Iconic Images: Deep Red (1975)

This month we are taking a trip around the world of horror. As we head over to Italy, we enter the world of the Giallo, a mystery-thriller-exploitation-horror hybrid from which this iconic image is taken…

Deep Red (Argento, 1975)

Extract taken from Michael Mackenzie’s “Introduction to giallo…

Arguably the pinnacle of Argento’s career and almost certainly the giallo’s finest moment, Deep Red was Argento’s triumphant return to the genre after a brief and unsuccessful foray into historical comedy with the ill-fated The Five Days of Milan. While essentially a retelling of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, this later film ups the ante in every respect. The kills are more brutal, the camerawork more audacious, the production design more grandiose and the gender politics more upfront. In a sort of uncredited reimagining of Blowup, David Hemmings plays a role not dissimilar to the one he inhabited in the Antonioni film — that of jazz pianist Marcus Daly, who witnesses the murder of his upstairs neighbour and becomes embroiled in the hunt for her killer after convincing himself that something about the murder scene didn’t quite fit. Along the way, he teams up with journalist Gianna Brezzi (played by Argento’s on-off partner Daria Nicolodi), and the sparring between them is some of the wittiest and most sharply-observed Argento has ever committed to film. (The sight of Hemmings crying foul after losing a “battle of the sexes” arm-wrestling contest to Gianna, only to later grudgingly concede that women may have brute strength but that men have the brains, is too funny for words.)

As the 70s waned, Argento became less interested in narrative and more obsessed with style for style’s sake. While this meant that his work in the next couple of decades was more of a mixed bag (before, in the twenty-first century, he seemingly gave up on style as well), Deep Red is a perfect melting pot of both style and substance — and a giallo that you don’t just watch, you experience.

Words by Michael Mackenzie from his Top 10 Giallo Films for the Beginner

Find out more about giallo films in our “beginner’s guide”

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