Deep Red

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This article is about the Italian giallo film. For the American TV film, see Deep Red (1994 film). For the song, see Apoptygma Berzerk discography § Singles.
Deep Red
Profondo Rosso poster.jpg
Directed by Dario Argento
Produced by Claudio Argento
Salvatore Argento
Written by Dario Argento
Bernardino Zapponi
Starring Macha Meril
David Hemmings
Daria Nicolodi
Gabriele Lavia
Giuliana Calandra
Glauco Mauri
Clara Calamai
Piero Mazzinghi
Music by Goblin
Giorgio Gaslini
Cinematography Luigi Kuveiller
Edited by Franco Fraticelli
Rizzoli Film
Seda Spettacoli
Release dates
7 March 1975 (Italy)
Running time
126 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office 3,709,723,000 (Italy)
$629,903 (United States)

Deep Red (original title Profondo Rosso; also known as The Hatchet Murders) is a 1975 Italian giallo film, directed by Dario Argento[1] and co-written by Argento and Bernardino Zapponi. It was released on 7 March 1975. It was produced by Claudio and Salvatore Argento, and the film's score was composed and performed by Goblin. It stars Macha Meril as a medium and David Hemmings as a man who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves. The film was a commercial success internationally and met with critical acclaim.


The movie starts off with two shadowy figures struggling - until one of them is stabbed to death - while a child's scream is heard.

The film follows jazz pianist and music teacher Marcus Daly (Hemmings) as he investigates the violent murder of psychic medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril). Other major characters are introduced early, including Daly's alcoholic friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), Carlo's scatterbrained mother Martha (Clara Calamai), Ulmann's associate Dr. Giordani (Glauco Mauri), and reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi).

Before the murder, Ulmann holds a lecture in a theater where she suddenly senses that there is someone with a twisted and violent mind in the audience that she cannot clearly identify. Later that night, while Ulmann is in her apartment taking notes about the incident in the theater, someone kicks the door in and attacks her with a meat cleaver. The killer also destroys her notes. Marcus, who lives in the same apartment building, is walking home when he sees the woman being attacked through the window. He rushes into her apartment to find the woman bleeding to death.

After the police arrive, Marcus realizes he has seen a certain painting among a group of portraits on the walls of the victim's apartment, which seems to have disappeared. The killing of Helga Ulmann is prefaced by a child's doggerel tune (the same music that accompanies the film's opening sequence). The music serves as the murderer's calling card. Marcus hears it in his own apartment soon after becoming involved in the case, but he is able to foil the murderer by locking himself up in his study. Later, he plays the tune to Giordani, a psychiatrist, who theorizes that the music is important because it probably played an integral part in a traumatic event in the killer's past. Another friend of Ulmann tells him about a folktale involving a haunted house in which a singing child is heard, followed by the shrieking of someone being murdered.

In investigating the source of the music tune and the folktale, the search leads Marcus to a story from a book written by Amanda Righetti (Giuliana Calandra), titled House of the Screaming Child, which describes a long-forgotten murder. Marcus tries to find Amanda Righetti to talk to her about her book, but the unseen killer arrives at Righetti's villa first - and murders her by drowning her in a bathtub filled with scalding hot water. The dying Righetti manages to write a message on the wall of the steam-filled bathroom before expiring. Marcus finds the body but, afraid that the police will think he did it, leaves the place without calling anyone. Thanks to a picture from the book, Marcus locates the house where the folktale originated and learns from the caretaker that no one has lived in the house since 1963 when the previous owner disappeared. Marcus looks around the house and, removing some plaster from a wall, uncovers a child's drawing of a little boy holding a bloody knife next to a murdered man and a Christmas tree. Only after he leaves the room, does some more plaster fall off, revealing a third figure in the drawing.

Meanwhile, Giordani investigates the Righetti murder scene and, on a hunch, turns on the hot water in the bathroom and sees part of the message left on the wall by the murder victim. When Giordani returns to his office that night to investigate more, the unseen killer breaks in - and stabs him in the neck with his own knife after bashing his teeth in on the mantelpiece. Marcus also discovers a clue that he initially overlooked in the photo of the deserted house: a window on one of the walls is missing. Marcus returns to the house after dark. After unsuccessfully trying to bash in the wall where the window was (which leads to him nearly falling off the ledge,), he enters the house. Using a pickaxe, he bashes down an end-wall in a hallway, and discovers the secret room with a rotting skeleton next to a Christmas tree. Then, the unseen killer arrives and knocks Marcus out. When he regains consciousness, he finds the house on fire and Gianna by his side, who arrived in the nick of time to pull him out of the house.

