcus Daly pairs up with feisty reporter Gianna (Argento regular Daria Nicolodi) to find the killer, and along the way there's a house with a secret, a few other nasty murders, a creepy kid who hates lizards, some arm-wrestling, spooky chorale music, the legendary synth score from Goblin and one hell of a wild climax involving a garbage truck. As expected there is also Argento's requisite flood of primary color, which in this new print come off exceptionally lush and vibrant. Combine that with his distinctive sweeping cinematic approach to framing and movement with even what would normally be the most simple of shots and you have the glory of Deep Red, a film that is as visually spot-on and enthralling as any horror/thriller of the past 30+ years.
Deep Red - violent, atmospheric, moody - is really a showcase for Argento's oft-lauded vision, here channeled probably more directly and emotionally than anything he has ever done. His surreal homage to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks is one such example here - a jawdropper, to be sure - and for me it instantly pushed Deep Red onto the mighty high geek love pedestal it so deserves to be on. Despite my great love of this flick I won't apologize for my lack of total Argento adoration when it comes to the rest of his catalog. But I'll be the first to say when the hype is justified, and it certainly is more than justified with Deep Red.
Blue Underground has delivered a solid counterpart to Anchor Bay's 2000 release, and for any even marginal fan of Argento that is indeed terrific news.
The new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Blue Underground - culled from an original camera negative - has made this 1975 film look as good as new, if not better. Colors are vibrant throughout, which for Argento is absolutely key, and that holds true for consistent fleshtones coming off very lifelike. Deeps blacks and exceptional image detail (just peek at that sweaty brow of David Hemmings!) abound on this sparkling new transfer. No evidence of compression issues, nicks or debris. Very nice!
Three audio choices, available in either English 6.1 DTS, English 5.1 Surround or "original" English mono. It may be overkill, but the two multi-channel mixes do offer a single major element that will enhance the viewing experience. While some of the sound effects do still sound rather 1975-ish (I'm looking at you, breaking glass!) it is the cult classic Goblin score that is the most dramatic improvement, with all of the prog-synth noodling sounding big and bold, while giving a modest workout to the .LFE.
Optional subs are available in English SDH, French or Spanish.
Disc supplements do come up a bit short, consisting of a brief collection of interview snippets globbed together (10m:47s) featuring Dario Argento, co-writer Bernardino Zapponi and fan-fave band Goblin. Also included is a Goblin music video (04m:46s) and a Daemonia music video (08m:32s), with both bands performing the infamous Profondo Rosso theme. The U.S. and Italian trailers are also provided.