Friday, 19 December 2014

Profondo Rosso

Deep Red (original title Profondo Rosso; also known as The Hatchet Murders) is a 1975 Italian giallo film, directed by Dario Argento and co-written by Argento and Bernardino Zapponi. It was released on 7 March 1975. It was produced by Claudio and Salvatore Argento, and the film's score was composed and performed by Goblin. It stars Macha Meril as a medium and David Hemmings as a man who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves.


The movie starts off with two shadowy figures struggling until one of them is stabbed to death while we hear a child's scream.
The film follows jazz pianist and music teacher Marcus Daly (Hemmings) as he investigates the violent murder of psychic medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril). Other major characters are introduced early, including Daly's alcoholic friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), Carlo's scatterbrained mother Martha (Clara Calamai), Ulmann's associate Dr. Giordani (Glauco Mauri) and reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi).
Before the murder, Ulmann holds a lecture in a theatre where she suddenly senses that there is someone with a twisted and violent mind in the audience that she cannot clearly identify. Later that night, while Ulmann is in her apartment taking notes about the incident in the theatre, someone kicks the door in and attacks her with a meat cleaver. The killer also destroys her notes. Marcus, who lives in the same apartment building, is walking home when he sees the woman being attacked through the window. He rushes into her apartment only to find the woman bleeding to death.
After the police arrive, Marcus realizes he has seen a certain painting among a group of portraits on the walls of the victim's apartment which seems to have disappeared. The killing of Helga Ulmann is prefaced by a child's doggerel tune, the same music that accompanies the film's opening sequence. The music serves as the murderer's calling card. Marcus hears it in his own apartment soon after becoming involved in the case but he is able to foil the murderer by locking himself up in his study. Later, he plays the tune to Giordani, a psychiatrist, who theorizes that the music is important because it probably played an integral part in a traumatic event in the killer's past. Another friend of Ulmann tells him about a folktale involving a haunted house in which a singing child is heard, followed by the shrieking of someone being murdered.
In investigating the source of the music tune and the folktale, the search leads Marcus to a story from a book written by Amanda Righetti (Giuliana Calandra), titled House of the Screaming Child which describes a long forgotten murder. Marcus tries to find Amanda Righetti to talk to her about her book but the unseen killer arrives at Righetti's villa first and murders her by drowning her in a bathtub filled with scalding hot water. The dying Righetti manages to write a message on the wall of the steam-filled bathroom before expiring. Marcus finds the body but, afraid that the police will think he did it, he leaves the place without calling anyone. Thanks to a picture from the book, Marcus locates the house where the folktale originated and learns from the caretaker that no one has lived in the house since 1963 when the previous owner disappeared. Marcus looks around the house and, removing some plaster from a wall, uncovers a child's drawing of a little boy holding a bloody knife next to a murdered man and a Christmas tree. Only after he leaves the room, some more plaster falls off revealing a third figure in the drawing.
Meanwhile, Giordani investigates the Righetti murder scene and, on a hunch, turns on the hot water in the bathroom and sees part of the message left on the wall by the murder victim. When Giordani returns to his office that night to investigate more, the unseen killer breaks in and stabs him in the neck with his own knife after bashing his teeth in on the mantelpiece. Marcus also discovers a clue that he initially overlooked in the photo of the deserted house: a window on one of the walls is missing. Marcus returns to the house after dark and after unsuccessfully trying to bash in the wall where the window was, which leads to him nearly falling off the ledge, he enters the house and using a pickaxe, bashes down an end-wall in a hallway and discovers the secret room with a rotting skeleton next to a Christmas tree. Then, the unseen killer arrives and knocks Marcus out. When he regains consciousness, he finds the house on fire, and Gianna by his side who arrived in the nick of time to pull him out of the house.
Marcus and Gianna go to the caretaker's house to call the police and the fire department. There Marcus discovers that the caretaker's young daughter, Olga, had drawn an identical drawing of the little boy with a bloody knife standing next to a murder victim. Olga tells them that she copied the drawing from an old file in the archives at her junior high school. Marcus and Gianna break into the school to search the archives for the drawing. Marcus finds the painting which has Carlo's name on it. He looks for Gianna and finds out she has been stabbed. Carlo appears before Marcus holding a gun and threatening to kill him for getting too close to the truth. Just then, the police arrive and Carlo flees, only to get hooked onto a rebar transported by a passing truck and dragged down the street to a gruesome death.
The case is apparently wrapped up with Carlo being the killer. Marcus drops off the severely wounded Gianna at the hospital, but in going back to the scene of the crime he realises Carlo could not have murdered Helga Ulmann because they were together only a few seconds before Marcus saw her at the window. Marcus enters the murder victim's apartment and, after looking around, finally remembers what he saw in a mirror reflection which he thought was a portrait that night: the face of the killer. When he turns back, the killer appears in front of him as the identity of the killer is finally revealed as Carlo's insane mother Martha. When Carlo was still a child, he watched as she stabbed her husband when he tried to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital and Carlo, traumatized, picked up the bloody knife. Then, they entombed his body in a room of their house.
In the climax, Martha confronts Marcus and tries to kill him. Wielding a meat cleaver, Martha chases him out of the apartment and to the elevator. Marcus is struck in the shoulder by the meat cleaver, but manages to kick Martha toward the elevator shaft. A long necklace she wears around her neck catches in the bars of the shaft, and she is decapitated when he pushes the lift button. The film ends with Marcus staring into a pool of Martha's blood.



