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February 18, 2006

Death Walks Twice around the Block

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Death Walks on High Heels/La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti
Luciano Ercoli - 1971
NoShame Films Region 0 DVD

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Death Walks at Midnight/La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte
Luciano Ercoli - 1972
NoShame Films Region 0 DVD

Death walks at a somewhat leisurely pace in both of these films. Both films share the same cast and crew, although the characters are different. While both films have elements of the giallo genre, there is a greater emphasis on relationships between killers and victims that are seemingly unrelated. Both films were co-written by the prolific Ernesto Gastaldi, and actually have twist endings following careful explanations about who did what to whom.

Luciano Ercoli has a nice sense of composition, and makes use of wife Susan Scott's expressive eyes as the films' damsel in distress. High Heels has a somewhat more original story involving missing jewels, with Scott as a stripper on the run with kindly doctor Frank Wolff. The narrative digresses long enough for us to see Scott perform two different striptease acts. The scariest part of the film is not the brutal and graphic murder, but a scene depicting eye surgery. It's not Un Chien Andalou but whenever there's a scene involving eyes and surgical instruments, I'll always tense up.

Death Walks at Midnight owes a bit to Mario Bava with elements from The Girl who Knew to Much and Blood and Black Lace forming the basis for the film. Scott has accidentally witnessed a murder and can't convince the police of what she has seen. The ending resolves several seemingly unrelated plot strands fairly cleanly. Ercoli is evocative in the locations - Scott's apartment dominated by a huge photo of Scott as a fashion model, an artist's studio cluttered with his wooden sculptures, the empty apartment directly across from Scott's, and the gallery where the artist friend is showing his work.

Both films are stolen by character actor Luciano Rossi. Merely creepy in High Heels, Rossi delights as a manic killer in Midnight, cackling with laughter in almost all of his scenes, a performance that reminds one of Klaus Kinski.

The two movies are part of a package that includes a CD of film music by Stelvio Cipriani. Unlike the other NoShame releases, there are no interviews. There is, for the completist, a television version of Death Walks at Midnight which pales against the color correct and wide screen original film.

Posted by peter at February 18, 2006 06:41 PM