This just may be the Giallo to end all Gialli!
Screenplay By: Dario Argento & Bernardino Zapponi
Directed By: Dario Argento
It begins so simple in Profondo Rosso, almost too simple. There is a psychic, she has a thrilling breakdown while displaying her powers and later she winds up dead. The man who witnessed her murder must put together the pieces and unravel the mystery of the murder. That is an exceedingly simple premise, but since Profondo Rosso is a Dario Argento vehicle it ends up being anything but a simple film. He drenches the film with atmosphere, gory practical effects, cleverly designed deaths, and adds on a well crafted mystery. It is said mystery that elevates Profondo Rosso, because this is not a film of only atmosphere, it is an intricate mystery that unfolds in riveting fashion.
One missing piece of the puzzle is the impetus for the mystery in Profondo Rosso. The main character, a pianist by the name of Marcus Daly, has almost every piece he needs to finish his death puzzle. But, he finds himself outsmarted at every turn. He is always one step behind the killer, and he can not figure out why because the final piece of the puzzle eludes him. The missing piece is a particularly crafty move by Signore Argento. It takes the lovingly executed horror elements of the film and tosses in a whodunit that is satisfying and surprising. Although, even without the end being much of a surprise the journey that is taken to get to the ending is more than satisfactory. One missing piece of the puzzle ends up being responsible for one bang up mystery tale.
While the mystery aspect of Profondo Rosso was a pleasant surprise, what wasn’t surprising in the least was the tremendous atmosphere of the film. It’s not a sole effort that brings the atmosphere of the film to a tense and chilling level. It’s a group effort, from the score by Goblin to the direction of Signore Argento and all the way down to the sets from Armando Mannini. There are many hands in the pot of Profondo Rosso, but those hands move in unison to produce an eerie tension that builds and builds through the film and never truly relents.
Also not surprising in the least was the crisp direction of Signore Argento. Think what you will of his present day work, but Profondo Rosso comes from a period in time when Signore Argento was at the top of his craft. A great example of Signore Argento’s wonderful direction is in an early tracking shot. He begins with a close up shot of the killer zipping up a pair of gloves. From those gloves the camera floats around an ambiguous area zooming in on knives, kids toys, and sleek black surfaces. In one simple, well not simple to execute I don’t think but simple in terms of connecting with the audience, sequence Signore Argento conveys the oddness of the film, the stakes that are at play, and the style he has at his disposal to tell his story. Watching Signore Argento at the helm of Profondo Rosso is like watching a grand master chess champion. He moves pieces by his own design, and they may bewilder the audience at first but by the time the final move has been played the genius of Signore Argento radiates off the screen in full brightness.
I still maintain that Suspiria is my favorite film from Signore Argento, but there is no denying that Profondo Rosso is his greatest work. I wasn’t sure about Profondo Rosso at first, I was having trouble connecting with the characters and figured I was in for another pure atmosphere effort from Signore Argento. But, as the film played out the atmosphere began to serve the characters instead of the other way around and it became clear that Signore Argento knew what he was doing all along. The mystery was enthralling, the kills were perverse, the violence was merited, and by the end of Profondo Rosso I was like putty in the hands of Signore Argento. Whatever he dished out I wanted more of and it didn’t matter what I wanted from Profondo Rosso, what mattered was what Signore Argento wanted me to feast on. And feast I did, because when it comes to delivering a sumptuous horror entree it’s hard to top Signore Argento and Profondo Rosso.