It’s muchacha macabra Leia LaBiblia, back for another must-see Euro-shocker newly available on Blu Ray thanks to the amazing horror wizards at Arrow Films, who have been doing Satan‘s work with their definitive Hi-Def editions of beloved splatter classics. Now that they’ve started rolling out the best of Dario Argento, it’s the perfect time for a mini-master class in the super-stylish, ultra-violent, deliciously scary creations of the current king of continental creepiness! And we’ll start with this baroque masterpiece, DEEP RED [Profondo Rosso]. If you love vintage horror flicks like I do, you’ll be in hatchet heaven!
Dario is best known in this country for his colorfully overwrought, very LOUD supernatural fairy tale Suspiria  and for being the father of cult actress Asia Argento, who’s starred in several of his films. You won’t catch Ron Howard directing Bryce Dallas in scenes of nudity, rape and gory mayhem, and American cinema pays the price. Dario helped invent what we know as the Giallo, a uniquely Italian genre of suspense thrillers characterized by insanely elaborate plotting, traumatic childhoods, and a tempting array of frequently under-dressed actresses menaced by a variety of black-hearted, black-gloved sexual psychopaths, often during stalk and slay set-pieces of amazing artistry and devilish creativity. The two best American examples are Dressed to Kill  and Eyes of Laura Mars , both influenced in general by Argento as much as by Hitchcock. And specifically by THIS smash hit psychic psycho suspense classic!
Deep Red proved you could make a beautiful movie about a dangerously unhinged maniac gouging a bloody path through the world of fine art and music– it was the first Slasher Art Film to make big money, Europe’s own Jaws , Exorcist  or Carrie . It had the most innovative direction, gorgeous CinemaScope photography by Luigi Keveiller, and stunning music by Giorgio Gaslini, which Dario wisely had performed by prog-rock band Goblin, who began their long career scoring Euro-Horror to a techno-synth beat. Despite censorship troubles with our killjoy MPAA and drastically shortened prints that made the labyrinthine plot even harder to follow, Deep Red became an instant cult hit in the US, classing up countless drive-ins and grindhouses while it also scared the hell out of bewildered patrons expecting just another chunk of bloody Eurotrash. The VHS release in the early 80′s became a highly sought prize, despite censored gore, appalling picture quality and its wonderful 2:35:1 picture compositions squeezed and chopped to fit full-frame TV’s.
Now that we have this double-disc Blu Ray edition from Arrow, Deep Red can finally be appreciated for what it should be, and enjoyed at home in a condition most people didn’t even experience in theatres. Among other goodies, it contains two complete cuts of the film: the longer, director-approved version and the Italian export version, which has all the gore and mayhem intact, but shortens some character stuff and non-essential plotting. Various countries then censored the movie based on the current standards of the time, but both versions included deliver the bloody goods INTACT. We’ll be looking at the full-length director’s cut here, in English, which is how the movie was mostly shot. A few scenes in this restored print were never recorded in English, so they’re in Italian with subtitles. If my 12-year-old nephew Rodrigo could figure it out, so can you. (And yes, it scared the hell out of him! “Worse than Saw 3-D and Piranha 3-D combined!” he squeaked, right before I told him his parents can’t find out about this until he’s 26. Not if he wants to watch the new Blu Ray of Lucio Fulci‘s The Beyond next month.)
Please note the screengrabs were NOT taken from the Arrow Blu Ray and aren’t even close to the gorgeous Hi-Def clarity of this release. If you have a Blu Ray player, go to Amazon UK and snap up a copy!
FLASHBACK: Living room. A quaint old-time Xmas scene with a decorated tree, presents underneath, table set for a holiday dinner. A children’s record plays a cheery song on an old-fashioned phonograph. Shadows struggle against the wallpaper, a huge knife raises, and someone stabs the shit of someone. The bloody butcher knife clunks to the floor in front of us. Two child’s legs, in white stockings and mary-janes approach the knife from the other side of the room, as an unseen moppet stares down at it.
1975. Conservatory rehearsal hall. Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), an English composer, conducts a jazz orchestra from the piano. He stops the musicians and tell them it’s too slick and controlled– he wants trashier, in keeping with the spirit of the music, which originated from speakeasies and bordellos. In other words, black it up, son!
