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One night, when coming home, pianist Marc Daly (David Hemmings)
witnesses the murder of psychic Helga Ullmann (Macha Méril) in the
appartment directly above his. And even though he rushes right up, the
killer can escape, and all Marc has to go on is a vague memory of a
painting that might reveal the identity of the killer but that has
mysteriously disappeared when the police arrives. And when, thanks to
nosey reporter Gianna (Daria Nicolodi) his picture - as the only witness
of the crime - is printed in the newspapers, he sees himelf threatened by
the killer, and since the police seems to rather bumble about, Marc finds
himself forced to investigate on his own.
But Marc's investigation - sometimes aided by reporter Gianna, who soon
falls in love with him and vice versa - turn more and more into a wild
goose chase, his clues being a children's tune, an author on urban legends
(Giuliana Calandra) - who is promptly murdered beforee he can speak to her
-, an allegedly haunted house, a plastered over wall painting in that
house, a walled up room and finally a corpse inside the walled up room
that must have been there for some 20 years ...
But exactly when Marc has found all these clues, the haunted house goes
up in flames, and not only does he almost die in the house, also all his
collected evidence is destroyed in one go ... until he and Gianna find a
child's painting that resembles that of the haunted house too close for
comfort - so they break into the school where the kid who did the painting
went to 20 years ago to find out the kid's name.
But of course, the killer is very close behind, and soon Gianna makes
acquaintance with his knife, then he reveals himself to Marc ... and it's
Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), a good friend of Marc's, who always seemed to be
nothing but a harmless and mostly drunk bar pianit. Carlo wants to shoot
Marc, but the police intervenes just in time, and while trying to make a
getaway, Carlo somehow gets his leg somehow entangled in a truck's
overlong load and is yuite literally dragged to his death ...
All's well, now that the killer is no more ?
But no, it's only now that Marc remembers that Carlo could not actually
have been the killer, since he was with him when he witnessed the killing.
Marc rushed back to the scene of the crime, and suddenly he realizes
what he had been missing. The painting he thought has disappeared wasn't a
painting at all but a mirror in which he saw the killer, and the killer
was ... Carlo's mother (Clara Calamai), who is standing - right behind
Marc, ready to kill him. but in the end, somehow her necklace gets caught
in the elevator and she is cruelly beheaded.
Profondo Rosso is considered the first of Dario Argento's
classic films, and with some justification: it's not that his previous
films differed too much in plot, they were all murder mysteries, or giallos,
as this specifically Italian version of the genre tends to be called. But
with Profondo Rosso, Dario Argento's focus shifted, and suddenly
his films started including more and more extended, elaborate, quite
violent but aesthetically perfect suspense and/or murder setpieces, that
seem to be more important, more memorable and more interesting than the
plot itself ... now that's not to say that the plots of Argento movies
have all of a sudden become plain silly or interchangeable, they just take
second seat behind the setpieces, which are nothing short of brilliant
and, despite all the explicit gore and mutilation, are never violence for
the violence sake.
And in that respect, Profondo Rosso is simply a great movie ...
The film, by the way, also marked Dario Argento's first collaboration
with the prog-rock band Goblin, which would do some of his best movie
soundtracks, which in turn, would be some of the most interesting movie
soundtracks of its time.