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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.59:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 6 Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette
  • Interviews
  • Documentaries

Deep Red

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 127 mins . R . PAL

  Feature
Contract

In a world of horror films filled with horror buffs, it must be tricky coming up with something new. And it can safely be assumed that horror films are also usually quite limited in their budgets. Today animation can cover much of what used to be done with traditional methods of special effects (see Darkness Falls for example). However, in 1975 films were heavily reliant on makeup and effects to help extend the boundaries of belief for the enthralled audience.

Deep Red is perhaps not the most subtle title for a horror film ever invested, and sure, it may not have a lot to do with the film itself (apart from the buckets of Scarlet Blood #5 used in makeup), but it has at least attempted to make for itself a decent storyline.

Here we follow the misadventures of Marcus Daly, a pianist who happens to look up one evening on the way home and see a woman murdered in a window far above. Upon investigation he discovers she was a psychic who saw into the mind of a killer whilst on stage at a conference. As the pianist investigates, he teams up with a journalist who’s looking for a story and as they strip back the layers of the case, more and more people around them start winding up dead and, before long, it’s the two of them being pursued.

The case of this DVD states it has had 12 minutes of previously unavailable footage included here and it doesn’t actually help the film at all. In fact, it adds some dreary and unnecessary length that desperately needs better pacing to maintain the motivation of the audience. The story itself, while every attempt has been made to create a decent thriller, seems laboured with clues to the killer’s identity quite obvious from the beginning, although there’s a certain element of red herring thrown in. The climax is a traditional unmasking a la Scooby-Doo that in fact raises more questions until the ironic twist comes moments later. This again seems to plod a little bit and the extra footage interspersed throughout doesn’t help the speed at all.

However, there is an interesting story here that seems years ahead of its time for a horror film (and perhaps even now is still ahead of its time – no scantily clad teens stranded in the woods here). If you can look past the pathetic attempts at blood which films of the era seemed to pour out of cans, there are some quite excellent moments of better makeup that makes the blood all the more fake looking. For fans of vintage horror or even just horror in general, this is well worth a look and is among the better splatter-horrors I’ve suffered through in my time as a reviewer. The only failing, and I know I keep coming back to it, is in the added footage. This has no English track so is dubbed in Italian and subtitled for us, but does nothing for the film. Removed is usually removed with good cause, and just having the footage and wishing to preserve it in the DVD format is fine, but I don’t think the film needed it included. A series of explanations in ‘deleted scenes’ would have served it better here.

  Video
Contract

While there are film artefacts present here there’s nothing too offensive and for the most part the picture quality is quite good for a film nigh on 30 years of age. There are some very interesting and unique camera moves that do help the audience hang in there with plenty of roving steadicam and handheld point-of-view work. There are a few foibles in film shimmer and reflection from the 100th minute out along the right side of frame that may irritate. A good thing about this transfer though is in the full cinema aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with anamorphic machete-wielding. It really utilises the full screen to show some great landscape and city environments, adding an ‘ancient’ feeling to the setting as films like Hannibal did so well. Being set in Rome (I assume) this is a real treat by way of capturing the city as it was 30 years back. Finally, colours are mildly washed out at times, though the rest of the palette seems fine with blacks solid and true and shadow detail slightly above average.

  Audio
Contract

A disappointing Dolby Digital stereo offering that skips its way through the film in an eclectic fashion. Adding the extra scenes that contain no English audio isn’t necessarily a good thing, and these seem poorly dubbed and almost rushed. Not to be outdone, the dubbing of the English track even goes out occasionally, leading to some irritation for the audience. Not the best dub I’ve ever heard and below average, unfortunately.

The musical score is from Giorgio Gaslini and the Goblins who also perform their work. This is an unusual score and one that suits the film in its anachronistic charm and sweeps a broad range of everything from jazzy to progressively tense to funky '70s cop show wokka wokka. Neato.

  Extras
Contract

A swag here that helps alleviate the welling sadness of the film’s poor dub (which in truth is its only real downfall, apart from the fairly obvious storyline).

Our first entrant is in An Eye For Horror, a brilliant documentary about the director Dario Argento. There are any number of creepy weirdos giving their opinions of the man and his work here and even includes interviews with Argento himself. This runs in 1.78:1 sans 16:9 enhancement and stretches itself nicely into a full 56:49. An excellent prize for the discerning horror afficianado.

A Dario Argento interview promises more than it delivers, but I daresay any fan of the director’s work will find themselves enthralled. It’s dubbed into English from Italian stock and has some nice insights into the film itself as well as its creation process. It’s definitely one for the fans though and runs for 12:59.

The 25th Anniversary featurette is a couple of years out of date, but that’s okay. It runs a satisfying 10:50 and features recent interviews and lots of Italian speaking people waxing lyrical about the film and how it affected their lives and such. It’s an interesting retro look at the film and a worthy inclusion, but yet another one for fans alone.

Then there are the usual suspects in a theatrical trailer (2:43 in 1.85:1 with 16:9 in 2.0 and in fairly good condition, actually), an Italian trailer (1:51 in 2.35:1 without 16:9 in 2.0) and Argento trailers for his other films. These include The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The Cat’O Nine Tails, Tenebrae and Phenomena.

So a good haul for the fans with the prime piece of bonus material in the opening extensive documentary on Argento.

  Overall  
Contract

Deep Red, seen through the modern eye for the tight thriller, does find itself wanting a little. However, when viewed with the 1975 mindset from which the film came, it seems way ahead of its time and therefore is worth the applause. It’s not the slickest production I’ve ever seen, but by no means is it the worst. This is well worth the addition to any horror film fan’s collection with the extras package contributing heavily toward patching the holes in the DVD transfer.


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      And I quote...
    "…There is an interesting story here that seems years ahead of its time in regards to horror films…"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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