|Directed by||Dario Argento|
|Produced by||Salvatore Argento|
|Edited by||Franco Fraticelli|
|7 March 1975 (Italy)|
|Box office||₤3,709 billion (Italy) |
$629,903 (United States)
Deep Red (Italian: Profondo rosso), also known as The Hatchet Murders, is a 1975 Italian giallo horror film directed by Dario Argento and co-written by Argento and Bernardino Zapponi. It stars David Hemmings as a musician who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves. The cast also stars Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, and Clara Calamai. The film's score was composed and performed by Goblin, the first in a long-running collaboration with Argento.
The film was released during the height of the "giallo craze" of Italian popular cinema, and was a critical and commercial success. Retrospective reviews have been equally positive, and the film is considered one of the genre's definitive entries, as well as one of Argento's best works.
During Christmas at a family home, in silhouette against the wall of a living room, one figure stabs another to death. A bloody knife falls to the floor at a child's feet.
20 years later in Turin, Professor Giordani chairs a parapsychology conference featuring psychic medium Helga Ulmann. Helga is suddenly overwhelmed by the "twisted, perverted, murderous" thoughts of someone in the audience. After the lecture, Helga tells Giordani she also heard a child's song during the psychic link. She believes she can identify the person she sensed; in the shadows, someone watches them.
That night, a black-gloved figure invades Helga's apartment and attacks her with a meat cleaver. Jazz musician Marcus Daly sees the murder, and rushes to her apartment, finding her mutilated corpse. After the police arrive, Marcus thinks one of the apartment's paintings has disappeared, but he cannot pinpoint what is missing.
Reporter Gianna Brezzi arrives and photographs Marcus. Outside, Marcus encounters his alcoholic friend Carlo, who he helps get home. The next morning, after arguing with Gianna about women's liberation, he visits Carlo's home to check on him but only finds Carlo's eccentric mother Martha, who seems interested in Marcus.
The media identifies Marcus as the eyewitness and shows Gianna's photo of him. That night, someone plays a recording of a child's song outside his door; Marcus manages to lock the door before the person can enter, but he hears the gruff whisper, "I'll kill you sooner or later." Marcus tells Giordani, whom he met at Helga's funeral, about the encounter. Giordani, noting that Helga also heard a child's song, recalls a book of modern folklore describing a local haunted house where a child's song is sometimes heard. Gianna begins helping Marcus because she feels guilty for taking his photo.
Marcus reads the folklore book and finds a photo of the house in it. He rips out the picture, planning to learn more from the book's author. However, the killer has been watching Marcus and attacks the author before drowning her in scalding water. Using the photo, Marcus finds and investigates the huge abandoned house. Under sheetrock he uncovers a disturbing mural: a child holding a bloody knife over a dead body. He leaves for the night before the full image of the mural is revealed.
Giordani, who has been assisting Marcus's investigation, visits the scene of the author's murder and uses steam to find a clue written on the mirror. Later that night, the killer distracts him with a creepy mechanized doll, before murdering him. Meanwhile, Marcus finds a walled-off room in the abandoned house. In the middle of the dusty floor sits a desiccated corpse. Someone knocks Marcus unconscious as he backs away in horror.
Marcus awakens outside the house, which is burning. Gianna appears, explaining that she got his message about investigating the house and arrived in time to save him. As Marcus and Gianna wait at the caretaker's house for the police, Marcus notices that the caretaker's daughter has drawn a picture identical to the hidden mural he found in the house. She tells him she saw the picture in the archives of the local school.
Marcus and Gianna immediately go to the school. Marcus finds the drawing in a schoolboy's record. When Gianna leaves to call the police, someone stabs her. Marcus corners the attacker–it is Carlo, who as a kid drew the disturbing pictures. The police arrive, and Carlo flees into the dark street where a garbage truck hits him and drags him down the street. When the truck stops, an oncoming car runs over Carlo's head.
At the hospital, Marcus learns that Gianna has survived. Remembering that the night Helga died he met Carlo utterly intoxicated and coming from a very different direction than the scene of the killing, Marcus reinvestigates the apartment crime scene. There, he has an epiphany: the night of Helga's murder it was not a missing painting he saw, but rather a reflection of the killer, framed in a mirror-- specifically, Marcus saw the killer's reflection when he first entered the apartment. As Marcus realizes he saw Martha, Carlo's mother, she appears behind him with a meat cleaver. Martha explains that she murdered her husband in front of the young Carlo as a child's song played (the events depicted in the first scene), then walled off the room containing his body. Carlo, scarred psychologically, tried to repress the memory of the homicide compulsively drawing it and later taking up alcohol: he attacked Marcus and Gianna to protect his murderous mother from their investigation.