Parapsychology Conference. A red theatrical curtain opens on a panel onstage in a modest but palatial theatre– Blow-dried Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri), Elke Sommer-type medium Helga Ullman (Macha Meril) from Lithuania, and a prissy moderator. Certain species of animal communicate telepathically, like butterflies, but Helga’s one of the few human adults with documented ESP. She can see things that are hidden from us, going on in the present. And sense thoughts the moment they’re formed. Helga picks a man out of the crowd and correctly guesses his name that he’s clutching keys. Everyone murmurs with excitement, then Helga screams as if struck. And she has been, by some really bad vibes! Helga is jolted by what she describes as the presence of evil: “A twisted mind sending me thoughts, perverted, MURDEROUS thoughts!” Helga channels a moment from the past, urging whoever she’s with “in that house” that they must clean this up and tell no one!
Men’s room. POV of someone running water in the sink. The tarnished mirror reveals only the outline of a face. A man enters and notices that POV Person looks “sick”. Can he help? POV must make a really upsetting face, because Restroom Man decides to drop the kids off at the pool later and splits. POV dons shiny black gloves, the signature accessory for Giallo maniacs. Cut to the auditorium, now deserted, except for Helga & Giordani. And POV, who, the camera tells us, is lurking in the dark theatre, listening. Helga’s describing her freak-out to the professor: “It was like a thorn piercing my brain!” She could hear all the “twisted yet childish” thoughts emanating from the sickie’s mind. She’s going to go home and write it all out for Giordani, including the identity of the person, which she has now realized.
As Goblin’s pulsing music throbs, it’s time for the first of many brilliant shots: The camera pans across an assortment of “twisted yet childish” toys in meticulous extreme close-up– dolls, marbles, plastic figurines, then two sharp knives– black-gloved fingers touching them as if seeking comfort, or ghoulish inspiration. Then, also in ECU, someone applies heavy goth liner to a giant eye! Cut to Helga alone in a large, shadowy apartment. She’s on the phone, nervously telling someone she’d like this article published while she’s still in Italy. She hears a faint snatch of a children’s song, but when she hangs up, it’s gone. Then the doorbell rings, ear-blastingly loud. She approaches the front door but stops abruptly a few paces from it, as if being hit with rotten-psyche stank. The door flies open and a meat-cleaver swoops down, gorily hacking the side of her neck! The Killer enters and all we see are dress shoes and slacks… and black-gloved hands wielding the cleaver for more blood-spraying chops! As Helga lies butchered on the floor, The Killer calmly finds her hand-written papers and scoops them up.
City street. Marc, the conductor, walks through a quiet piazza bordered on one end by a huge classical sculpture atop a fountain and on one side by a glass-encased bar straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. No one’s on the street except for Marc and a lone young man crumpled by the fountain. It’s Marc’s friend Carlo, tortured fellow pianist and hopeless alcoholic. Carlo starts a boozy discourse on how he’s a working-class musician and Marc’s artsy-fartsy, but gets interrupted by a howling scream from close by. Carlo rudely raises his glass to the “raped virgin” they heard, then totters off. But Marc looks up and sees a woman frantically signalling from an upper window. It’s Helga! Then he sees her get chopped with the cleaver and smash through the window, puncturing what’s left of her neck on the jagged glass!
Marc rushes into the building and up the stairs. There’s blood on the apartment’s marble floor leading down the portrait-lined hall to the room where Helga’s hanging from the broken window. Horrified, Marc gingerly extricates her but she’s already dead. Down on the street, Marc spies the back of a man walking briskly away into the night as Carlo obliviously continues to get shit-faced. Cut to some time later– the apartment is crawling with cops and CSI’s. While stuffing his face with sandwiches– and not even the good Italian kind, these look like they’re on Wonder Bread– the jovial police captain questions Marc, while tossing in barbs about his occupation as a pianist and music teacher. Marc says he lives upstairs and appears unsettled because something intangible seems to be out of place in Helga’s apartment, different from when he first rushed in. The cop says his team disturbed nothing. All Marc can tell them is that a man in a brown raincoat was walking away.
That’s when Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), a frightfully perky girl crime reporter, breezes in, snapping photos. The cops are very familiar with this pest and try to throw her out, but she says she’s familiar with Helga and was listening to one of her medium-lectures on tape yesterday. This WAS a really lame musical era, but still. She takes a photo of Marc, who’s hauled in to give an official statement. Hours later, he finds Carlo in the same spot, completely blitzed, trying to clear his head by dunking it in the fountain. I worship Italy and used to live there, but up close those fountains are NASTY. Marc says he remembers seeing a bizarre painting of several faces in the dead woman’s hallway but when he looked again it wasn’t there. As he staggers off, Carlo says memory is subjective, just like our own personal versions of the truth.
