More fun than a bomb on a bus full of blind orphans! I expected many things from a Dario Argento movie, but I never expected Profondo Rosso to be such a laugh.
I like all the characters, especially all those unconventionally attractive women. The psychic who kicks off the whole shebang (and can't act) has a classical, precise beauty, no matter that she's probably in her mid-thirties. Bizarrely, not only do we see no sex in this seventies Italian giallo - though it clearly happens - but we don't see any nudity either. I'm not sure if there's even any bad language. It's an almost Victorian sensibility... well, apart from the horror and the ultra-violence. I found it rather refreshing.
Similarly, the male lead (Mark Daly, played by David Hemmings) is hugely charismatic in a way that has nothing to do with the modern Hollywood ideal of boy bands and Freddie Prinze Jr. He's got these languid eyes that you gotta love. His relationships are all funny and appealing, with every woman he meets making a beeline for him (in their own variously demented ways). I loved the arm-wrestling scene, though Hemmings's chauvinist speech to Daria Nicolodi is no less hilarious. And then there's that hermaphrodite creature... hell's teeth, what is that? Oh, it's got a deep voice. It's a man. This film is full of great characters, even managing to include a child actor of whom I wanted to see more! Impossible! (That's one weird girlie, incidentally, especially her facial expression after being slapped. Is she into S&M or what?)
I'm sure this film gets even better on repeat viewings, thanks to all that juicy fun in the interactions that you'll miss if you're focused on the subtitles. The acting is lively and wholehearted, giving us vibrant larger-than-life characters without going over the top. Once you know the story, you can have fun watching the people. (Besides, Italian is one of those languages that's full of recognisable vocabulary even for folks who theoretically can't speak a word of it.)
I loved the fact that Profondo Rosso's heroes aren't policemen. They don't know proper procedure at a crime scene ("DON'T MOVE HER!!!" screams the audience), they wander off to the House of Death without back-up and they don't report all evidence immediately to their superiors. I'd forgotten that such people existed in serial killer movies! Didn't amateur detectives die out with Agatha Christie? No matter; I thought Profondo Rosso was far more tense and scary for being merely about a couple of clever, charming civilians.
The plot kept surprising me. I loved the way Dario Argento included a house full of mynah birds (even introducing them with a spiel about their powers of mimicry) and then didn't go for the inevitable plot development. Discovering the killer was a big surprise for me. The film makes it clear to anyone who's paying attention that the psycho isn't a main cast member in disguise... and then it pulls the rug from under your feet. Or does it? By the time the script had turned an apparent goof into a twist, I was grinning like a loon. And even at this eleventh hour, the film still managed to surprise me. I was sure the killer would turn out to be someone else in particular, but no. Apart from being confused by odd spots of convenient plot immunity, I liked a lot about the writing of Profondo Rosso.
The direction is worth noting. At times the camera becomes a character in its own right, quite apart from when it's showing the killer's point of view. It enters rooms, opens doors and pushes aside curtains. There's also an interesting contrast drawn between childish things and adult ones. The killer depends psychologically on children's music and scrawlings, but the movie gives as much emphasis to "proper" music and art. Our hero is a professional pianist, as is his best friend. There's a corridor of really sinister paintings (with plot significance)... and when Mark Daly discusses one particular painting with a drunken Carlo, the camera pulls back to gawp at a huge, beautiful sculpture. I'm not sure what all this adds up to, but it caught my interest anyway.
Naturally the deaths are wonderfully sadistic. One murder becomes yet more horrible when we briefly think the victim might survive. I particularly enjoyed the climactic just desserts... in a Hollywood movie, the cops would have shot the bad guy, but not here! Instead Dario Argento serves up some ridiculously over-the-top killing that had me laughing out loud. It's worth watching this movie just for that.
The nearest thing to a flaw here is the shot of the burning house. It's not convincing (they're obviously just close-ups of candle flames), but it looks pretty anyway. It's forgivable. And I haven't yet mentioned the kick-arse Goblin music! Profondo Rosso is both charming and sadistically brutal. Great movie!