Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Film #34: Deep Red (1975)

You’re a psychic, okay!
Great, good for you.
But just because you can see the past-present-future and read people’s minds doesn’t mean there aren’t rules. There are just some things a psychic should and shouldn’t do with their powers.
-Do use your shining ability to see the winning Powerball numbers. Then buy me a golden toliet.
-Do read your spouse’s mind when they ask you a question with no answer.
But heavens to Betsy, DON’T flaunt your powers on stage and then point out a killer in the audience.
And if you gotta do that, ya dumbass, don’t announce you know who the killer is only to keep that fact to yourself until the next morning.
Trust me, you won’t have a next morning.
Such is the lesson learned in this week’s stop in horror history, the mid-70s Italian screamer “Deep Red.”

A famous blonde haired, blue-eyed, German, Jewish psychic (yeah, we don’t get it either) breaks the aforementioned rule one day while giving a performance of her talents in Italy. Next thing you know back at her apartment, she ends up with a cleaver to her guts and her head impaled on a broken window. (If she was so psychic, why didn’t she see that coming?)

This grizzly scene happened in our psychic friend’s second floor apartment, while down below in the plaza square her neighbor, master pianist (get your mind out of the sewer) Marcus Daly, was discussing life with a drunken suicidal piano player named Carlo.

Well, that convo was cut short when lil’ miss mind-reader comes crashing through her front window. Marcus springs into action, running up and into her apartment with the hope of catching the killer. He doesn’t, but does see a rain-coated man dart out through the street….THE KILLER! But that wasn’t all he saw…

The cops are called but instead of warm handshakes, Marcus is met with suspicion by the local police. Those rubes think he might just have something to do with her killing, what with her blood all over him and his being the first on the scene and all.

You’d think a desire to prove one’s innocence would drive a man to pursue this murder mystery. It isn’t, but Marcus does become obsessed with solving the murder as a “challenge to his mind.” Seems he saw a vital clue when he entered the psychic’s apartment that night, a freaky painting on the wall that was there one moment, then gone the next. He just can’t remember what it was he saw, but he knows it holds the answer to his neighbor’s murder… and possibly his survival.

An annoying reporter, Gianna, shows up at the death scene, and soon takes a shine all her own to our murder suspect – part because he is the key to a juicy story, and part because he makes her juicy.

Marcus and Gianna are hell bent on solving this crime, a promise that takes on more urgency as the body count starts to rise and Marcus becomes the main killer target after the local newspaper prints a story about his involvement in the murder (thanks a lot, Gianna!)

The two go back to the site of the psychic’s performance and re-enact her final show, gaining vital clues that lead them down the path to the maiming audience member’s dark secret, and reason for killing! Meanwhile that drunk Carlo and his tranny friends keep popping up, as does his psychotic mother. Carlo seems connected to all this business… but how? The killer could be anyone. Is it Gianna? Is it Carlo? Will you care?
Probably. It’s Italian horror at its finest in the 1975 Dario Argento masterpiece, Deep Red.

RDHP Ratings and Review

C-Rating: 3.5
Chris Dimick argentos:
“Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Argento? No, I’m not saying Dario Argento should be considered a Ninja Turtle. Deep Red writer and director Argento is just as capable an artist as his aforementioned countrymen. Although Argento didn’t work his art with a paint brush (he preferred a bloody meat cleaver) his work still stands up against theirs in beauty and importance… at least to a horror movie fan.

In real life, death and murder are ugly. But in his films, Argento makes it look breathtakingly beautiful. His use of vibrant color, and mix of quirky, cutting edge camera work with well placed, classily framed shots combines into a visual masterpiece of horror.
In its time, the murder sequences in Deep Red were borderline distasteful, even for those saucy Italians. It is a jarring contrast to watch such awful and stomach churning sequences filmed in such a gorgeous way. A viewer’s mind says “I’m going to puke if I see that guy’s teeth smashed against the marble fireplace again…but WOW, look at how brilliant and attractive that shot of blood looks trickling down the stone!”

Sometimes Argento’s masterful visuals come at the expense of his writing. He spends so much time developing a shot, he loses track of the reality of the story. But Deep Red is a pleasant departure from this trap. There are slow and boring parts, but the entire movie did have Nick and I truly guessing what was going to happen next, and just who the killer was! We both had it figured out, until the twist of the twist slapped us in the face. As an Argento fan that has come to accept his shortcomings, I was pleasantly surprised that Deep Red dazzled my brain as much as my eyes.

Watch this flick if you like moving paintings. Watch it if you like Italians. Watch it if you like soundtrack composer and rock-horror band Goblins. Watch it if you want a mind-freak.
Watch it… it’s better than a trip to that dusty art museum.”

N-Rating: 3.0
Nick Rich argentos:
“I have a confession to make - Deep Red was my first Dario Argento film (not including his edit of Dawn of The Dead).
I said it.
Please reserve any judgment of me... after all, this is part of the reason we're doing the RDHP in the first place - to experience the best and brightest films horror has to offer. Deep Red was an important stop as Dario has 'carved' out quite a place for himself in horror history and I can definitely see why with Deep Red. Although it didn't blow me away, was a bit boring at times and had an mystifying habit of switching from Italian to English to Italian... then back to English, Deep Red was an interesting journey that left the viewer literally wondering what would happen next (as the plot didn't really give you many hints).
It would be easier to just show you what it was like experiencing the plot.

