Death Walks Twice

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Review by David Paul Hellings

@HellingsOnFilms

“Arrow Video are thrilled to announce the release of Luciano Ercoli’s Italian horror classics Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight which premiere on Blu-ray in this beautifully restored, limited edition collection.

Emerging at the peak of the giallo boom of the early ’70s, Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks films are two superlative examples of the genre linked by their shared casting of the stunning Nieves Navarro (billed under her adopted stage name of Susan Scott) as the lead woman in peril.

In Death Walks on High Heels (1971), exotic dancer Nicole (Navarro), the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, finds herself terrorised by a black-clad assailant determined on procuring her father’s stolen gems. Fleeing Paris and her knife-wielding pursuer, Nicole arrives in London only to discover that death stalks her at every corner.

Returning in Death Walks at Midnight (1972), Navarro stars as Valentina – a model who, in the midst of a drug-fuelled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. But when it becomes clear that the savage slaying she describes relates to a crime that took place six months earlier, the police are at a loss – forcing Valentina to solve the mystery alone. Offering up all the glamour, perversity and narrative twists and turns that are typical of the giallo genre at its best, Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight anticipate the super-stylized trappings of Brian De Palma’s early psycho thrillers (most notably, Dressed to Kill)”.

– via Arrow Video.

Review:

Giallo master Dario Argento has often lamented the number of so-called copycat directors and films that came about following the success of his debut feature “The Bird With The Crystal Plumage”, whilst ignoring the direct influence of Hitchcock, Bava, and particularly Antonioni (with his 1967 “Blow Up”) upon his own career. Argento’s criticisms may have struck a chord regarding the various market driven, outlandish titles of other films that followed, but is disingenuous to the reality that other filmmakers followed and approached the genre with different styles and approaches.

Luciano Ercoli’s “Death Walks…” double bill is another welcome reminder of the range of giallo films becoming increasingly available in restored versions that reflect the range of approaches to the world of the giallo. Ercoli adopts a less high style approach compared to the likes of Bava and Argento, focusing instead on character relationships and the convoluted pursuit of the truth. When bloody moments come, they’re well executed, their limited use creating a more shocking element within what could end up being routine, if well made, thrillers.

Nieves Navarro (stage name Susan Scott), as the lead in both “Death Walks on High Heels” and “Death Walks at Midnight”, also provides a refreshing element to both films as the protagonist, a role usually reserved for the male at this point (although Argento would also adopt this approach later in films including “Suspiria”, “Inferno”, and “Phenomena”). Navarro provides an engaging performance as the woman in peril turned investigator, the subject of the male gaze whilst also now gaining her own viewpoint. Ercoli is also happy to include eclectic supporting characters into the often twisting plot.

Director Ercoli also throws in humour and fight scenes, gaining a more overtly marketable product than the standard giallo fare, with entertaining results.

Both “Death Walks on High Heels” and “Death Walks at Midnight” look excellent in restored form, highlighting the retro chic design nature of the times, with strong colours and natural image. Both have stood the test of time well and are a great addition to any giallo collection.

Special Features

Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) containing Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight

Brand new 2K restorations of the films from original film elements

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks

Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing new writing on the films from authors Danny Shipka (Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France), Troy Howarth (So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films) and writer Leonard Jacobs

 

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas

Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi

From Spain with Love – featurette comprising newly-edited archive footage of director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro, interviewed at their home in Barcelona

Master of Giallo – screenwriter Gastaldi on Death Walks on High Heels and how to write a successful giallo

Death Walks to the Beat – a career-spanning interview with High Heels composer Stelvio Cipriani

Original Italian and English trailers

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

 

DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas

Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi

Extended TV version of the feature

Crime Does Pay – screenwriter Gastaldi reflects on his career in the crime film-writing business, including a look at Death Walks at Midnight

Desperately Seeking Susan – visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

This review originally appeared on SFFWorld at:

http://www.sffworld.com/2016/03/death-walks-twice/

 

Chalkface image: mubi.com

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