Martha attacks Marcus and wounds him with the cleaver. After Martha's necklace tangles in the bars of the building's elevator, Marcus sends the elevator down, decapitating Martha. He stares into the deep red pool of her blood as the credits roll.
Deep Red represented Argento's return to the horror genre after an attempted breakaway with the historical dramedy The Five Days (1974). It was his last giallo film before Tenebre (1982), which was produced years after the genre's heyday.
The film was also his first collaboration with actress Daria Nicolodi, with whom he would begin a relationship during this film, and progressive rock band Goblin, who composed and performed the film score. Argento would collaborate with Nicolodi five more times, and Goblin or its frontman Claudio Simonetti ten more times. Nicolodi would also co-write the screenplay for Suspiria.
The film was shot mainly on-location in Turin in sixteen weeks. Additional scenes were shot in Rome and Perugia. Argento chose Turin because at the time there were more practising Satanists there than in any other European city, excluding Lyon. He had previously shot parts of The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) in the city. Filming locations included Santa Costanza Church and Teatro Carignano. Argento would later revisit Carignano 25 years later in Sleepless (2001). The "House of the Screaming Child" was Villa Scott, a historical villa owned at the time by a convent of nuns and operated as a boarding school.
Argento's original working title for the film was La Tigre dei Denti a Sciabola (The Sabre-Toothed Tiger), matching the "animal" motif of his previous gialli.
Co-writer Bernardino Zapponi said the inspiration for the murder scenes came from him and Argento thinking of painful injuries to which the audience could relate, as the pain of being stabbed or shot is outside the experience of most viewers. Their original screenplay ran approximately 500 pages, but after it was deemed unfilmable, Argento shortened it to 321. The use of a psychic medium originated from an early draft of Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971).
The close-up shots of the killer's hands, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento himself. Argento was convinced that having all the killing scenes performed by himself would be quicker and easier than teaching the moves to an actor, who would require endless re-takes to perform everything to the director's satisfaction. The film's special effects, which include several mechanically operated heads and body parts, were created and executed by Carlo Rambaldi.
As was common in Italian filmmaking at the time, Deep Red was shot without sync sound, and all dialogue was dubbed in post-production. The screenplay was written in both Italian and English, all actors except for Clara Calamai spoke in English. The Italian dub cast included Isa Bellini (Calamai), Wanda Tettoni (Del Balzo), and Corrado Gaipa (Meniconi). The English dub cast included Cyril Cusack, Ted Rusoff, Carolyn De Fonseca, Geoffrey Copleston, Michael Forest, and Edward Mannix. David Hemmings dubbed himself.
Deep Red was released in Milan and Rome in Italy on 7 March 1975. In the United States, the film first premiered in New York City on 9 June 1976 and saw a wide theatrical release on 11 June 1976 by the defunct US independent film distributor Howard Mahler Films. The film was once again re-released and re-titled in the US on 18 January 1980, as The Hatchet Murders. Unlike Argento's previous features, the film did not have a wide cinema release in the UK. The 1982 video release on Fletcher Video was uncertificated. The first formal submission to the BBFC for classification was made by Redemption Films for their VHS release in 1993. It was passed 18 with 11s of cuts (to 'fighting' dogs), and reframing (of a lizard apparently impaled alive on a blade) on 03/12/1993 (all cuts were subsequently waived, see below).
The film holds a 93% approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 29 reviews with an average rating of 8.1/10. The site's consensus reads: "The kinetic camerawork and brutal over-the-top gore that made Dario Argento famous is on full display, but the addition of a compelling, complex story makes Deep Red a masterpiece." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 89 out of 100 based on 7 critic reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
From retrospective reviews, Kim Newman wrote in the Monthly Film Bulletin that Deep Red was a transitional work for Argento between his earlier whodunit plots and the more supernatural themed films. Newman concluded that Deep Red is "nothing if not an elaborate mechanism, with the camera crawling among objets trouvés" and "what sets Argento apart from imitators like Lucio Fulci is his combination of genuine pain (the murders are as nasty as one could wish, but the camera flinches where Fulci's would linger) and self-mocking humour" Total Film gave the film four stars out of five, noting that Argento's films "can be an acquired taste; it's necessary to attune yourself with the horror director's style in order to get the most from his movies." The review stated that the film "presents some striking visual compositions that raise it above the level of the usual subgenre offerings." and that the film was "A great introduction to Dario Argento's evolving style of horror". The A.V. Club wrote, "Operating under the principle that a moving camera is always better than a static one – and not above throwing in a terrifying evil doll – Deep Red showcases the technical bravado and loopy shock tactics that made Argento famous." AllMovie compared the film to other in Argento's work, noting that the film script was "significantly stronger and the actors much better" AllMovie noted that "Each of the murders is perfectly choreographed with particular praise going to Glauco Mauri's killing" and that "The final reel wraps the film up in a thrilling manner and features two extremely graphic deaths that leave the viewer stunned as the credits roll"
In a contemporary review, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times referred to the film as a "bucket of ax-murder-movie cliches" and referred to Dario Argento as "a director of incomparable incompetence."