Cemetery. Marc and gossipy Gianna watch Helga’s funeral from the sidelines. We learn that she was Jewish, and her boyfriend was Professor Giordani, the big-haired shrink from the lecture who loves to dabble in psychic phenomena as well as, apparently, psychics. Marc is annoyed that she plastered his own picture under a big tabloid headline revealing him as a witness, but allows her to flirt outrageously with him and give him a ride back to the piazza in her teeny junk car. He says he’s remaining in town despite his traumatic experience– he thinks he’s forgotten some vital clue.
Auditorium. Marc and Gianna hang out as Giordani and the moderator, a queeny clairvoyant, try to recreate exactly what happened at the conference the night Helga picked up those fatal bad vibes. The insanely coiffed prof repeats Helga’s channeling words about hiding everything in the house and “no one must know” then says she pointed at someone 6 rows back. At which point someone got up and left, but they couldn’t make out anything because of the bright lights.
Marc’s apartment. The flirting continues and you’d be forgiven for thinking this until-now very intense trippy thriller has suddenly become a 70′s romantic comedy about a pushy, “liberated” career-gal butting heads with the “sensitive artist” she just happened to meet at a heinous crime scene. What’s actually happening is director Argento is falling madly in love with starlet Nicolodi, with Hemmings’ Marc representing Dario in their budding, bantering “meet cute” relationship, with plenty of sassy 70′s comments on changing gender roles and perceptions. (She beats him at arm-wrestling.) Much of this storyline was jettisoned for export prints of the film– you can tell which scenes and moments because the dialogue atomatically reverts to Italian with attached subtitles. Some fans prefer the leaner, meaner, less-cute-couple version, but I like these scenes because of the character development, which helps make Deep Red a deeper if not redder experience. And what you see here led directly to the birth of delightful exploitation/art film ass-kicker Asia Argento, their daughter.
Gianna lays it on him straight: Doesn’t he find her at all attractive? Is it her smell?(!) Marc, despite the attraction, tells her there’s some things a guy can’t accomplish with a libber around. Alright, stupid, have it your way, Gianna snips back. She’ll carry out her own investigation and we’ll see who comes out on top!
Cut to Marc calling on boozebag buddy Carlo, who lives with his flamboyant mother, a faded former cinema star. Mama is all too happy to entertain Marc at her fussy, doll-studded abode, but Carlo’s gone out– he’s spending the night with a friend. I don’t know about you but my Gaydar is squealing like an Appalachian piglet right now, Gasmii! He’s a well-dressed artiste with substance abuse problems who lives with his mother and has a crush on David Hemmings. Do the math. (If you don’t have Gaydar, check your favorite apps store. The price has come way down.) Mama thinks Marc’s “an engineer” and babbles about how she had to give up her actressing career after marriage. Marc is able to get an address out of her and high-tails it before she makes him play a duet.
Turns out we were right and Carlo’s shacked up with a guy who resembles porno saint Sharon Mitchell, maybe because he’s played by a woman, just to add to the weirdness. The tranny-esque boyfriend leads Marc to the bed, where Carlo languishes, drunk-sick, the obligatory bottle of J&B scotch (which appears at least once in every Giallo) on the nightstand. Carlo’s been like this all day and showed up mumbling nonsense. “Good ole Carlo– he’s not only a drunk but a faggot as well!” Carlo slurs. It was very rare to see gays on film in the 70′s and 80′s (John Travolta aside), especially in horror movies, so Dario gets an A for effort, even though this self-loathing pickled pillow-biter is hardly a role model. But if you’re looking for role models, ditch this blog and watch Norma Rae.
Marc is completely unfazed by this, but is worried about his pal’s health. So wipe the Crisco off your cock and come with me, Signore! The boyfriend says Carlo came over “to make love” (that would explain the bra and panties you have on), but became deeply disturbed, and started screaming. Mitch was about to call a doctor. As Marc walks Carlo to his job at the Edward Hopper, Carlo advises him to get out of town and quit messing with the obviously dangerously unhinged killer. But now Marc is obsessed with the missing painting he remembers. They pass by a TV set but don’t hear the news broadcast repeating the info about “an English pianist” neighbor of the victim possibly being able to ID the killer!
