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The Latest DVD
Deep Red/Inferno

Reviews by Ray Schwetz

Anchor Bay has consistently proven their devotion to the consumer of rare and obscure titles. Without them there would be no Hammer titles on DVD. They along with Image have championed European horror titles on DVD, and have crafted special editions out of films the studios would never even consider, such as "Army of Darkness," and the upcoming "Supergirl."

Deep Red
Anchor Bay Entertainment. 126 minutes. Featurette, Trailers.

Dario Argento is much revered among horror enthusiasts all over the globe as one of the best directors of all time. Despite suffering butchering from censors, his work has attracted legions of fans who have praised Argento for his glorious visions of violence.

For the past decade, I personally (along with many other convention-goers) have sought out uncut versions of his work via foreign bootlegs (which were often inferior third generation dupes of laserdiscs) . With "Deep Red" in particular, I recall frothing at the mouth over getting my grubby little paws on a tape of the "complete uncut" version of the film at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in 1990. While that version certainly benefited from letterboxing and offered more gore than the domestic pan/scan Thorn Emi VHS version, it was a barely watchable second generation dupe of the Japanese Import laserdisc, complete with intrusive subtitles. Still, I loved it. I'm sure there were many other Argento fans out there who experienced something similar to this story. Now, Anchor Bay has a blessed gift for us all.

For the uninitiated, "Deep Red" is the story of a man (David Hemmings) who witnesses a murder and becomes obsessed with the idea that he saw something that he can't recall, some clue, that will shed light on the identity of the killer. With the help of an intrepid and spunky female reporter (Daria Nicolodi), he sets out to solve the murder.

The story is deceptively simple. There are twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Argento's trademark visual flair is in top form. The camera restlessly roams over the sets, characters, and clues. The tension is heightened further with a terrific experimental jazz/rock score by Goblin (it's interesting to note that Argento originally considered Pink Floyd for the score). Many Argento fans consider this 1975 effort, his third film, to be his masterpiece.

This DVD is Anchor Bay's finest hour. As a genre fan, I am thrilled with their respectful restorative treatment of genre films such as "Deep Red." With their earlier release of the double limited edition "Halloween" disc, they set the standard for restoration and presentation of a horror film for the DVD format. With "Deep Red," they surpass it.

The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1. For those familiar with previous transfers of this film for laser and VHS, the clarity of the DVD will blow you away. This is the best that "Deep Red" could ever look. It's that simple. The print is crisp and clean and the colors are gorgeous. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio is accurate. There are no speckles or compression artifacts. The video for this disc is flawless.

The audio has been remixed from its original mono to 5.1 audio in English and Italian, mostly benefitting the majestic Goblin score. The dialogue is clear as a bell. Surrounds are limited to mostly ambience effect, although the bass element is very aggressive, giving the film a more powerful dramatic thrust.
Anchor Bay deserves major kudos for using various sources (from both English and Italian prints) to present "Deep Red" in a truly "uncut" presentation. They flawlessly integrate both the English and Italian sources, with absolutely no picture jumps or audio "clicks." The footage used from the Italian source is, thankfully, subtitled in English for U.S. fans.

The extras are not as dense as those for Anchor Bay's presentations of "Halloween" or "Army of Darkness," but there are still some goodies. There are two trailers (English and Italian), which are in fairly poor shape, but at least they're there. There is an entertaining 10 minute featurette revolving around the film's 25th anniversary, including interviews with Argento and writing collaborator Bernardino Zapponi. There are also bios on Argento, Daria Nicolodi, David Hemmings (who appears in drag in this summer's "Gladiator"), and Goblin. The animated menus are fun, and they properly reflect the mood of the film. Goblin's music cues play in a loop while accessing the menus.

My only complaint, however minor, is that the credits roll over a freeze framed image of Hemmings looking into a pool of blood. In previous transfers, it can be seen that the camera is still rolling on Hemmings staring into the pool of blood. The image, as seen through the camera still rolling, is far more effective than the freeze framed image. However, I imagine that there? reasonable explanation for this, given the considerable effort and loving care William Lustig and Anchor Bay have put into this release.

All in all, this DVD is a must for Argento fans and fans of horror films in general. For those interested in seeing what all the fuss over Italian horror or "Giallo" films is about, this is the place to start.

Anchor Bay Entertainment. 106 minutes. Interview, Trailer, Still Gallery.

"Inferno" is another addition to the growing "Dario Argento Collection" from Anchor Bay. In this humble reviewer's opinion, it is one of Argento's lesser works. As with most of his films, "Inferno" is more about style than story. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The strength of "Inferno" is that it seems to follow a "dream logic." Opting out of linear plot line, instead Argento opts for gloomy atmosphere and horrific, surreal set pieces.

The plot can be summed up by saying that a woman named Rose (Irene Miracle) disappears after buying a book about witchcraft. The book seems to be set in the apartment building that rose lived in. Before she disappeared, she wrote a letter to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) to protect her from something in the building. Mark then sets out to uncover what has happened to his missing sister.

The film is considered by Argento to be the second film ("Suspiria" being the first) in an unfinished trilogy about the Three Mothers, a coven of witches. What the film lacks in logic and plot it makes up for in creatively choreographed violence and brilliant camera work. The scene where a woman is menaced by a corpse in a room completely submerged in water is classic Argento.

"Inferno" also has other things going for it. Keith Emerson contributed the pulsating orchestral score. Also, the late, great Mario Bava contributed several of the film's key visual effects work including a creepy city skyline and a ghostly apparition at the film's climax.

Anchor Bay has done a fine job with the video for this DVD. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1:85.1. The bold color scheme is faithfully recreated for this transfer. There is no bleeding, but there is noticeable grain in spots. The film is filled with darkness and shadows, usually meaning that the film will be difficult to transfer to video, but Anchor Bay does a bang up job. "Inferno" has never looked better.

Anchor Bay presents both the original mono track and a brand new 5.1 mix. Personally, I prefer the 5.1 mix. It offers much more range, a better bass level, and clearer dialogue. The surround effects are scarce, but effective. The mono track is harsh on the high end, but it's nice to see Anchor Bay include the track for purists.

Extrawise, "Inferno" offers a brief interview with Argento (who reportedly declined on doing a commentary due to his discomfort with the English language), a trailer which is in fair shape, and your standard talent bios. Not much, but at least there's something.

Overall, the DVD is light years ahead of any previous presentation of "Inferno." Argento fans have probably already purchased this disc. Horror fans on the fence should give it a rent. Others in the adventurous mood should give it a look. "Inferno" is a visually stunning horror film short on plot, high on style.