Quentin Tarantino described being "rattled" by the movie as a teenager, and picked it as one of his favorite horror movies.
Multiple versions of the film exist on DVD and VHS, in large part due to the fact that Argento removed twenty-six minutes (largely scenes between Nicolodi and Hemmings) from the film, footage that was never dubbed in English. For years, it was assumed that the film's American distributors were responsible for removing said scenes, but the recent Blu-ray release confirmed that Argento oversaw and approved the edits to the film.
Eleven seconds of animal cruelty cuts made to the film by the BBFC in 1993 were waived when the film was re-submitted in 2010. Upon consideration, examiners concluded that the 'fighting' dogs were actually playing, and a letter sent from the production company stated that the lizard on a knife was a 'visual effect'.
In 1999, Anchor Bay acquired the rights to release the film uncut on both DVD and VHS. Their version restored the missing footage but kept the American end credit scene (a freeze-frame shot of Hemmings looking down into a pool of blood). As there were no dubbed versions of the missing scenes, the scenes (and additional dialogue omitted in the dubbed version) were featured in their original Italian language. The DVD offered both English and Italian audio tracks as well.
Blue Underground obtained the rights to the film in 2008 and released it as a standard DVD. Their Blu-ray release, released in 2011, contains the US version of the film (which is referred to as "The Director's Cut") and the original edit (referred to as "Uncut" and contains option to watch it in either language).
Arrow Films, a distributor of the United Kingdom, acquired the rights to the film and released it on January 3, 2011. The 2-disc set was released uncut as part of the now out-of-print window slip cover sets which released a number of films by Argento and other directors; it contained several special features including interviews, a documentary, trailers, audio commentary, four cover artwork designs, an exclusive collector's booklet written by Alan Jones on the film, and a double-sided poster. Both the director's cut and the theatrical cut are available on the set with an English and Italian audio track, and English subtitles. On January 25, 2016, Arrow Films released Deep Red in a 3-disc Limited Edition set of 3000 copies. The edition is available in new 4K restoration, with new commissioned artwork exclusive from Arrow Films. The original version of the film, as well as US cut are available, with new special features including a soundtrack CD featuring 28 tracks, 6 lobby cards, double-sided poster, reversible sleeve, and a limited edition booklet written by Mikel J. Koven. Bonus features from the previous edition are also included. A standard version of the Limited Edition was released on May 30, 2016 in a single-disc set and contains only the director's cut/original version. Special features from the edition are available.
On November 6, 2013, Australian distributor, Umbrella Entertainment made the film available with both the director's cut and the theatrical cut included.
Main article: Profondo Rosso (soundtrack)
Argento originally contacted jazz pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to score the film; however, he was unhappy with Gaslini's output. After failing to get Pink Floyd to replace Gaslini, Argento turned back to Italy and found Goblin, a local progressive rock band. Their leader Claudio Simonetti impressed Argento by producing two compositions within just one night. Argento signed them immediately, and they ended up composing most of the film's musical score (three Gaslini compositions were retained in the final version). Subsequently, Goblin composed music for several other films by Dario Argento.
The soundtrack was made available for the first time ever on vinyl after Waxwork Records released the complete score by Goblin on a triple LP. In addition to Goblin's music, the LP also included instrumental and alternate tracks by Gaslini.
Two key sequences in this film influenced directors of later horror movies: the lead-up to the famous exploding head scene in David Cronenberg's Scanners is modeled after the parapsychology discussion at the beginning of Deep Red, and Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II contains a scalding water death inspired by the death of Giuliana Calandra's character Amanda Righetti here.
The film's title, Profondo Rosso, is the name of a Rome horror memorabilia store owned and operated by Argento and Luigi Cozzi.
In 2010, George A. Romero was contacted by Claudio Argento to direct a 3D remake of Deep Red, which Claudio said would also involve Dario. Romero showed some interest in the film; however, after contacting Dario – who said he knew nothing about the remake – Romero declined Claudio's offer.
In 2007, Argento directed a musical theatre adaptation of Deep Red with music by Claudio Simonetti. The role of Marcus was played by Michel Altieri.