Later, Marc works on a piano composition at home, so engrossed in his playing he doesn’t see the drift of powdered plaster falling from his skylight. Someone’s up there, watching him and trying to break in! He finally hears strange noises, including a tape playing the kiddie song that we now know is The Killer’s theme– black-gloved hands operate a portable cassette player. Argento’s silky camera prowls the apartment and we see the door open (Europeans never lock their doors, even when it’s been all over the news that they’re the only one who can possibly identify a fiendishly depraved killer) and a dark figure creeps in. Finally hearing footsteps, freaked-out Marc grabs the nearest sharp object, but keeps playing so whoever it is won’t know that he knows. A shadow passes the doorway as The Killer moves down Marc’s hall. The phone rings and Marc leaps from the bench, slams the door shut, and answers. It’s Gianna. Over her squawking, Marc hears a weird voice through the door– he’s “safe now” but “I’ll get you sooner or later!” Marc hears a noise downstairs and out his window sees the man in the brown raincoat hurrying away from the building.
Marc finds the children’s record with the song on it and plays it for Dr Giordani, whose profile of The Killer indicates “a paranoid schizophrenic who kills in a moment of temporary madness”. That night in the theatre, Helga told him she also heard “a child singing”. The song is part of a ritual whereby the murderer recreates the traumatic situation that first caused him to start offing people. Queeny Clairvoyant is also there, and mentions a book he read about a local haunted house “where bloodshed occurred”. Afterwards, neighbors swore they could regularly hear a child singing. He sends Marc to “the Library of Folklore & Popular Traditions” to find the book. Sounds reasonable to me!
Marc locates the book, written in 1956 by Amanda Righetti (but not the Amada Righetti who starred in The OC and the new Friday the 13th), and reads “The House of the Screaming Child”. The legend started when hunters heard children singing coming from a villa one night, followed by bloodcurdling shrieks. There’s a photo of the house but no address. Marc rips the page from the book (Xeroxing was a nightmare in 1975) and calls Gianna at the paper, asking her to locate author Righetti.
Cut to another fab montage of sinister kiddie toys, including a baby doll with a tiny red mouth and yarn wrapped around its neck, and that single black-ringed eye. Cut to an isolated house on a country road. “Miss Amanda”, a 40-ish redhead, chats with Elvira, her elderly cleaning lady as the old bat leaves for the day. Amanda goes back in the house and walks smack into a baby doll swinging from a little noose as Amanda’s pet birds lose their shit. She discovers the back door open and nearby is another hanged Betsy Wetsy. Then the lights go out. And the front door won’t open. And the black-gloved hands play the taped kiddie tune. Amanda immediately associates this with the house she wrote about. She grabs a handy knitting needle (like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween– John Carpenter was a huge fan of this film and its music) and sits terrified in the dark. Why doesn’t she call the police?! the jaded among you might scream. Maybe she doesn’t have a phone. Lots of Europeans in the 70′s didn’t. Maybe she just likes to be left alone in her country house to write. Or knit. And have you ever tried using Italian 911? Trust me, it’s a total pigfuck.
Anyway, try to enjoy the brilliantly staged nightmare-quality sequence, because it’s fantastic! First, we see that eye peering from deep inside a clothes closet. Then one of Amanda’s birds impales itself on the knitting needle as its lifemate caws in horror. Then, as Amanda gets up, presumably heading for the back door, a black-hatted Giallo maniac appears behind her and clubs her with a flashlight. When The Killer goes to a bookcase, looking for something, Amanda manages to crawl into the white-tiled bathroom and hoists herself up on the sink, above which is a window. But The Killer finds her, smashes her face into the tiles, and knocks her out. In a nice touch, blood AND drool ooze from her mouth. The Killer turns on the tap, filling the tub with scalding hot water, then shoves her head in for a hideously painful drowning. Left for dead on the floor, face grotesquely burnt and blistered, Amanda raises one finger and tries to write something on the steamed-up mirrored wall. But the window bangs open and the room unfogs, erasing whatever final message she attempted.
