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Film / Deep Red

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Deep Red (or Profondo Rosso) is a Giallo movie from Dario Argento and, alongside Suspiria (1977), considered his greatest work.

The story follows the main character, the music teacher Marcus Daly (Marc) who witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic medium, Helga Ulmann and, despite failing to rescue her, catches a glimpse of the killer. With the help of a reporter, Gianna; his best friend Carlo; and Dr. Giordani, an associate of Helga, he tries to uncover this mysterious killer and stop him before he kills again.

The film was very popular not only in Italy, but also in Britain and America (whose version, however, is cut and shorter) and even in Japan, where it's known as "Suspiria 2".


Deep Red contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Seriously, Carlo had to live his whole life in depression haunted by the memory of his beloved mother stabbing his father to death and still being the person he was the closest to which made it impossible for him to report her to the authorities. He covered up her crimes even while she threatened the life of his friend and felt so bound by his feelings for her that he also tried to kill Marc. By the end he was still a frightened little boy who merely wanted to protect his mom because he felt lost without her and really didn't deserve such an awful end, getting his head crushed by a truck's wheel.
  • The Alcoholic: Carlo. See Drowning My Sorrows.
  • The Alleged Car: Gianna's Fiat 500. It's amazing that it can still move, and if the doors get jammed (which they frequently do) you have to get in and out through the sunroof.
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  • Amateur Sleuth: Marcus the pianist ultimately finds the killer.
  • Ax-Crazy: The killer. Bonus point for actually using a cleaver. Despite killing to keep their identity a secret they enjoy it way too much and make the murders as brutal and agonising as possible.
  • Axe Before Entering
  • Big Bad: Martha is the killer.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Offscreen: when Marc is knocked senseless and left to die in the burning House of the Screaming Child, Gianna brings him to safety.
  • Bowdlerised: The US version decided to cut all the romantic subplots, the funny scenes and also many bits from the murders. Of course, those cut were minimal, so the film is not too short.
  • The Cameo: The photo of Carol, Marcus' ex-girlfriend, is of Argento's own former partner, Marilù Tolo. Tolo was one of the stars of Argento's previous film, The Five Days (1973).
  • Cat Scare:
    • Or rather, Bird scare... and the poor things get Impaled with Extreme Prejudice to boot.
    • The killer weaponizes this by distracting Giordani with a robot dummy.
  • Creepy Child: Olga, the daughter of the abandoned house keeper. Among various things she has impaled a lizard with a needle, and the poor beastie is still alive.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All the victims:
    • Helga is chopped and stabbed to death with a large knife.
    • Amanda is brutally beaten and drowned in a tub of scalding hot water.
    • Giordani is brutally beaten to a pulp, has his teeth smashed against corners of hard furniture, and is stabbed in the neck.
    • Carlo. See also Humiliation Conga
    • Being the big bad, Martha's is probably the worst. She has her necklace get caught on a moving elevator, which results in her choking on it and then having it slowly decapitate her.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Carlo's male transvestite lover Massimo was actually played by actress Geraldine Hooper.
  • Dead Man Writing: The second victim, Amanda, manages to write the name of the killer on the humid walls, and later Dr. Giordani manages to read it.
  • Demonic Dummy: After Giordani hears the "Killer tune", a nightmarish mechanical puppet rushes into the room giggling. After a brief pause, he cracks its head open with the knife.
  • The Ditz: Martha, Carlo's mother. Not So Harmless as she seems....
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Alcoholism aside, Carlo is a man of many problems: crippling insecurity; Gayngst; childhood trauma; and Undying Loyalty to an undeserving mother.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Carlo's lover Ricci. If it weren't for his bare chest and slight facial hair, he could have passed for a woman.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: It's actually possible to see the killer (and spoil the movie) if you're really careful. The second time you watch the movie you'll know why.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The twisted killer was heartbroken by her son's death. Doubly so in the case of Carlo's love for his mom, the sole reason for his helping her.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: The killer's threat to Marc is delivered in a raspy voice. But the killer's voice is normal when her identity is revealed.
  • Foreshadowing: The killer scares Amanda by hanging a doll from a noose; likewise, Martha dies in the same way with her necklace acting as the noose.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A rare example in the "running through the art gallery hallway" sequence. If you pay close enough attention, you may actually learn the killer's identity mere 20 minutes into the film.
  • Genius Bruiser: Giordani, who keeps a curved dagger nearby, ready for use.
  • Hand of Death: To avoid showing the killer's face, the camera focuses mainly on the killer's hand holding the cleaver.
  • Haunted House: "The House of the Screaming Child". It's just old, abandoned and creepy though. Uh, and the killer and her family lived here, why do you ask?
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: At the beginning, Marc sees the face of the killer in a portrait/mirror. It's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Giordani is finished off by his own knife and Martha is beheaded by her own necklace caught in a descending lift.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The film opens on Christmas.
  • Humiliation Conga: A tragic one: Carlo flees from the police, falls from a high wall, hurting his leg, then is hit and stunned by a truck's rearview mirror, gets caught in said truck, is dragged along the street, hit his head and finally, when it stops, he has his head squished by the wheel of a car.
  • I'll Kill You!: A creepy threat from the killer to Marc near the beginning.
    Killer:" You won't get away from me, I'll kill you sooner or later!"
  • Intrepid Reporter: Gianna.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A major cause of Paranoia Fuel
  • Kill It with Fire: Carlo burns the House of The Screaming Child in order to cover the evidence of his father's death.
  • Killer Outfit: With jewelry rather than with clothes: the murderer is killed when her necklace gets stuck in a moving elevator, which beheads them.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Inside the abandoned house. It's the room where Carlo's father was killed, complete with the rotting corpse.
  • Momma's Boy: Carlo.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: First a wall picture and then a drawing From Carlo, representing the moment when his mother murdered her husband who was going to send her to a clinic.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Marta, but it doesn't cover intelligence but rather utter madness.
  • Off with His Head!: Marta's horrorific doom, complete with Gory Discretion Shot
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. One scene (absent from the US release) shows that a good portion of the police department is on strike, forcing Marc and Gianna to investigate on their own.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Marc has a low opinion of "liberated women" and seems uncomfortable around Carlo's lover.
  • Psychic Powers: Helga is a telepath who can read minds.
  • Red Herring:
    • In his first sighting of the killer, Marc tells the police that he saw a man in a dark raincoat walking away from the crime scene. Very soon, he meets Professor Giordani, who is also wearing a dark raincoat.
    • The Creepy Child Olga, who kills lizards for fun and has a drawing similar to the killer's art, is surprisingly not the murderer.
    • Carlo is presented as the killer, and the film is seemingly about to end until Marcus realizes that Carlo was with him when Helga died.
  • Serial Killer: A very limited one, of only those who could give some vital information to the authorities. It doesn't keep the killer however from making the most out of it.
  • She Knows Too Much: Through telepathy, Helga realizes that one of the audience members is a killer. She ends up becoming a target.
  • Stepford Smiler: Under that ditzy face and mannerism, Marta hides the twisted mind of a psychotic killer.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Most of the film's murder scenes has fast-paced jazz tunes playing on the background.
  • Tap on the Head: Used both on Marc and later Gianna. While they both survive, they take some time to fully recover and the latter has to spend some time in a hospital.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Carlo's "friend" Massimo. And he is probably one of the nicest people in this movie.

Alternative Title(s): Profondo Rosso