ARROW UHD RELEASE: Deep Red (1975)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally wrote about Argento’s Deep Red on November 9, 2018. Arrow’s truly landmark UHD release is something to celebrate, so we’ve updated and expanded this article to cover this must-have purchase.

Deep Red is one of the few Argento movies that I’ve seen in a theater and the drive-in. It’s not the best film for the fast moving grindhouse or drive-in, but it is a great film. After all, it started with a 500-page script that even Dario Argento’s family felt was too cryptic and continues with not just one, but two references to American painter Edward Hopper. This isn’t just a movie about murder. This is a movie that transforms murder into art.

We begin at Christmas, as two shadowy figures battle until one of them stabs the other. Screams ring out as a knife drops at the feet of a child.

Fast forward to Rome, as a medium named Helga Ulmann is conducting a lecture about her psychic powers. Within moments, she senses that one of the people in the theater is a killer. Later that night, that killer kicks in her front door and murders her with a meat cleaver (which is probably why this movie got the boring American title of The Hatchet Murders).

British musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, BarbarellaBlowup, Harlequin), who fits the giallo mold of the stranger in a strange land thrust into the middle of a series of murders that he must solve, is returning home from drinking with his gay best friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia, Beyond the DoorInferno) when he sees the murder that we’ve just witnessed from the street. He runs to save Helga, but she’s thrust through the window and her neck is pierced by the broken glass of her window in a kill that has become Argento’s trademark.

As he tells the police what has happened, he notices that a painting on Helga’s wall is gone. That’s when Gianna Brezzzi (Argento’s soon-to-be wife, Dario Nicolodi, who met him during the filming of this movie) takes his photo, which ends up on the cover of the newspaper the very next day.

Unlike most giallo women, Gianna is presented as more competent and even stronger than our hero — she sits high above him in her Fiat 500 and continually bests Marcus every time they arm wrestle. Nicolodi is so perfect in this film that she both breaks and warms your heart at every turn.

Marcus isn’t your typical hero, though. When the killer attacks him, he doesn’t stop them by daring or skill. He locks himself in his study to escape them. He does remember the song the killer played — we also have heard it when Helga is murdered — that psychiatrist (and Helga’s boyfriend) Professor Giordani believes is related to some trauma that motivates the killer.

Feeling guilty that she’s caused the killer to come after Marcus, Gianna relates an urban legend of a haunted house where the sounds of a singing child and screams of murder can be heard. The truth lies in House of the Screaming Child, a book written by Amanda Righetti, which tells the truth of the long-forgotten murder. Marcus and Gianna would learn even more, but the killer beats them to her house and drowns her in a bathtub of scalding hot water (directly influencing the murder of Karen Bailey in Halloween 2). As she dies, the writer leaves a message behind on the wall, which our heroes find. They’ve already assumed the investigation — again, in the giallo tradition — and think the police will assume that Marcus is the murderer, so they don’t report the crime.

Marcus follows the trail of the killer from a picture in the book to the real house, which has been abandoned since 1963. As he searches the home, he uncovers a child’s drawing of a murdered man and a Christmas tree, echoing the flashback that starts the film. Yet when he leaves the room, we see more plaster fall away, revealing a third figure.

Marcus tells his friend Carlos all that he’s learned, but his friend reacts in anger, telling him to stop questioning things and to just leave town with his new girlfriend. At this point, you can start to question Marcus’ ability as a hero — he misses vital clues, he hides instead of fighting and he can’t even tell that someone is in love with him.

Professor Giordani steams up the Righetti murder scene and sees part of the message that she left on the wall. That night, a mechanical doll is set loose in his office as the killer breaks in, smashing his teeth on the mantle and stabbing him in the neck.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Gianna realize that the house has a secret room, with Marcus using a pickaxe to knock down the walls, only to discover a skeleton and Christmas tree. An unseen person knocks our hero out and sets the house on fire, but Gianna is able to save him. As they wait for the police, Marcus sees that the caretaker’s daughter has drawn the little boy with the bloody knife. The little girl explains that she had seen this before at her school.

Marcus finds the painting at the young girl’s school and learns that Carlo painted it. Within moments, his friend turns up, stabs Gianna and holds him at gunpoint. The police arrive and Carlo flees, only to be dragged down the street and his head messily run over by a car.

With Gianna in the hospital and his best friend obviously the murder, Marcus then has the Argento-esque moment of remembering critical evidence: there’s no way Carlo could have killed the psychic, as they were together when they heard her screams. The portrait that he thought was missing from the apartment was a mirror and the image was the killer — who now appears in front of him.

