Deep Red

Deep Red (Italian: Profondo rosso), also known as The Hatchet Murders, is a 1975 Italian giallo film, directed by Dario Argento 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 pianist who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves.

Deep Red
Italian film poster
ItalianProfondo rosso
Directed byDario Argento
Produced byClaudio Argento
Salvatore Argento
Written byDario Argento
Bernardino Zapponi
StarringDavid Hemmings
Daria Nicolodi
Macha Meril
Eros Pagni
Giuliana Calandra
Music byGoblin
Giorgio Gaslini
CinematographyLuigi Kuveiller
Edited byFranco Fraticelli
Rizzoli Film
Seda Spettacoli
Distributed byCineriz
Release date
7 March 1975 (Italy)
Running time
126 minutes
Box office3,709 billion (Italy)
$629,903 (United States)


In a house at Christmas Time, two shadowy figures are seen in silhouette struggling until one of them is stabbed to death while a child's scream is heard. A bloody knife is then dropped on the floor by a child's feet.

Years later in Rome, psychic medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril) holds a lecture in a theater where she senses that there is a killer in the audience that she cannot identify. Later that night, while Ulmann is in her apartment someone kicks the door in and murders her with a meat cleaver. Helga's slaying is prefaced by a child's doggerel song, which serves as the murderer's calling card. British jazz musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), out drinking with his gay best friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), is walking home when he sees Helga being attacked through the window of the apartment building both live at. Marcus rushes inside to help, but he's too late as she bleeds to death after her neck pierces the broken shards of a window.

After the police arrive, Marcus realizes he had seen a certain painting among a group of portraits on the walls of the victim's apartment, which seems to have disappeared. Further complicating issues is the presence of female reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Gianna has been sent to cover the murder and snaps a photo of Marcus, much to his annoyance. The next day, Gianna's article on the murder is on the front page of the paper - complete with a photo of Marcus and a headline proclaiming him the chief witness to the murder.

That evening, Marcus hears music playing in his house that he doesn't recognize. Marcus barely escapes the murderer (who seeks to kill the "star witness") by locking himself in his study. Later, he plays the song to Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri), a psychiatrist and boyfriend of Helga, who theorizes that the music is important because it played an integral part in a traumatic event during the killer's past. Gianna (who is now following Marcus due to guilt about causing the killer to target him) hears about a folktale involving a haunted house in which a singing child is heard, followed by the shrieking of someone being murdered.

Investigating the source of the both song and folktale, the search leads Marcus and Gianna 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 to talk to her about the book, but the unseen killer arrives at her villa first and kills Amanda by drowning her in a bathtub filled with scalding hot water. The dying Righetti manages to write a message on the wall of her steam-filled bathroom before expiring. The two find the body but are afraid that the police will think Marcus did it and leave 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 searches the house by himself, removing plaster from a wall that uncovers a child's drawing of a little boy holding a bloody knife next to a murdered man and a Christmas tree. Only after Marcus leaves the room, more plaster falls off, revealing a third figure in the drawing. Marcus confides in Carlos the information he has gathered in hopes that the native Italian might be able to provide more information on the drawing and the "House of the Screaming Child" urban myth. The drunken Carlo becomes aggressive with Marcus, demanding Marcus stop his investigations and just leave town with Gianna.

Meanwhile, Giordani investigates the Righetti murder scene. On a hunch, he 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, he's distracted by a mechanical doll toy someone has snuck into his office. The unseen killer then breaks in and fatally stabs him in the neck after bashing his teeth in on a mantelpiece/table. Marcus and Gianna (both of whom have fallen in love with each other by this point) also discover a clue that the former initially overlooked in the photo of the deserted house, realizing a window on one of the walls is missing. Marcus returns to the deserted house after dark and uses a pickaxe to knock down an end-wall in a hallway. Soon, he discovers a secret room with a skeleton by a Christmas tree. The unseen figure arrives and knocks Marcus unconscious. The house is set on fire, but Marcus is dragged out by Gianna.

Marcus and Gianna go to the caretaker's house to call the authorities. There, Marcus discovers the caretaker's young daughter Olga has drawn an identical drawing of the little boy with a bloody knife standing next to a murder victim. Olga tells them she copied the drawing from an old file in the archives at her junior-high school. Marcus and Gianna then break into the school to search the archives for this drawing. Marcus finds the painting, which has the name of Marcus's friend Carlo on it. He looks for Gianna and finds she has been stabbed. Carlo suddenly appears before Marcus holding a gun and threatens to kill him for getting too close to the truth. Just as the police arrive, Carlo flees and climbs over a wall only to get hooked onto a rebar transported by a passing truck and is dragged down the street until he is gruesomely killed by having his head run over by a speeding car.

The case is apparently wrapped up with Carlo being the killer. After Marcus drops off the wounded Gianna at the hospital, he heads back to the scene of the crime. Suddenly, he realizes that Carlo couldn't have killed Ulmann because they were together right before the murder took place, as well as seeing Carlo looking at the killer walking away. Marcus then enters the Ulmanns' apartment and, after looking around, finally remembers what he saw that night in a mirror reflection, which he thought was a portrait, was the face of the killer. When he turns back, the killer appears in front of him, finally revealed to be Carlo's insane mother, Martha (Clara Calamai). In a flashback to the Christmas scene, a young Carlo witnesses his mother stabbing her husband because he tried to have her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Carlo, traumatized, picks up the bloody knife and stares at it, then Martha entombs her husband's body in a room of the house.