Later that night, Marc drives up to the house and finds the door open and the place dark and partially ransacked. And Amanda dead, one finger pressed against the mirrored wall. Cut to Gianna’s shitbox car. Gianna advises Marc flee “to Lebanon” but he’d rather stay and solve the mystery. And clear his name, since once the cops find out he was at Amanda’s he in molto bigga trouble-a. Gianna says they’ll ultimately be able to nab Marc, who stupidly left fingerprints all over the house, but it’ll take some time to connect the 2 murders after they discover Amanda’s body. Marc must catch The Real Killer! He first must find the mysterious house from the book, but all he has is the photo he ripped out. Oh, yeah, add vandalizing library property to the charges. Marc is deeply disturbed that The Killer somehow knew he was going to see Amanda, that has to be why she was silenced. He won’t be telling anyone his moves in advance anymore. Except his new girlfriend, Gasmii, and she COULDN’T be the killer. Could she? Oh, hayellz yes, she could. In the Giallo Universe, that would make perfect sense! After some light sexist bantering, he agrees to go home with her. But we don’t get a sex scene, probably because she was already boffing the director at this point.
Marc goes to greenhouses to identify the plant in the villa-photo. It’s an exotic species imported from the Canary Islands and quite rare. An old gardener recalls a large order several years back and says he’ll look up the address. Marc meets Dr Giordani and tells him about finding Amanda’s body, with her index finger seeming to point toward something. Giordani says he’ll go to the crime scene and check it out. Marc drives to the address the gardener gave him and sees the house from the photo. It’s a huge rambling Mediterranean villa and quite simply one of the most amazing locations of any movie in the history of horror films. There’s a For Sale or Rent sign on the gate, so Marc finds Rodi, the property manager. He says the house has been empty since its last owner, a German writer, fell out the window and died. As they talk, Rodi’s evil-looking little red-haired daughter, played by Nicoletta Elmi (who’s like a young Nicole Kidman and just as scary and was in a bunch of Italian fright flicks like Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Who Saw Her Die?) peeks through the shutters.
At Amanda’s, Elvira the elderly maid, chats with Giordani as she tidies up. She’s still shaken from discovering the body early this morning and tells him she couldn’t give the cops any information. “It’s always a maniac and they never catch them!” she complains. Maybe if they closed off crime scenes they’d have better luck, but I’m a Recap Artist not a detective. She shows him the bathroom, which she says was covered in blood. She turns on the hot water, then excuses herself to answer the phone. Giordani sees the body outline and the steam fogging up the mirror and has an idea! He runs hot water into the tub and sees letters on the bottom edge of the mirrored wall: “IT WAS”. The maid comes back and scolds him for using up the hot water. He asks if the police found anything– just a glove, “and I heard them talk about a child.” He hurries out and we get a strong suspicion that he might be The Killer! At least I did.
Rodi tells Marc he’s sending Li’l Nicole with him to show him the house. But first Rodi calls her a little witch and slaps her face. We see she’s impaled a lizard on a pin . Bitch! At the villa, Marc unlocks the gate and says he’ll bring the keys back later. Nicole tells him to beware of ghosts, since everyone knows the place is haunted. Marc enters the spectacular-if-decrepit palazzo and pokes around. I don’t care if 19 virgins were sacrificed to Satan last week there, I’m moving in. One day with that Extreme Cleaning Specialist guy from Hoarders and we’d be fine. Marc hears footsteps echoing through the house– scary!– and finds a wall with some gouges in it revealing bright slashes of red and green. He digs at the plaster– there’s some kind of mural underneath! He scratches away enough to see a childish drawing of a figure holding a large bloody knife, and another one with a gaping wound.
It’s dark now, so he goes to the car for a flashlight. On the way back in, a jagged shard of glass falls from a broken window, glancing him above the eye and drawing blood. He continues uncovering the painting, which now includes a Christmas tree. Like in the opening flashback with the mary janes and the butcher knife, remember? Marc is interrupted by Rodi and Li’l Nicole calling up from the street. What’s taking so long? Marc leaves and we stay on the mural. Another piece of plaster falls off on its own, revealing part of a third figure. Eerie! Marc drives home, missing a call from Dr Giordani, who’s at his place, another cavernous apartment with lots of places for a killer to hide. Giordani becomes unnerved when he hears a noise and grabs a humongous letter-opening dagger for protection. Then a voice whispers his name and we’re on to a full-throttle shock scene with pounding Goblin music and flawless sadistic camerawork.