The real killer is Martha (Clara Calamai, who came out of retirement for this role, an actress famous for her telefoni bianchi comedy roles), who killed Carlo’s father in the flashback we’ve seen numerous times after he tried to commit her. She chases Marcus with a meat cleaver, striking him in the shoulder, but he kicks her and her long necklace becomes caught in an elevator which beheads her. The film ends with the reflection of Marcus in the pool of the killer’s blood.

While this film feels long, it has moments of great shock and surprise, such as the two graphic murders that end the film and the clockwork doll. The original cut was even longer, as most US versions remove 22 minutes of footage, including the most graphic violence, any attempts at humor, any romantic scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi, and some of the screaming child investigation.

This is also the first film where Argento would work with Goblin. After having scored Argento’s The Five Days — a rare comedy —  Giorgio Gaslini was to provide music for the film. Argento didn’t like what he did and attempted to convince Pink Floyd to be part of the soundtrack. After failing to get them to be part of Deep Red, Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti impressed the director by producing two songs in one night. They’d go on to not only write the music for this film, but also for plenty of future Argento projects.

A trivia note: Argento’s horror film museum and gift shop, Profondo Rosso, is named after the Italian title to this movie.

Deep Red is the bridge between Argento’s animal-themed giallo and supernatural based films. While its pace may seem glacial to modern audiences, it still packs plenty of moments of mayhem that approaches high art.

Arrow Video’s new UHD release has 4K restorations of both the original 127-minute Italian version and the 105-minute export version from the original negative by Arrow Films, as well as limited edition packaging with a reversible sleeve featuring originally and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative.

Plus, you get an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Alan Jones and Mikel J. Koven and a new essay by Rachael Nisbet, as well as a fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative and six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards.

As for the on-disk extras, there’s new audio commentary by critics Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, archival audio commentary by Argento expert Thomas Rostock and nearly three hours of new interviews with members of the cast and crew, as well as an introduction by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin, a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie and several trailers.

If you love giallo, Argento and collecting the most important films in the history of horror, you simply must buy this. It’s as perfect as it gets. You can order it from MVD or Diabolik DVD.

GIALLOPALOOZA PRIMER: Deep Red (1975)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You think you’re telling the truth, but in fact… you’re telling only your version of the truth. It happens to me all the time. That said, we originally watched and talked about this movie on December 7, 2018, but because it’s one of the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Giallopalooza selections, we’re posting it again.

Deep Red is one of the few Argento movies that I’ve seen in a theater. I’m not sure what the audience expected, as it was on what was presented as a grindhouse night. I think they wanted something like the modern interpretation of the term, all fast moving action and laughs. I don’t think that many of them were happy with what they got from this film — a movie that started with a 500-page script that even Dario Argento’s family felt was too cryptic and continues with not just one, but two references to American painter Edward Hopper. This isn’t just a movie about murder. This is a movie that transforms murder into art.

The movie begins at Christmas, as two shadowy figures battle until one of them stabs the other. Screams ring out as a knife drops at the feer of a child.

Fast forward to Rome, as a medium named Helga Ulmann is conducting a lecture about her psychic powers. Within moments, she senses that one of the people in the theater is a killer. Later that night, that killer kicks in her front door and murders her with a meat cleaver (which is probably why this movie got the boring American title of The Hatchet Murders).

British musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings, BarbarellaBlowup, Harlequin), who fits the giallo mold of the stranger in a strange land thrust into the middle of a series of murders that he must solve, is returning home from drinking with his gay best friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia, Beyond the DoorInferno) when he sees the murder that we’ve just witnessed from the street. He runs to save Helga, but she’s thrust through the window and her neck is pierced by the broken glass of her window in a kill that has become Argento’s trademark.

As he tells the police what has happened, he notices that a painting on Helga’s wall is gone. That’s when Gianna Brezzzi (Argento’s wife at the time, Dario Nicolodi, who met him during the filming of this movie) takes his photo, which ends up on the cover of the newspaper the very next day.

Unlike most giallo women, Gianna is presented as more competent and even stronger than our hero — she sits high above him in her Fiat 500 and continually bests Marcus every time they arm wrestle.

Marcus isn’t your typical hero, though. When the killer attacks him, he doesn’t stop them by daring or skill. He locks himself in his study to escape them. He does remember the song the killer played — we also have heard it when Helga is murdered — that psychiatrist (and Helga’s boyfriend) Professor Giordani believes is related to some trauma that motivates the killer.