Deep Red was shot mainly on location in Turin, Italy, a "magical" city according to Argento, in sixteen weeks.[citation needed] The main reason why he chose Turin was because at the time there were more practicing Satanists in Turin than in any other European city, excluding Lyon.[1]
The film's special effects, which include several mechanically-operated heads and body parts, were made and executed by Carlo Rambaldi, best known for creating the extraterrestrial protagonist of Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, for which he won an Academy Award in 1983.
Co-writer Bernardino Zapponi said the inspiration for the murder scenes came from Argento and himself thinking of painful injuries to which the audience could relate.[citation needed] Basically, not everyone knows the pain of being shot by a gun, but almost everyone has at some point accidentally struck furniture or been scalded by hot water. The closeup shots of the killer's hands, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento himself.[citation needed]


Critical reception

Deep Red has been very well received by critics. It currently holds a 95% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty-two reviews.[2]
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."[3] AllMovie called it "the master work in Italian horror maestro Dario Argento's canon".[4]

Home video

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.[citation needed]
In 1999, Anchor Bay acquired the rights to release the film uncut, on both DVD and VHS.[citation needed] Their version restored the missing footage, but kept the American end credit scene (a freeze frame shot of Hemmings looking down upon a pool of blood). As there was 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[citation needed] 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 as "Uncut", and contains option to watch it in either language).


Argento originally contacted jazz pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to score the film. However, he was unhappy with Gaslini's output, deeming it "awful".[citation needed] Gaslini, frustrated by Argento's dictatorially insistent requests, effectively walked out of the film when Argento interrupted a recording session because the music sounded too chaotic to him.[citation needed] After failing to get Pink Floyd to replace Gaslini, Argento turned back to Italy and found Goblin, a talented local progressive rock band.[citation needed] Their leader, Claudio Simonetti, produced two compositions within just one night. Argento, impressed, signed them immediately, and they ended up composing most of the film's musical score[1] (three Gaslini compositions were retained in the final version). Subsequently, Goblin composed music for several other films by Dario Argento.

Alternate versions

  • The original Italian version is 126 minutes long. Most US versions remove 22 minutes' worth of footage, including most graphic violence, all humorous scenes, almost all of the romantic scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi and part of the subplot regarding the house of the screaming child.
  • The US video release by Anchor Bay Entertainment is mostly restored, reinstating gore shots and scenes with dialogue that were cut from the initial US release. It was likely that these scenes were cut before the English dub was prepared, and so they now only exist with an Italian dub (English subtitles are provided for these scenes). However, in the original theatrical version, the end credits are displayed over a shot of Marcus's reflection in a pool of blood. The image is moving (blood drips into the pool, Hemmings's face changes expression etc.) while the credits are displayed. Anchor Bay's release features the credits over a freeze-frame of the original shot. Other than this change, the Anchor Bay VHS/DVD is the full uncut version of the film.
  • The later DVD release from Blue Underground is the exact version mentioned above. Also, Blue Underground released an "Uncensored English Version" on DVD on 17 May 2011. This cut of the film runs no more than 105 minutes, with the gore from the original Italian version intact but the other cuts from the edited English version again excised.[5]
  • Unusually the film had no UK theatrical release, and the 1993 Redemption video was cut by 11 seconds to remove a brief scene of two dogs fighting and shots of a live lizard impaled with a pin. The 2005 Platinum DVD issue was pre-cut (to exclude the shot of the lizard) and restored the dog sequence, as it was evident that they were playing rather than fighting. It was finally passed uncut for the 2010 Arrow DVD release.
  • The full-length Italian version (with English subtitles and one small cut by UK censors) is available on video in the UK in pan and scan format from Redemption Films. The only known widescreen print of this version can be found in Australia on both SBS TV and its pay-TV channel World Movies, completely uncut. Note that the widescreen laserdisc release is in English language and was cut by director Argento himself by about 12 minutes.
  • Some releases of the film incorporate a still from the film, revealing the murderer.


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. It is unknown if Claudio will look elsewhere for a director or still has plans to remake his brother's film.[6]


  1. Deep Red (Danish 2008 2-disc DVD).
  2. "Deep Red (Profondo rosso) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  3. Phipps, Keith (29 March 2002). "Deep Red | DVD | HomeVideo Review | The A.V. Club". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  4. Legare, Patrick. "Deep Red (1975) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  5. "DEEP RED (Uncensored English Version)". Blue Underground. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  6. "George A. Romero Offers More Living Dead Updates, Comments on Deep Red Remake". Dread Central. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2012.

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