Marcus and Gianna go to the caretaker's house to call the police and the fire department. There, Marcus discovers that the caretaker's young daughter Olga had drawn an identical drawing of the little boy with a bloody knife standing next to a murder victim. Olga tells them that she copied the drawing from an old file in the archives at her junior high school. Marcus and Gianna break into the school to search the archives for the drawing. Marcus finds the painting, which has Carlo's name on it. He looks for Gianna and finds out she has been stabbed. Carlo appears before Marcus, holding a gun and threatening to kill him for getting too close to the truth. Just then, the police arrive and Carlo flees - only to get hooked onto a rebar transported by a passing truck and dragged down the street to a gruesome death.

The case is apparently wrapped up, with Carlo being the killer. Marcus drops off the severely wounded Gianna at the hospital, Heading back to the scene of the crime, he realises that Carlo could not have murdered Helga Ulmann because they were together only a few seconds before Marcus saw her at the window. Marcus enters the murder victim's apartment and, after looking around, finally remembers what he saw in a mirror reflection which he thought was a portrait that night: the face of the killer. When he turns back, the killer appears in front of him, as the identity of the killer is finally revealed - as Carlo's insane mother Martha. When Carlo was still a child, he watched as she stabbed her husband when he tried to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Carlo, traumatized, picked up the bloody knife. They then entombed his body in a room of their house.

In the climax, Martha confronts Marcus and tries to kill him. Wielding a meat cleaver, Martha chases him out of the apartment and to the elevator. Marcus is struck in the shoulder by the meat cleaver but manages to kick Martha toward the elevator shaft. A long necklace she wears around her neck catches in the bars of the shaft - and she is decapitated when he pushes the lift button. The film ends with Marcus staring into a pool of Martha's blood.



Deep Red was shot mainly on location in Turin, Italy - a "magical" city according to Argento - in sixteen weeks.[citation needed] The main reason why he chose Turin was because at the time there were more practicing Satanists in Turin than in any other European city, excluding Lyon.[2]

The film's special effects, which include several mechanically operated heads and body parts, were made and executed by Carlo Rambaldi.

Co-writer Bernardino Zapponi said the inspiration for the murder scenes came from Argento and himself thinking of painful injuries to which the audience could relate.[citation needed] Basically, not everyone knows the pain of being shot by a gun, but almost everyone has at some point accidentally struck furniture or been scalded by hot water. The close-up shots of the killer's hands, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento himself.[citation needed]


Critical reception[edit]

In a contemporary review, Vincent Canby wrote in the New York TImes referred to the film as a "bucket of ax-murder-movie cliches" and referred to Dario Argento as "a director of incomparable incompetence."[3]

From retrospective reviews, Kim Newman wrote in the Monthly Film Bulletin that Deep Red was a transitional work for Argento between his earlier whodunit plots and the more supernatural themed films.[4] Newman concluded that Deep Red is "nothing if not an elaborate mechanism, with the camera crawling among objets touves" and "what sets Argento apart from imitators like Lucio Fulci is his combination of genuine pain (the murders are as nasty as one could wish, but the camera flinches where Fulci's would linger) and self-mocking humour"[4] Total Film gave the film four stars out of five, noting that Argento's films "can be an acquired taste; it’s necessary to attune yourself with the horror director’s style in order to get the most from his movies."[5] The review stated that the film "presents some striking visual compositions that raise it above the level of the usual sub-genre offerings." and that the film was "A great introduction to Dario Argento’s evolving style of horror".[5] The A.V. Club wrote, "Operating under the principle that a moving camera is always better than a static one - and not above throwing in a terrifying evil doll - Deep Red showcases the technical bravado and loopy shock tactics that made Argento famous."[6] AllMovie compared the film to other in Argento's work, noting that the film script was "significantly stronger and the actors much better"[7] AllMovie noted that "Each of the murders is perfectly choreographed with particular praise going to Glauco Mauri's killing" and that "The final reel wraps the film up in a thrilling manner and features two extremely graphic deaths that leave the viewer stunned as the credits roll"[7]

Home video[edit]

Multiple versions of the film exist on DVD and VHS, in large part due to the fact that Argento removed twenty-six minutes (largely scenes between Nicolodi and Hemmings) from the film, footage that was never dubbed in English. For years, it was assumed that the film's American distributors were responsible for removing said scenes, but the recent Blu-ray release confirmed that Argento oversaw and approved the edits to the film.