Feeling guilty that she’s caused the killer to come after Marcus, Gianna relates an urban legend of a haunted house where the sounds of a singing child and screams of murder can be heard. The truth lies in House of the Screaming Child, a book written by Amanda Righetti, which tells the truth of the long-forgotten murder. Marcus and Gianna would learn even more, but the killer beats them to her house and drowns her in a bathtub of scalding hot water (directly influencing the murder of Karen Bailey in Halloween 2). As she dies, the writer leaves a message behind on the wall, which our heroes find. They’ve already assumed the investigation — again, in the giallo tradition — and think the police will assume that Marcus is the murderer, so they don’t report the crime.

Marcus follows the trail of the killer from a picture in the book to the real house, which has been abandoned since 1963. As he searches the home, he uncovers a child’s drawing of a murdered man and a Christmas tree, echoing the flashback that starts the film. Yet when he leaves the room, we see more plaster fall away, revealing a third figure.

Marcus tells his friend Carlos all that he’s learned, but his friend reacts in anger, telling him to stop questioning things and to just leave town with his new girlfriend. At this point, you can start to question Marcus’ ability as a hero — he misses vital clues, he hides instead of fighting and he can’t even tell that someone is in love with him.

Professor Giordani steams up the Righetti murder scene and sees part of the message that she left on the wall. That night, a mechanical doll is set loose in his office as the killer breaks in, smashing his teeth on the mantle and stabbing him in the neck.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Gianna realize that the house has a secret room, with Marcus using a pickaxe to knock down the walls, only to discover a skeleton and Christmas tree. An unseen person knocks our hero out and sets the house on fire, but Gianna is able to save him. As they wait for the police, Marcus sees that the caretaker’s daughter has drawn the little boy with the bloody knife. The little girl explains that she had seen this before at her school.

Marcus finds the painting at the young girl’s school and learns that Carlo painted it. Within moments, his friend turns up, stabs Gianna and holds him at gunpoint. The police arrive and Carlo flees, only to be dragged down the street and his head messily run over by a car.

With Gianna in the hospital and his best friend obviously the murder, Marcus then has the Argento-esque moment of remembering critical evidence: there’s no way Carlo could have killed the psychic, as they were together when they heard her screams. The portrait that he thought was missing from the apartment was a mirror and the image was the killer — who now appears in front of him.

The real killer is Martha (Clara Calamai, who came out of retirement for this role, an actress famous for her telefoni bianchi comedy roles), who killed Carlo’s father in the flashback we’ve seen numerous times after he tried to commit her. She chases Marcus with a meat cleaver, striking him in the shoulder, but he kicks her and her long necklace becomes caught in an elevator which beheads her. The film ends with the reflection of Marcus in the pool of the killer’s blood.

While this film feels long, it has moments of great shock and surprise, such as the two graphic murders that end the film and the clockwork doll. The original cut was even longer, as most US versions remove 22 minutes of footage, including the most graphic violence, any attempts at humor, any romantic scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi, and some of the screaming child investigation.

This is also the first film where Argento would work with Goblin. After having scored Argento’s The Five Days — a rare comedy —  Giorgio Gaslini was to provide music for the film. Argento didn’t like what he did and attempted to convince Pink Floyd to be part of the soundtrack. After failing to get them to be part of Deep Red, Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti impressed the director by producing two songs in one night. They’d go on to not only write the music for this film, but also for plenty of future Argento projects.

A trivia note: Argento’s horror film museum and gift shop, Profondo Rosso, is named after the Italian title to this movie.

Deep Red is the bridge between Argento’s animal-themed giallo and supernatural based films. While its pace may seem glacial to modern audiences, it still packs plenty of moments of mayhem that approaches high art.

Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is presenting “Giallopalooza”, two big nights of classic, fully restored giallo thrillers from such maestros as Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino!

On Friday, September 17, the line-up will be What Have You Done to Solange?, Torso, A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin and The Cat O’Nine Tails. Saturday, September 18 they will present Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Blood and Black Lace and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

Admission is $10 per person each night (children 12 and under FREE with adult guardian). Camping on the premises is available each night for an additional $10 a person, and that includes breakfast.

Advance tickets are available online at the Riverside Drive In’s webpage.

