Deep Red (1975)
One night in Rome, Pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is returning home when he witnesses the murder of medium Helga Ulmann (Macha Méril) who lives in the same apartment building. Marcus then becomes obsessed with a painting he saw in her apartment that mysteriously disappeared after the murder. He teams up with intrepid reporter Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) to solve the murder and catch the killer now stalking him. Along the way they get help from Professor Giordani (Glauco Mauri) and investigate a “haunted” house that’s tied to the murder.
What can be said about Deep Red that hasn’t already by a zillion film critics…it’s a masterpiece! For starters, Argento’s camera work here is perhaps the best of his career and features bizarre closeups and a camera almost always in motion…stalking the actors and actresses like the killer. Also, the murders here are some of his most brutal and stylish outside of Suspiria (there’s a scene of impromptu dentistry that will make the ol’ chompers hurt)!
Score wise, this is Argento’s first film without Ennio Moriccone’s god-like scores…but who he got to fill Moriccone’s boots is amazing as Deep Red marks the director’s first collaboration with prog rock band Goblin. Their score for Deep Red is actually the best they’ve done for Argento, and at times it goes so bat-shit insane your not sure if the film just slipped you acid.
As for the acting department, David Hemmings is the quintessential giallo lead. He’s the outsider who gets drawn into a murder plot and becomes haunted by some obscure clue that holds the key to the mystery at hand. Additionally, Daria Nicolodi as the “sidekick” to Hemmings is a spunky ‘Girl Friday’ who steals every scene she’s in. She could have easily stepped out of a 40’s Noir with her dialogue and sass.
As satisfying a fright flick as Deep Red (presented in a 4K scan from the original negative) is, the extras on hand are equally amazing and include: an audio commentary by filmmaker and Argento expert Thomas Rostock, an introduction to the film by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin, a new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie, a piece with Argento about the film’s creation, interviews with Nicolodi, and composer Claudio Simonetti, a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi, and the film’s Italian theatrical trailer. Also included is an export version of the film with a different cut and separate trailer.
To sum up; Deep Red is a fantastic film and Arrow’s blu outdoes all the previous releases. If you own an old copy you’ll want to upgrade. If you haven’t seen Deep Red, what the hell? What are you waiting for man? Go get it!
Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca
Jess Franco decides once again to dip his toes into the quagmire of the Marquis de Sade’s wicked writings in Sinfonia Erotica; a film that doesn’t adapt any one story from the author, but rather plays with his themes and aesthetic.
Delicate flower Martine (Franco mainstay Lina Romy in a blonde wig) returns to her opulent country estate after a nervous breakdown to find that her husband Marquis de Bressac (Armando Borges, sporting a fancy ass diamond earing and looking like he’s the lead singer for a Spandau Ballet cover band) has become quite taken by the sinister Flor (Mel Rodrigo)…and by taken I mean they are straight up fucking; and if you think Martine was a nervous wreck before, she is going to have a full-on conniption fit when she learns of that tryst! Find out she does (after witnessing some good ol’ simulated blowies), but first our two lads discover an injured nun (Susan Hemingway), whom they take back to the estate and immediately fondle and molest (but she sticks around and joins their merry band). After learning of the affair, Martine says “fuck it” and decides to go down on the nun (decidedly less simulated). Soon a plot to kill Martine for her considerable fortune is revealed (her psychosis could kill her if she is put under enough duress), and as strange alliances are formed, this erotic tale becomes more of a straight up fright flick as the Marquis and his pals go out of their way to drive our heroine insane!
First of all, Euro-sex flicks ain’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, and this erotic symphony isn’t going to sway anyone’s opinion; but it does have some fantastic things going for it. Fot starters, the estate is a gorgeous locale; filled with art and finery…a suitable backdrop for a tale that deals with pleasure as it’s primary thrust. Also, much of the film is awash in soft filters that give the entire affair the feeling of a dream…it’s pleasing, even when some of the material is decidedly less so. Finally, the switch from erotic film to thriller was a welcome change of pace, and added layers to the sadistic characters that wouldn’t be present if they were just straight up sex fiends.
Along with the good, all of Franco’s Greatest (S)Hits are also present; Close-ups on nonsense, whip pans to nothing, shots so out of focus you’ll question if a blind man or baboon (or some unholy combination of both…spoiler: it was Franco himself) were operating the camera…I love the man’s films but it boggles the mind why some of these habits became his “style”.
As for special features on this release, they are light. We get a brief archival interview with Franco where he discusses his first wife, Nicole Guettard, who served as the set decorator on Sinfonia Erotica and an excellent conversation with Franco expert Stephen Thrower where he discusses the film’s production in detail as well as Franco’s fascination with De Sade.
Perverse, near-operatic at times, and undeniably aesthetically stunning (even with those idiosyncratic ticks) Sinfonia Erotica is a must see for Franco-philes, fans of De Sade, or lovers of surreal sexploitation…just be warned; if this is your first time, Franco will not be gentle!
The Sadist of Notre Dame (1979)
Ol’ Mathis Vogel (Writer/Director Jess Franco himself) spends his days wandering the streets of Paris, specifically those near Notre Dame Cathedral, and givin’ the local whores the murder biz. But as much of a homeless maniac as he may appear, Vogel is in fact a former priest and mental patient who also happens to own a secluded home where he kills even more ladies of the night (though even with all of that dead hooker action, V-man still finds time to confess his sins…ain’t he a peach folks?). Along the way he also talks complete cuckoo bullshit to publisher Pierre (Pierre Taylou) and his assistant cum sex worker Anne (Franco mainstay Lina Romay), and is dogged by a police Inspector (Olivier Mathot…another Franco flick regular) who is beginning to piece together the clues that will identify Vogel as the killer. Throw in a sadistic sex show and an orgy, and you got yourselves a party my faithful fiends!
Okay, the first thing you have to know about The Sadist of Notre Dame is that it’s a real Frankenstein affair; in other words Franco cobbled this together by adding new footage to 1972’s Exorcism (which also had a XXX cut made in 1975 called Sexorcisms) to create an entirely new narrative (George Lucas eat your film tampering heart out!). The end result is a highly watchable, if uneven, motion picture, with a great sense of desperate sadness, isolation, and despair contrasted against lurid pleasure and downright perversion!
While the film is a dirty delight, our pals at sleazy Severin have included some great extras on this release! First up we get a short doc on the French Grindhouse cineams (with the Le Brady theater being the main focus) where The Sadist of Notre Dame would have screened upon initial release. Following that we get another expert analysis by Franco expert Stephen Thrower which covers the multiple versions of the film created over the years, the themes of the story, and even Franco’s preferred cut of the feature. This is an excellent piece, and makes a fantastic companion to The Sadist of Notre Dame. Bringing up the rear are a brief scene specific commentary by Robert Monell, webmaster of “I’m in a Jess Franco State of mind”, and an interview with Alain Petit, author of “Jess Franco Ou Les Prosperites Des Bis”. Both offer interesting anecdotes, but don’t hold a candle to the Thrower segment.
If you are looking for supremely sinful viewing from freaky Franco, The Sadist of Notre Dame is a top shelf release from the man complete with orgies, bondage, bloodshed, and a surprising melancholy and emotional twist. Hightly recommended!