In what many consider the most bizarre and creepiest moment in the movie, a butt-ugly red-head marionette bursts from a closet and comes toward him! Horrified, he stabs it in the head, revealing clockwork brains. But he and we don’t have much time to wonder WTF, because The Killer leaps in from the terrace, clubs him in the head, then smashes his upper jaw onto a stone mantel and then his desk, crushing his teeth. Ow! Giordani watches as The Killer raises the letter-opener and plunges it into the back of his neck.
Later that night, Gianna tells Marc the police found Giordani dead after neighbors heard screaming. Marc admits that he’s terrified and deeply unnerved that The Killer seems to be one step ahead of him. He says he’s going to take a sabbatical in Spain and invites Gianna to join him. She giddily accepts, dancing out to pack. The only thing missing from this rather indulgent exit is a rose in her teeth. He calls the retired actress mom looking for Carlo, but he’s off being closeted with a tranny somewhere. Marc stares at the photo of villa and– light bulb!– notices a crucial clue. “Why didn’t I think of this before?!” On his way out, he leaves a note for Gianna with the address he’ll be at.
Marc goes back to the villa and shines his flashlight on the front of the house. Compared to the photo, it’s now missing a window. Marc gathers tools and rather brazenly hops the 2nd floor balcony to a ledge where he can start chipping away at the paint and plaster. He loses his grip, swinging precariously from the ledge. Using cornices and a thick vine and the drainpipe, he’s able to climb down the house. He goes back inside to a dead-end hallway that’s been paneled over. Using a pick-axe, he busts through the false wall and discovers a dark, decrepit secret room. More of a tomb, actually, since sitting inside is a dried-up wizened corpse of a man! Marc gasps and is promptly conked on the head by another flashlight.
A short time later, he regains consciousness. He’s now lying on the ground in front of the house, being looked upon by Gianna. The villa is in flames. She says she hit him by accident, then saved his life when the house started to go up. Or did she come there to destroy evidence and had to wrestle with the idea of leaving her obsessive, mystery-buff pianist pal to die in the fire??? They go to Rodi the caretaker’s house and she reports the fire. As Rodi gripes about kids and arson and goddamn ghosts, Marc spies a drawing hanging on Evil Redhead Li’l Nicole’s bedroom wall. It contains the identical childish stick figures with the bloody knife and gaping wound! Evil Nic insists that she drew it herself after seeing a similar picture when she was “cleaning up the archives” at her school.
So close he can taste it (and all that scrumptious Spanish cuisine, not to mention Gianna’s liberated Italian muff), Marc and Gianna break into The Leonardo da Vinci School and start snooping, They enter the dark, crammed Archives Library and locate the drawing-class files. Marc starts sifting through the 1950-51 student art while Gianna hears footsteps echoing somewhere in the huge building. She goes to the next room to call the police. As she’s dialing, she hears a sinister growly voice whisper “Gianna!” As we know, that’s usually the last thing one hears before a protracted, savage, incredibly painful death. Marc finds the drawing in question, but now Gianna’s vanished.
Deeply shaken, Marc searches the dark school for her. In a classroom he finds a chalkboard with a hanging stick figure on it– and Gianna, a knife plunged into her gut! He tries to make her comfortable and says he knows who The Killer is. With the police on the way, Marc plays a tense game of cat-and-mouse with the elusive Killer. “It’s no use hiding. I know who you are. I read the name– Carlo.” He turns around and there’s his gay alky best friend, pointing a gun at him. Weeping, Marc says he never wanted to kill Marc– he begged him to leave town. “Are you stupid or something?! ” Carlo groans. “It’s all your fault!”
Before we can express our PC disappointment/camp delight that The Gay is The Killer, Carlo fires at Marc but misses, as a hail of bullets through a window announce the arrival of the cops. Carlo peels out of the room, running for his life. These cops suck at gunfights, since Carlo is able to scale the wall and spiked iron gate and then toddle into the street, where he’s struck by a truck, his leg speared by a steel towing hook, and then dragged at least half a mile down the road on his back, smashing his face into curbs and light poles. When the chatty drivers finally realize they’re towing a dangerously unhinged maniac, they stop. And a speeding car runs over Carlo’s head, which squashes wetly like a melon! NICE!
