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Something's going on here. They just sent me two more I-Talian horror movies. Regular readers of my ramblings -- all, um, ONE of you -- will remember reading about Torso and Autopsy awhile back. This time around the movies are by a fella by the name of Dario Argento. He's one of these guys that everyone says is a true genius, and that his movies are terrific, but they must be more into high-brow horror than this East Texas son.
There's no question Dario is an ar-teest. He monkeys with the camera more one dare think humanly possible: long pans, lingering close-ups, reverse zooms ... ominous, grimly lit sets. No wonder the guy's a hero for a lot of genre filmmakers. But there's something to the legend, as Argento has a remarkable knack for suspense, and on occasion, terror.
Until the next shipment from Italy arrives, we'll have a look at Inferno and Deep Red (1975, 126 minutes, akas. Profundo Rosso, The Hatchet Murders, Dripping Deep Red, The Saber Tooth Tiger and Deep Red: Hatchet Murders).
The movie: Dario starts things off with a flashback to a gruesome off-screen murder, then flashes forward to a board meeting of the Psychic Friends Network. This gal starts freaking out and yammering about "pure evil" being in the audience, or some such. She must have been on to something, cuz before you know it, she's cleavered to death and chucked out a window. This piano player (David Hemmings as Marcus Daly) -- who they insist on calling a pianist, but when Italians say it, it sounds dirty -- witnesses the murder and rushes to the psychic friend's aid. Just when the flick had lumbered into slasher territory, in comes the love interest Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). She's a feisty young journalist looking to snag a scoop and get into Daly's pants. For some reason, he'd rather chase after the killer than diddle Daria. A lot of the time, the movie doesn't make a lick of sense, and Argento keeps throwing weirdness at you: an odd-looking little girl who likes to torture animals, maniacal drawings of murder, a baby doll in a noose ... lots of stuff to keep ya on edge during this dream-like experience. Staggered throughout are unusual, even silly, murders. Like this one fella who gets his teeth bashed in on the corners of his furniture. One of the best performances is by Carla Calamai as Carlo's comedically absent-minded mother, who when Daly visits, she insists he's any occupation OTHER than a piano player, despite his best efforts to correct her. Careful you don't confuse this for another Deep Red (1994), the one about killer milkmen and a girl whose space-alien contaminated blood reverses the aging process.
Notables: One breast. Six corpses. Gratuitous jazz band. One psychic fit. Cleaver brandishing. Arm rasslin. Killer cam. One dead bird. Knitting needle attack. Gratuitous dog fight. Impaled lizard. Knife through the neck. One gooey corpse. Elevator disaster. Burning mansion. Death by dragging. Costume-jewelry decapitation.
Quotables: Carlo's transsexual lover, who whines, "I love that guy, but he's such a downer!"
Time codes: Fat guy on bicycle (30:18). "Watch your step" (1:05:55). Super freaky mechanical doll (1:34:10). Zany music by Goblin (1:41:40).
Audio/Video: Two things that really stand out in this, and Inferno, are the films' cinematography, and their musical score. Both are preserved beautifully on this disc. New Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks have been mastered (both in Italian and English). The score by Giorgio Gaslini and Golbin sounds especially good. The theme is said to have inspired John Carpenter when he was making Halloween. Unfortunately, brief portions of the English soundtrack were lost, in those scenes, English subtitles are provided. The video transfer itself is remarkably sharp and presented in its original widescreen format (2.35:1).
Extras: Uncensored director's cut. Ten-minute "25th Anniversary" featurette with director Dario Argento. What's fascinating is to compare the U.S. and Italian trailers. The Italian version is far more artistic and engaging.
Final thought: An arty whodunit that's both suspenseful and disturbing. Far more cerebral than your average splatter flick. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.