The Flower in His Mouth (1975)

Elena Bardi (Jennifer O’Neill, The Psychic) has moved to a small Sicilian town to teach, but on her first day she’s harassed by a man and no one helps her. The next day, that man is dead and she’s a suspect. Everyone in town treats her with near contempt except for Bellocampo (James Mason, absolutely incredible in this)m a lawyer who teaches her all of the secrets of the city, such as how she can change the laws about students evading school. The only other person she grows close to is Professor Belcore (Franco Nero), but he won’t even appear in public with her.

When a second person insults her and also winds up dead, the superstitious people of the small town believe that she has a secret power. She uses this belief to give grants to poor families and then further uses it to send their children to school. Even powerful senators begin to listen to her and change the laws to fix up the neighborhoods where the most cash-strapped citizens live.

The real reasons why Bellocampo has led her to improve the city is incredibly shocking, so much so that I’d like you to discover it for yourself, as well as Mason’s astounding work in this motion picture.

This may be discussed as a giallo, but beyond the murders, it is truly a story of human nature.

La donna della domenica (1975)

Commissioner Santamaria (Garrone, an architect who was playing an intellectual game of murder within a series of letters to his friend Massimo Campi (Jean-Louis Trintignant). While investigating, Satanamaria falls for one of the suspects, Anna Carla Dosio. Can we blame him when she’s played by Jacqueline Bisset?

It seems that Garrone has been killed for his blackmailing, but now that Campi’s boyfriend Lello has also been killed — amongst others — the plot is thickening.

Luigi Comencini is usually the director of more high brow things than we cover here. But hey — there’s a Morricone soundtrack to tether us to the tenuous connections to the giallo genre that we hold so dear. I guess I shouldn’t say too high brow, as after all the main victim is murdered with a stone penis, so there’s that.

Deadly Strangers (1975)

Someone has escaped Greenwood Mental Hospital, broken into someone’s home and stolen a car. And now, they’re on the loose.

Could it be Stephen Slade? He has the same car as the one that has just been stolen. And why is he stalking Belle Adams (Hayley Mills!) when she heads home from the bar with a truck driver that assaults her? He saves her and then keeps telling her less than truths to stay in her company.

The evidence keeps piling up, as through flashbacks gradually reveal that Stephen is a voyeur — and Belle is an abused orphan whose uncle used to watch her, so maybe they aren’t meant to be — and when they stop for gas, the one lone female employee ends up dead.

As they avoid roadblocks — at first because Stephen’s been drinking and later because they may have injured a motorcyclist who was bothering them — it seems like they’re growing closer. But is that the worst possible thing for Belle? Or Stephen?

Directed by Sidney Hayers (Burn, Witch BurnAssault), this film definitely has the giallo vibes of red herrings, mistaken identity and a question of who the killer is well in hand. This doesn’t get discussed much but it’s definitely worth a watch.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Diary Of An Erotic Murderess (1975)

As far as I’m concerned, Marisa Mell can be in every giallo. She can be in every movie, actually.

In this one, originally called La encadenada, she plays the live-in psychologist of millionaire widower Alexander’s (Richard Conte, wow what a get!)  slightly — well, perhaps completely — insane silent son. Within a few moments of plot time, she’s marrying the father, disposing of him and then moving on to his son. But then, of course, her evil ex (Anthony Steffen, who somehow played Django more than Franco Nero) shows up to ruin everything.

There are some wild ideas here — Alexander owns the Holy Grail, the real cup and it’s treated with all of the excitement that another Alexander gets when he shows off his magic window — but the film suffers from a lack of style. It needs the sex, the sizzle, the score, the everything that makes a giallo a giallo.

But man, the ending is slam bang great and Mell is awesome in this, an actress in search of a movie. And it’s got a really great supporting cast. Manuel Mur Oti never really directed that I’ve seen before, but his style here seems very point and shoot. That could be the result of the horrible print that is out there. But hey, let’s be honest: you could do worse than to watch Marissa Mell ruin men for 87 minutes.

Shivers (1975)

Also known as Orgy of the Blood Parasites (written title), The Parasite Murders (it was filmed under that name), They Came from Within and Frissons, the themes of David Cronenberg third film — debated in Canadian Parliament at the time of its release due to its blend of sex and violence — are still beyond relevant today.

The initial reviews were so brutally against this movie that one high-profile hit piece by Robert Fulford (writing as “Marshall Delaney” for the magazine Saturday Night) didn’t just hurt the director’s chances of getting funding. It got him kicked out of his apartment thanks to a moral cause. owing to his landlord’s inclusion of a “morality clause” in the lease.

