This week, Steve Johnson takes a look at Arrow Video US’s recently released Death Walks Twice boxset. It features two films by Luciano Ercoli, both starring the gorgeous Nieves Navarro (Susan Scott).
Before we get going, here’s a quick synopsis for each film:
“Death Walks on High Heels” (1971): Exotic dancer Nicole (Navarro), the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, finds herself terrorized 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 death stalks her at every corner.
“Death Walks at Midnight” (1972): Navarro stars as Valentina – a model who, in the midst of a drug-fueled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. When it becomes clear 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.
As Icon vs. Icon’s resident horror fan, it will likely come as a surprise I have no experience with the Italian giallo films of the ‘70s. I cannot fathom how I made it this far in life without immersing myself in the genre, considering they influenced the modern day slasher film. The two films featured in this boxset, “Death Walks on High Heels” and “Death Walks at Midnight,” are both visually stunning thrillers that establish more red herrings than any other horror film I have seen. Characters come and go and just when you think you have it figured out, a curve ball is thrown that blindsides you. I enjoyed trying to figure out the antagonist(s) of each film.
“Death Walks on High Heels” cranks up the whodunit, while “Death Walks at Midnight” takes that formula and sprinkles in the supernatural. I enjoyed “Death Walks on High Heels” a bit more than “Death Walks at MIdnight,” mostly because the story felt a bit more fleshed out and it kept me guessing right up to the reveal at its climax. “Death Walks at Midnight” is a much more mean-spirited and gory film, which may appeal more to the modern day slasher fans out there. Don’t worry gore hounds, “Death Walks on High Heels” brings a sufficient amount of the red stuff as well. The beautiful Nieves Navarro is captivating in each film and is also not afraid to show off her natural assets. Yes guys, there is nudity in the films. The surrounding cast, some of which are featured in both films, do a fantastic job of selling the criminal mystery of each story.
Both “Death Walks on High Heels” and “Death Walks at Midnight” received 2K restorations from their original camera negatives. Arrow Video US knocked it out of the park with these transfers. The films look stunning on blu-ray. The audio tracks are presented in their original Italian and English formats. It isn’t going to blow you away, but the auditory experience doesn’t take away from the films. Considering the source material, I’m surprised they have it looking and sounding so good.
The limited edition boxset (3,000 copies) is packed with an amazing set of special features, including both DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the films. The highlight is a limited edition 60-page booklet that contains new writing 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. Both films boast an audio commentary track by film critic Tim Lucas, an introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, and reversible sleeves featuring the original artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx. Each film also has newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks.
“Death Walks on High Heels” features a newly edited and informative archive interview with Gastaldi. There is also an interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani and the original Italian and English trailers. “Death Walks at Midnight’s” most notable feature is an extended TV version of the film that clocks in at 105 minutes. The disc also contains a new interview entitled “Crime Does Pay,” where Gastaldi discusses the film and a career writing crime films. “Desperately Seeking Susan,” a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie that explores the collaboration between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro, rounds out the special features. Arrow Video US spared no expense and rolled out the red carpet for their release of these classics of Italian horror cinema.
If you are a fan of giallo and slasher films, this boxset should be on your must buy list. You better move quick though, I suspect those 3,000 copies will go fast. You don’t want to be stuck paying some flipper on Ebay half a month’s salary! — Steve Johnson