Martha confronts Marcus and tries to kill him by wielding a meat cleaver as she chases him out of the apartment to an elevator. He is then struck in the shoulder by the meat cleaver, but manages to kick Martha toward the elevator shaft. When the long necklace she's wearing gets caught in the bars of the shaft, Martha is decapitated after Marcus pushes the elevator button. He is left staring into a deep red pool of Martha's blood.



Deep Red was shot mainly on location in Turin, Italy in sixteen weeks. Argento chose Turin because at the time there were more practising Satanists there than in any other European city, excluding Lyon.[1] His original working title for the film was La Tigre dei Denti a Sciabola (The Sabre-Toothed Tiger). [2]

Co-writer Bernardino Zapponi said the inspiration for the murder scenes came from him and Argento thinking of painful injuries to which the audience could relate, as the pain of being stabbed or shot is outside the experience of most viewers. The close-up shots of the killer's hands, clad in black leather gloves, were performed by director Dario Argento himself; Argento was convinced that having all the killing scenes performed by himself would be quicker and easier than teaching the moves to an actor, who would require endless re-takes to perform everything to the director's satisfaction. The film's special effects, which include several mechanically operated heads and body parts, were made and executed by Carlo Rambaldi.

Two key sequences in this film influenced directors of later horror movies: the lead-up to the famous exploding head scene in David Cronenberg's Scanners is modeled after the parapsychology discussion at the beginning of Deep Red, and Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II contains a scalding water death inspired by the death of Amanda Righetti's character here.[3]


Deep Red was released in Milan and Rome in Italy on 7 March 1975.[4]

Critical reception

The film currently holds a 96% approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews with an average rating of 8.26/10. The site's consensus reads: "The kinetic camerawork and brutal over-the-top gore that made Dario Argento famous is on full display, but the addition of a compelling, complex story makes Deep Red a masterpiece."[5]

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.[6] Newman concluded that Deep Red is "nothing if not an elaborate mechanism, with the camera crawling among objets trouvés" 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"[6] 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."[7] The review stated that the film "presents some striking visual compositions that raise it above the level of the usual subgenre offerings." and that the film was "A great introduction to Dario Argento’s evolving style of horror".[7] 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."[8] AllMovie compared the film to other in Argento's work, noting that the film script was "significantly stronger and the actors much better"[9] 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"[9]

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."[10]

Home video

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.

In 1999, Anchor Bay acquired the rights to release the film uncut on both DVD and VHS. 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 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).

Arrow Films, a distributor of the United Kingdom, acquired the rights to the film and released it on January 3, 2011. The 2-disc set was released uncut as part of the now out-of-print window slip cover sets which released a number of films by Argento and other directors; it contained several special features including interviews, a documentary, trailers, audio commentary, four cover artwork designs, an exclusive collector's booklet written by Alan Jones on the film, and a double-sided poster. Both the director's cut and the theatrical cut are available on the set with an English and Italian audio track, and English subtitles.[11] On January 25, 2016, Arrow Films released Deep Red in a 3-disc Limited Edition set of 3000 copies. The edition is available in new 4K restoration, with new commissioned artwork exclusive from Arrow Films. The original version of the film, as well as US cut are available, with new special features including a soundtrack CD featuring 28 tracks, 6 lobby cards, double-sided poster, reversible sleeve, and a limited edition booklet written by Mikel J. Koven. Bonus features from the previous edition are also included.[12] A standard version of the Limited Edition was released on May 30, 2016 in a single-disc set and contains only the director's cut/original version. Special features from the edition are available.[13]

On November 6, 2013, Australian distributor, Umbrella Entertainment made the film available with both the director's cut and the theatrical cut included.[14]


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 impressed Argento by producing two compositions within just one night. Argento signed them immediately, and they ended up composing most of the film's musical score[1] (three Gaslini compositions were retained in the final version). Subsequently, Goblin composed music for several other films by Dario Argento.

Alternate versions

  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[16]

See also


  1. Deep Red (Danish 2008 2-disc DVD).
  2. Luther-Smith,Adrian (1999). Blood and Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies. Stray Cat Publishing Ltd. p. 36
  3. Botelho, Derek (2014). The Argento Syndrome. BearManor Media. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-1-59393-567-2.
  4. Gallant, Chris (2000). Art of Darkness: The Cinema of Dario Argento. Fab Press. p. 279. ISBN 1903254078.
  5. Deep Red (Profondo rosso), retrieved 2017-08-08
  6. Newman, Kim (1984). "Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 51 no. 600. London: British Film Institute. pp. 349–350. ISSN 0027-0407.
  7. "Deep Red". Total Film. March 8, 2011. Archived from the original on March 10, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  8. Phipps, Keith (29 March 2002). "Deep Red | DVD | HomeVideo Review | The A.V. Club". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  9. Legare, Patrick. "Deep Red (1975) – Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast – AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  10. Canby, Vincent (June 10, 1976). "'Deep Red' is a Bucket of Ax-Murder Cliches". The New York Times. p. 58.
  11. "Deep Red Blu-ray". Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  12. "Deep Red Blu-ray". Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  13. "Deep Red Blu-ray". Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  14. "Deep Red Blu-ray". Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  15. "DEEP RED (Uncensored English Version)". Blue Underground. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  16. "George A. Romero Offers More Living Dead Updates, Comments on Deep Red Remake". Dread Central. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
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