Eleven seconds of animal cruelty cuts made to the film by the BBFC in 1993 were waived when the film was re-submitted in 2010.[citation needed]

In 1999, Anchor Bay acquired the rights to release the film uncut on both DVD and VHS.[citation needed] Their version restored the missing footage but kept the American end credit scene (a freeze-frame shot of Hemmings looking down into a pool of blood). As there were no dubbed versions of the missing scenes, the scenes (and additional dialogue omitted in the dubbed version) were featured in their original Italian language. The DVD offered both English and Italian audio tracks as well.

Blue Underground obtained the rights to the film in 2008[citation needed] and released it as a standard DVD. Their Blu-ray release, released in 2011, contains the US version of the film (which is referred to as "The Director's Cut") and the original edit (referred to as "Uncut" and contains option to watch it in either language).


Argento originally contacted jazz pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to score the film; however, he was unhappy with Gaslini's output. After failing to get Pink Floyd to replace Gaslini, Argento turned back to Italy and found Goblin, a local progressive rock band. Their leader Claudio Simonetti produced two compositions within just one night. Argento signed them immediately, and they ended up composing most of the film's musical score[2] (three Gaslini compositions were retained in the final version). Subsequently, Goblin composed music for several other films by Dario Argento.

Alternate versions[edit]

  • The original Italian version is 126 minutes long. Most US versions remove 22 minutes' worth of footage, including the most graphic violence, all humorous scenes, almost all of the romantic scenes between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi, and part of the subplot regarding the house of the screaming child.
  • The US video release by Anchor Bay Entertainment is mostly restored, reinstating gore shots and scenes with dialogue that were cut from the initial US release. It was likely that these scenes were cut before the English dub was prepared, so they now only exist with an Italian dub (English subtitles are provided for these scenes). In the original theatrical version, the end credits are displayed over a shot of Marcus' reflection in a pool of blood. The image is moving (blood drips into the pool, Hemmings' face changes expression, etc.) while the credits are displayed. Anchor Bay's release features the credits over a freeze-frame of the original shot. Other than this change, the Anchor Bay VHS/DVD is the full, uncut version of the film.
  • The later DVD release from Blue Underground is the exact version mentioned above. Also, Blue Underground released an "Uncensored English Version" on DVD on 17 May 2011. This cut of the film runs no more than 105 minutes, with the gore from the original Italian version intact but the other cuts from the edited English version again excised.[8]
  • Unusually the film had no UK theatrical release. The 1993 Redemption video was cut by 11 seconds to remove a brief scene of two dogs fighting and shots of a live lizard impaled with a pin. The 2005 Platinum DVD issue was pre-cut (to exclude the shot of the lizard) and restored the dog sequence (as it was evident that they were playing rather than fighting). It was finally passed uncut for the 2010 Arrow DVD release.
  • The full-length Italian version (with English subtitles and one small cut by UK censors) is available on video in the UK in pan and scan format from Redemption Films. The only known widescreen print of this version can be found in Australia on both SBS TV and its pay-TV channel World Movies, completely uncut. (Note that the widescreen laserdisc release is in English language and was cut by director Argento himself by about 12 minutes).
  • Some releases of the film incorporate a still from the film, revealing the murderer.


In 2010, George A. Romero was contacted by Claudio Argento to direct a 3D remake of Deep Red, which Claudio said would also involve Dario. Romero showed some interest in the film; however, after contacting Dario - who said he knew nothing about the remake -Romero declined Claudio's offer.[9]


  1. ^ "Deep Red". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b Deep Red (Danish 2008 2-disc DVD). 
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 10, 1976). "'Deep Red is a Bucket of Ax-Murder Cliches". New York Times. p. 58. 
  4. ^ a b Newman, Kim (1984). "Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 51 no. 600 (London: British Film Institute). pp. 349–350. ISSN 0027-0407. 
  5. ^ a b "Deep Red". Total Film. March 8, 2011. Archived from the original on March 11, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2016. 
  6. ^ Phipps, Keith (29 March 2002). "Deep Red | DVD | HomeVideo Review | The A.V. Club". Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Legare, Patrick. "Deep Red (1975) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "DEEP RED (Uncensored English Version)". Blue Underground. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  9. ^ "George A. Romero Offers More Living Dead Updates, Comments on Deep Red Remake". Dread Central. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 

External links[edit]