Nick's real-time impression of Deep Red:
  • "These opening credits are kind of lo- oh wait, here's a sce- what the!?! And we are back to the credits again..."
  • "Hey this is the theater they used in The Life Aquatic!"
  • "Hey that dude is speaking Italian... now English!?"
  • "What is with those creepy zombie looking paintings?"
  • "If that chick is psychic shouldn't she know to not answer the door - or at least use her locks?"
  • "How can that guy speak so coherently if he's supposed to be so drunk?"
  • "...don't move the dead body!!!"
  • "I have no idea what this cut scene is supposed to be about but Goblin ROCKS!"
  • "Seriously, they put a picture of the witness on the front page and said he could identify the murderer?!?"
  • "He has a sweet apartment too!"
  • "Why is this dude still in town?"
  • "This chick is really acting weird."
  • "Time to rock again!" (plays air bass guitar)
  • "That is the scariest mustache I have ever seen!"
  • "Man that guy is depressed!"
  • "Uh, why is he is the library - NOOOO!"
  • "Dude, that kid is messed up!"
  • "I have no idea why he is at this place - but don't really care as Goblin is rocking OUT!"
  • "Why is this person being killed?"
  • "I totally know who the killer is."
  • "Wait that doesn't make sense, maybe the killer had an accomplice."
  • "That person is the killer?!?! Well, I guess that makes sense..."
  • "Geez, that was an abrupt ending - wait, one last time to ROCK!"
You may have noticed above, as the movie progressed my mind was less engaged in the film and every time I tried to grasp what was going on Goblin rocked the will to find out straight from my mind. Some may call this distracting, but frankly, I didn't care because it provided a unique viewing experience for me. I actually don't think I would have enjoyed the film nearly as much had it been Goblin free - it was visually interesting and definitely 70's- licious, but the rock added some much needed movement to the film's pace (which felt unnecessarily slow).
Upon reading my review, you may think "it didn't seem like Nick actually liked the film itself" - this isn't true. I certainly wasn't scared by this film, and I definitely wasn't dazzled... but I was genuinely surprised by it, and enjoyed the experience of watching it - especially watching it with my friend.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you have a hankering to think, but are secretly in the mood for pretty pictures and rocking out; or if you have always wondered what life was like as a 1970's Italian jazz pianist (who hasn't?).

Things We Learned from “Deep Red”
-If you find a baby doll hanging from a noose in your house, don’t investigate (below).
-“Because I want to challenge my memory” is not a good enough excuse to track down a killer.
-Everyone in 1970's Italy has an amazing flat (aka apartment).
-Nick and Chris both squirm at the sight of teeth getting smashed.
-If you hear glass break above you, don’t look up.
-It’s common practice in Italy for TV news shows to announce the names and addresses of those who witness unsolved murders.
-Random convos with drunken people can get deep.
-People play piano because they hate their father.

Quote of the Viewing
[Marcus sits alone in a soaring library, studying a book on ghosts that is tied to the psychic’s murder. He looks over his shoulder, then tears out a picture from the book.]
Nick and Chris: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WHAT THE HELL! NEVER DO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Nick: “He deserves to die now.”
Chris: “Lock him up, put him in the chair, the bastard.”

RDHP Salutes: Feisty Female Reporters

In honor of the tenacious, liberated, arm-wrestling female reporter in Deep Red the RDHP would like to tip their newspaperman hats to some other infamous female reporters.

Lois Lane
Sure she needs to be rescued every 5 minutes and couldn't figure out that Clark Kent was really Superman... but boy-howdy is she feisty!

Amy Allen
She may have been written off of the A-Team after Season 2,
but while she was around she was no 'fool' to be pittied!

April O'Neil
Talking brains, mutated pig-men, yellow jumpsuits... nothing stops her from getting a story! !

Veronica Corningstone
In a man's world she did the impossible... be a woman.
Take that mustachioed men!

RDHP Salutes: Goblin!

The industrial-progressive-rock band Goblin was prominently featured in Deep Red, and is a mainstay in several other horror movies of the 70s and 80s (Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead). Instead of atmospheric piano warbling or creepy background tomes, Goblin brings the horror through their ass-kicking free style acid jazz and prog-rock jams. Their nerve-jangling experimental sounds and bizarre vocals have made the composers legendary.
At several points in the movie, the RDHP had to air jam with Goblin, completely missing plot points in our rock-induced haze.
While some might argue that Goblin’s music isn’t fitting for horror movies (it really isn’t scary, and takes the viewer out of the horror and into the rock), we here at the RDHP salute Goblin for their ability to make our asses shake.
Take a listen below, but do so at your own risk. You will rock.


  1. Holy crap, how awesome is that Lois Lane comic? From a creative standpoint, anytime you can use the phrase "splitsville" you gotta do it right?

  2. I think it is a moral imperative actually...