Starliner Towers — actually Tourelle-Sur-Rive, a 1962 apartment building designed by Mies van der Rohe, who was on the same level as Frank Lloyd Wright — is where Dr. Emil Hobbes and Dr. Rollo Linsky have been working on a project that has a parasite that can take over the function of a human organ. Why are they working on something like this?

Hobbs had the belief that modern humans had become over-intellectual and estranged from their primal impulse, so he created “a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease that will, hopefully, turn the world into one beautiful mindless orgy” and reassert humanity’s true sexually aggressive instincts.

Hobbes has killed a young woman named Annabelle by cutting open her stomach and pouring acid into it and then killing himself, which is like taking a page right out of the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Whatever they made, it’s giving people stomach convulsions and making them throw up bloody parasites which they go on to infect others like an STD.

Before long, everyone in the building — including Lynn Lowrey and Barbara Steele — is infected. Unlike zombies, these creatures retain their intelligence on some level and just want to have violent sex.

Cronenberg hasn’t been shy about the fact that other movies have ripped off his film: “I have to say that some of my images like this [parasite] ended up in things like Alien, which was more popular than any of the films I’ve ever made. But the writer of Alien has definitely seen these movies, Dan O’Bannon. The idea of parasites that burst out of your body and uses a fluid and leaps on your face, that’s all in Shivers.” He said the same thing in 2015, nearly doubling down by stating: “…Alien, for example, which totally ripped off things from my movie Shivers…”

Dan O’Bannon rip something off? Hmm.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Noche de Muerte (1975)

René Cardona directed 146 movies and I’ve made it my lfie’s work to watch as many of them as possible. This one stars Blue Demon and it establishes a conceit that makes a lot of sense: how can anyone tell who is under that blue mask? And what if someone else also wears the mask and starts killing people and robbing banks and jewelry stores?

It’s all the work of the evil Count and El Cosaco, a luchador with a grudge against our hero. But the cops don’t know that. I really love the fact that Blue Demon challenges his evil version to a mascara contra mascara mask and puts his enemy in a submission that doesn’t allow him to move. He yells for the detective who has been tracking him down to take off the man’s mask and prove his innocence. It’s a great way to get across Blue’s grappling skill and makes for a fun ending.

I mean, I did tell you how this ends, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. The version that’s on Shout! TV has some of the best and worst dubbing I’ve ever listened to, which is really how it should be.

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)

Based on the novel by Jack Bickham, this was the first movie to team up Don Knotts and Tim Conway, who grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia and Willoughby, Ohio respectively, and became beloved for their goofy comedic skills. In fact, Conway was the sidekick to Cleveland’s original Ghoulardi — Eric Anderson, later the voice of ABC and father of Paul Thomas — and would even come back home to appear on Hoolihan and Big Chuck and Big Chuck and Lil’ John.

Gamber Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby) has agreed to sign for some valuables from an old associate named John Whintle. Turns out they’re three orphans named Bobby, Clovis and Celia Bradley, a bunch of kids who destroy so much that they make Donovan poor. Soon, he’s nearly robbed by Knotts and Conway, who have left their gang after accidentally shooting Slim Pickens in the leg. Hijinks ensure involving a gold mine and bandits.

Only Knotts and Conway would come back for The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, along with Harry Morgan who plays a different character. Disney also made a TV movie called Tales of the Apple Dumpling Gang, which had John Bennett Perry in Bixby’s part, Ed Begley Jr. instead of  Conway and Arte Johnson in the Knotts role. They also made a six episode TV series, Gun Shy, with Barry Van Dyke in the Bixby part.

The Strongest Man in the World (1975)

The second sequel to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, after Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, The Strongest Man in the World continues the story of Dexter Riley and the students of Medfield College.

Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn, who sadly died from drowning after filming was complete; the Youngstown native had also completed voicing over The Rescuers and was a major advocate for more equitable distribution of TV residual payments) is about to be fired for financial mismanagement due to the extreme overspending by Prof. Quigley’s science class. Higgins fires the professor and threatens to have his entire class kicked out of school, but when he slams the door on the classroom, he knocks Dexter’s experiment into another student’s vitamin cereal. Then the cow — which cost so much money in the first place — eats the cereal, Dexter drinks the milk and then we have Kurt Russell gaining super strength.

This movie had to have been cast by me in a past life. Can we get Eve Arden? How about Phil Silvers? Can Cesar Romero come back? How about Dick Van Patten as the main villain?

Director Vincent McEveety was a Disney directing mainstay, making stuff like GusSuperdadThe Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.