Later, Marc’s at the hospital, where the doctor says Gianna’s doing “much better” after the difficult surgery and that Marc can see her in the morning. Marc walks home in the dead of night and when he reaches the deserted piazza, stops, the realization hitting him with sickening certainty– Carlo couldn’t have killed Helga. Marc was by the fountain with him when Helga smashed through the window. We see the now-single-black-gloved Killer lying in wait in the elevator cage as Marc goes to Helga’s, rips off the crime-scene tape, and enters the apartment. Marc scans the paintings lining the corridor, all of them depicting marvelous hellish faces, trying to remember what he saw that night. Then he sees it– the “painting” he was trying to recall was in fact a mirror. Reflecting The Killer’s face as she stood against another painting. Yes, she, because of course, The Killer isn’t poor tortured headless gay Carlo, but his demented ex-actress MOTHER!
And here she is, in the brown raincoat and fedora and smudged eyeliner, wielding a huge meat-cleaver. “Damn you! I hate you!” she growls. “Carlo had nothing to do with any of this and you killed him! He was only trying to protect me! Carlo never murdered anybody! It all began such a long time ago…” Cut to FLASHBACK: A young curly-haired boy we know is Carlo, if only from his fruity little Sunday-best costume, including knee-socks and mary-janes, plays a phonograph record in front of an Xmas tree– the kiddie song we’ve been hearing. In the kitchen, Carlo’s dad tells clearly loony housewife Mom she has to go to a mental hospital, for her own good. Dad walks out and Mom takes out a butcher knife. As Dad walks toward Carlo, she stabs him in the back as the tot looks on, horrified. Dad wrenches the knife out of his back and it lands near Carlo’s mary-janes. Traumatized, Carlo picks up the knife, slick with that bright red poster-paint pre-Tom Savini 70′s horror movie blood. So then of course Mom dispensed with nosey police inquiries by walling Dad up in an extra room of their massive villa, leaving poor little Carlo to express his damage by recreating the murder in wall-drawings. And turning gay. It happens!
Back to present: Mom lunges at Marc with the cleaver, which shatters the glass of the portrait behind him when he ducks out of the way. Marc runs out of the apartment but slips on the marble floor and careens into the wrought-iron elevator-cage head-first. Mommie comes at him, hacking him in the shoulder, but her long dangling pendant gets caught in the grille-work of the elevator cage. Before she can get it unstuck, Marc hits the button and the elevator starts to descend, tightening the necklace until it slices through her neck, decapitating her! The credits roll over Marc’s face reflected in a lake of blood. The End!
Horrorgasm Score Card:
Graphic Violence/Gross-Out Factor: High
Nudity/Sex: Very Low
Body Count: Medium
Camp Value: Low
Visual Style: Very High
DVD/Blu-Ray Quality: Very High
Good for Groups? YES
Would I Let My 12-Year-Old Nephew Watch Without Asking My Sister? YES
This fabulous Euroshock classic comes to us from Arrow in a fully loaded 2-disc Blu Ray package with enough Extras to keep us entertained for days. The film has never looked better on home video than these sparkling 1080p Hi-Definition transfers– both the Uncut 126m Director’s Version, which I just recapped, and the 105m International Theatrical Cut, which preserves all the mayhem but tightens some of the character development and contains a lot less of Marc and Gianna’s cutesy romance. (This is not to be confused with the drastically shortened R-rated version released here in theatres and on VHS in the 80′s, which is a must-avoid.) If you’re introducing this to a group of friends, I’d go with the shorter cut. You can always pause it and answer any questions while you’re refilling the Bloody Marys or strawberry margaritas. The sleeve is reversible, allowing you to choose from 4 different cover options. There’s a very nice collector’s booklet with spot-on liner notes by Argento expert Alan Jones, and it even comes with a free poster for your office bulletin board or warped nephew’s room.
There’s feature-length commentary by another Argento scholar, Thomas Rostock, plus several awesome featurettes, including interviews with star Daria Nicolodi and composer/Goblin frontman Claudio Simonetti and Argento protege Luigi Cozzi, who directed the wonderfully sleazy 1975 Giallo The Killer Must Kill Again and now runs the Profondo Rosso shop, a combination Argento museum and memorabilia shop in Rome. Stop by and tell them Leia sent you.
There’s more where this came from: in the next three months, Arrow will release Argento’s two best 80′s films, Phenomena, in which Jennifer Connelly plays a student at a Swiss boarding school who uses her psychic ability to communicate with insects to try to avoid a dangerously unhinged maniac; and the savage Hitchcockian murder mystery Tenebrae. I’ll be back next month with Lucio Fulci‘s completely batshit crazy 1981 supernatural tale The Beyond!