|David Hemmings in Deep Red (1975).|
Even in this, um, butchered version (some 26 minutes shy of the Italian cut) the film made a lasting impression on me. I recall being tickled by the conceit of a murder clue written on a bathroom mirror, which only became visible when the room was sufficiently steamed up. And I enjoyed the twist ending in which the murderer is revealed to be the crazed mother of the prime suspect—something like Psycho in reverse—though for years I had misremembered this and was under the impression that the murderess was actually Daria Nicolodi’s screwball journalist. Anyway. Some clunky storytelling aside, Deep Red, which I re-watched earlier this week for the first time since 2007 or so, is still a lot of fun. Its murder scenes are gruesome, imaginative, and witty, if that’s your thing; its gender politics are surprisingly progressive, if that’s your thing (the plot hinges on the gradual disabuse of David Hemmings’ male chauvinism); and, as one would expect from Argento, it’s drenched in style. I particularly love the crumbling art-nouveau mansion that Hemmings explores at several points in the film, with its wrought iron, stained glass, and climbing ivy. Even though the house serves a narrative purpose within the film, the exploration scenes are examples of Argento’s penchant for bringing the plot to a halt in order to indulge in the sensuous pleasures of his own mise-en-scene. It’s a fabulously designed space that looks ahead to the florid beauty of Suspiria two years later.