Saturday, March 26, 2016

DEATH WALKS TWICE: new package of little-known (in the USA) Italian giallo movies by Luciano Ercoli -- from Arrow Video/MVDvisual

"Death Walks Twice" is the name of the new package of two Italian giallo films - DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS (La morte cammina con i tacchi alti) from 1971, and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (La morte accarezza a mezzanotte) from 1972 -- by a filmmaker completely new to me, Luciano Ercoli. Made during the height of the giallo craze (you can read another of my giallo posts by clicking here), the earlier film received no theatrical release in the USA, though the second one did (the films' release information comes according to the IMDB).

Now, via a British distributor to which cult and niche film buffs ought to be paying a lot of attention--Arrow Video--the two films come to us in a spanking new Blu-ray package, with a transfer that is simply stunning: so crisp, clear and luminously colorful that you'll feel immediately transported back to those 1970 halcyon days. In fact, it's difficult to imagine the movies looking any better, even in their big-screen Italian theatrical debut. I suspect that Signore Ercoli, at right, who died only last year, would be quite proud of this release. (He and his star in both films, Nieves Navarro, who was usually billed as Susan Scott, are featured in a Q&A interview on one of the discs in the package.)

Ercoli directed only eight movies because, according to the IMDB, he came into a rather large inheritance and subsequently quit moviemaking, Most of the films, I am guessing, are largely giallo-influenced. These two certainly are, having the requisite women in danger, various slasher killings, copious blood and gore, and a mystery (maybe several) along for the ride.

But the two films are also very different from other giallo I've seen. As many men are killed as women, making the movies seem less sexist; and while the blood and
gore are certainly there, they seem noticeably less the point of it all than do the more heavily plotted mysteries that make up the movies. Most important, Ercoli's films are surprisingly buoyant for giallo: They're full of light and air and lovely scenery -- like taking a vacation with some murder and mayhem attached.

These two films seem nowhere near as dark, forbidding and psychologically creepy as do, say, a number of the films of Dario Argento. (See his Deep Red, for one of the greatest of the giallos.) I suppose you could call them giallo-lite, and I don't mean that as a pejorative. Much of this lightness is due, I think, to the very interesting performances of Ms Navarro/Scott.

The actress, shown above and below, possesses a special skill at seeming improvisational and off-the-cuff. She has an insouciance that is at once sexy and endearing. Ercoli uses not just her in both films, but a number of the same major supporting actors and actresses, as well -- Simón Andreu (shown in a precarious position, two photos below), Claudie Lange and Carlo Gentili among them -- so that you feel you're watching a kind of giallo repertory company.

There is often a silliness at the base of giallo, and that is certainly true here. The plots are devious to the point of nearing the ridiculous, but they are fun, as well. The mysteries at the heart of both films won't put you in mind of the best of Agatha Christie, yet they unfurl with a certain gonzo unpredictability, and they're also packed with surprise.

How Ercoli uses characters you imagine to be the heros or heroines is also a bit different from the usual fare. Don't get too attached. But this, too, is part of the fun.

A special bonus for us seniors is how delightful it is to be back in the 1970s -- with all the home decor, fashions, cars and the rest of it on display.

Italy, remember, was in the forefront of fashion during this period, so everything from the set design to the clothing is often eye-poppingly gorgeous. Or silly. Or simultaneously both.

And, yes, there is the requisite violence quotient (above) and semi-memorable villains (below). Yet just as the heroes don't always quite compute, neither do those bad guys -- who can just as easily end up dead as do some of the good guys.

All  told, this Death Walks Twice duo proves worth its weight in fun, nostalgia, mystery and more. (Shown below is Signore Ercoli, shortly before his death, along with his still-very-much-alive star, Ms Navarro.)

Click here for complete information regarding what this new package contains -- distributed here in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group -- as well as the info on how to purchase the set. 

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