Welcome back to All the Colors of Giallo. For those of you who read our initial entry back in January—thank you, and welcome back! (Sorry it took so long). However, if you missed our dive into Mario Bava’s black and white Giallo, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Evil Eye), as well as a brief the history of the Giallo, welcome, and I hope you enjoy this trip to a simpler time—a time of vibrant colors, scantily clad women, and black-gloved killers.
While The Girl Who Knew Too Much fit perfectly into the theme of January with its gorgeous black and white cinematography, I heavily debated not using that film to kick start All the Colors of Giallo here at Nightmare on Film Street. Instead, my initial thought was to launch with a more familiar director (not suggesting horror fans don’t know Mario Bava) and that director was Dario Argento.
“Deep Red rises above these typical Giallo tropes, with its inventive kills, subtle uses of the supernatural, and by flipping the script and allowing the male protagonist to play the damsel-in-distress”
While many directors have excelled in the Giallo sub-genre (Bava, Fulci, and Martino to name a few), I considered Argento to launch this monthly column simply because it would be hard for anyone to argue that Argento’s success helped introduce the Giallo films, and Italian horror in general, to a new audience with classics like The Bird in the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), and the film I’ll be talking about this month, 1975’s Deep Red.
Deep Red was a highly anticipated film when it was released in 1975. Despite having three successful Giallo, Argento wanted to break free of the genre and decided to try his hand at historical comedy in 1973 with The Five Days. Thankfully for us, he decided to return to the horror genre where he has remained since.
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For those unfamiliar, Deep Red tells the story of concert pianist Marcus Daly, who witnesses a brutal murder of a psychic named Helga (previously seen in the film’s opening), who sensed the killer in the room during a public reading. After barely missing the murderer, Marcus becomes obsessed with the killing, and through his obsession, he meets and eventually teams with reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). This amateur sleuthing duo eventually discovers a bizarre and twisted mystery where nothing is as it seems.
While the story might sound familiar, Deep Red rises above these typical Giallo tropes, with its inventive kills, subtle uses of the supernatural, and by flipping the script and allowing the male protagonist to play the “damsel-in-distress” (a common theme in Argento’s Giallo). This brilliant gender swap allows David Hemmings to shine with the more comedic elements of his character, and this switch also works brilliantly by giving Daria Nicolodi’s Gianna many of the male charactistics found in traditional Giallo. Gianna is a blast from the moment she steps on screen, and she steals every scene she is featured in.
Deep Red also shines in its presentation. The beauty in revisiting a famous film in a director’s library is noticing the transition in style. Deep Red is that film for Argento. The traditional Giallo tropes are all present in Deep Red, but you can begin to see the style of Suspiria creeping in with its vibrant use of color, stylized murders (the opening kill in the credits, the puppet scene, and the bathroom kill with its inventive use of steam hold up incredibly well), and the intense Goblin score that assaults all of the viewer’s senses.
I revisited Deep Red before writing this. The Arrow Blu-ray is gorgeous and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the film. I was shocked to learn that for years I have been watching the U.S. cut of the film. So “what’s different?” you ask… For its U.S. release, Deep Red had twenty-two minutes cut from its run-time. These cuts remove a major subplot, the majority of gore, the humor, and the entire romantic plot between Marcus and Gianna. Thankfully, the Blu-ray features both versions of the film, and allows for the chance to view both cuts. Now I can definitively say that the original Italian cut is my preferred version of the film. While the U.S. cut moves at a brisker pace, the loss of character development and humor is detrimental to the story.
“Deep Red is a masterpiece that offers something that should appeal to not only Giallo fans, but to horror fans in general.”
For many Horror fans Deep Red stands out as Argento’s best film. While I don’t share that opinion, I cannot deny that Deep Red is a masterpiece that offers something that should appeal to not only Giallo fans, but to horror fans in general.