Deep Red (1975, Dario Argento)

Two awful thoughts: I wish I’d watched the English dubbed version since the Italian was so badly dubbed anyway, and I wish I’d seen the U.S. edit that chopped out twenty minutes. Or perhaps I wish I wouldn’t continue to waste my time on Italian horror movies in the first place. The few I’ve loved (Suspiria, City of the Living Dead) have been dampered by the many I’ve just hated to death. This wasn’t even a proper horror, just a “giallo” (which is not its own genre, people, just the Italian word for pulp crime fiction).

Opens with a psychic named Helga (Macha Méril of A Married Woman and Night Train Murders) giving her presentation to a sparse audience. “Butterflies, termites, zebras, all these animals and many more, use telepathy to transmit orders and relay information. This is a proven fact that can easily be demonstrated.” She will soon be knifed to death then hung out her jagged broken glass window for Marc (David Hemmings, star of Blow-Up) to come attempt to rescue. It’d be ten years before Argento would change his mind, making a film (Phenomena) with a woman who speaks telepathically to butterflies and termites its star, instead of its first victim.

Marc appoints himself lead detective on the case, even though he’s a jazz musician who barely knew the victim. The actual detective is a jerk anyway. Marc meets a sprightly young reporter (Daria Nicolodi, who had cats flung at her in Inferno) who will be his partner in investigation – and in love. They discuss gender equality (I didn’t know there was such thing in Italy), which leads to an arm wrestling match. DH also tries confiding in his best friend in jazz, Carlo, but Carlo is always too drunk to help.


Next some woman named Elvira is killed (along with her pet bird, and I HOPE that wasn’t a real bird, damn animal-brutalizing Italians) – an author who wrote a book on something or other, I dunno. It doesn’t matter. Hot on the case, Hemmings looks for Carlo but instead finds his weird mom (Clara Calamai, star of Ossessione) who sends him to Carlo’s boyfriend’s house. Once we know Carlo is gay, and this being the 1970’s, it’s assumed he’s the killer (he’s not – it’s his mom).

This is how Carlo’s mom dresses in her own house:

Some professor is killed, I dunno, and Marc becomes obsessed with this spooky house with a child’s drawing on an inside wall and a walled-off secret room with a body inside. It’s Carlo’s old house – enter stylish flashback of Carlo’s mom knifing his dad to death. Before we learn about the mom, Carlo is suspected, gets dragged to death by a garbage truck (but Gabriele Lavia will return as Carlo in Inferno). Mom is beheaded when her necklace is caught in an elevator, heh. And at least one other animal (lizard with a pin through it) is tortured for the sake of this movie.

This is supposed to be a slasher but there are only two killings in the first ninety minutes. I don’t need a movie to give me continual bloody mayhem, but this has little going for it storywise besides the mayhem, mostly alternates overlong conversations with everlasting suspense scenes. I loved the keyboardy Goblin soundtrack, but did not like the dialogue editing. I’ll stop commenting that the voices are annoyingly out of sync when the Italians learn how to shoot sound film properly.

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