Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 1st, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1971 (Death Walks on High Heels), Italy, 1972 (Death Walks at Midnight)
Director: Luciano Ercoli (Both Films)
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Mahnahén Velasco, Manuel Velasco, Dino Verde (Death Walks on High Heels), Sergio Corbucci, Ernesto Gastaldi, Guido Leoni, Roberto Leoni, Mahnahén Velasco, Manuel Velasco (Death Walks at Midnight)
Cast: Frank Wolff, Nieves Navarro, Simón Andreu, Luciano Rossi (Death Walks on High Heels), Nieves Navarro, Simón Andreu, Pietro Martellanza, Luciano Rossi (Death Walks at Midnight)
BluRay released: March 28th, 2016 (UK) / April 5th, 2016 (USA)
Approximate running times: 108 Minutes (Death Walks on High Heels), 102 Minutes (Death Walks at Midnight)
Aspect Ratios: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH, English (Italian Language)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $69.95 (USA) / £32.99 (UK)
Death Walks on High Heels: A nightclub dancer named Nicole is being stalked by a killer who wants to know where her father has hidden stolen diamonds. Frightened after a late night encounter where she narrowly escapes death. Nicole then decides to go to England with Robert, a man she barley knows. From there Nicole quickly forms a romantic relationship with Robert and just when she has finally settled into her new life. The ever resourceful killer resurfaces and gives her one last chance to hand over the diamonds.
The film’s narrative is well constructed, especially the second half of the film which employees several flashbacks sequences. Also there are an ample amount of red herrings to ensure that there is never a dull moment and best of all this film’s finale more than delivers the goods. Another strength of this film is its use of locations which give Death Walks on High Heels a more expansive vibe than its predecessor the claustrophobic Death Walks at Midnight.
Death Walks on High Heels is a stylishly directed giallo that is further bolstered by its strong plot and cast. In other areas of this film’s production, Stelvio Cipriani is score is lush and full of many memorable music cues. It is arguably one of his best scores. When it comes to the killings in this film they are not that graphic. With the only death scene elevating itself to gruesome.
Cast in the role of this film’s protagonist Nieves Navarro (The Big Gundown, Naked Violence) in the role of a nightclub dancer named Nicole. She is one of handful of actresses form this era of Italian cinema who dominate every time she appears onscreen. This is one of her stronger performances and she more delivers an ample amount of heat in role of nightclub dancer.
Another performance of note is Luciano Rossi (The Violent Professionals) in the role of Hallory, this character takes care of a cottage owned by Robert. Though he is given not much to do and for the majority of the film he portrays a straight forward character that is in contrast to the crazy personas’ he is most known for portraying. In the film’s finale his character has a Psycho like moment that will forever remain engraved in your mind. Overall Death Walks on High Heels is a tense thriller that does a remarkable job exploiting all of the clichés we have come to expect from the giallo genre.
Death Walks at Midnight: A fashion model named Valentina agrees to try a new hallucinogenic drug at the request of a reporter friend of hers who wants to do a story of the drugs after affects. While under the influence Valentina witnesses a woman being attacked by a man with a metal spiked glove. From there her identity is exposed when her reporter friend publishes the story and now the man with the metal spike wants her dead. With no one believing her story she is now forced to solve the mystery herself. Will Valentina unmask this madman or will she become his next victim?
The story for Death Walks at Midnight was written by Spaghetti Western director Sergio Corbucci who is most famous for his film Django. Ernesto Gastaldi who helped write the screenplay for Death Walks at Midnight is no stranger to the giallo genre having written films like The Case of the Bloody Iris, All the Colors of the Dark and Death Walks on High Heels. Luciano Ercoli only directed handful of films achieving his greatest successes directing the following giallo’s Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion, Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight.
Content wise and structurally Death Walks at Midnight has all the ingredients one would want and expect from a giallo. And though it isn’t as sleazy as some of its contemporaries it more than makes up for it through its sadistic ritual killings of a spiked gloved killer who punches their victims in the face and when they remove the glove pieces of flesh fall of the glove.
Luciano Ercoli direction fills every frame with interesting compositions as he keeps the action moving at a steady pace. He also perfectly balances Valentina’s more light hearted scenes with the scenes of her in danger which helps build up tension to the films finale. And Gianni Ferrio’s jazzy score beautifully captures the essence of the films hallucinogenic feel, most notably Valentina’s paranoia. Also this films flashback murder scenes are expertly crafted set pieces that are reminiscent to some of Dario Argento’s more brutal set pieces.
Nieves Navarro (So Sweet, So Dead, Death Carries a Cane) is the films strongest asset she is a voluptuous heroine who can take care of herself when in imperil. During the course of the movie she proves that she is tough as nails time and again. Also Death Walks at Midnight is blessed with a strong supporting cast with euro regulars like Luciano Rossi (Forgotten Pistolero) who plays one of the heavies and like usual in what little time he is on screen he manages to steal the show. Overall Death Walks at Midnight is a trashy giallo that doesn’t take itself as serious as some of its contemporaries which adds to its overall appeal.
Death Walks on High Heels comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer has been sourced from a brand new 2k restoration from the film’s original camera negative.
Deaths Walks at Midnight comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer has been sourced from a brand new 2k restoration from the film’s original camera negative.
When compared to their previous releases both of these films are marked improvements in every way. With areas of the most noticeable upgrade being, image clarity, color saturation and black levels / shadow detail. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and grain always looks natural.
Each film comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. All of the audio mixes in in great shape as there are no issues with background noise or distortion. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. It should be noted that there is a portion of the Italian language track for Death Walks at Midnight that has been lost and English audio has been substituted in its in its place. Included with this release are two subtitle options, English SDH and English for the Italian language tracks.
Extras for Death Walks on High Heels include, an introduction before the film with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (1 minute 48 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), English and Italian language trailers for the film (5 minutes 38 seconds – English and Italian with English subtitles), three interviews – the first interview is with composer Stelvio Cipriani titled ‘Death Walks to the Beat’ (26 minutes 28 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), the second interview is with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi titled ‘Master of Giallo’ (32 minutes 33 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and the third interview is with director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro titled ‘From Spain with Love’ (24 minutes 21 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Tim Lucas.
Topics discussed in the interview with Stelvio Cipriani include, his approach as a composer when doing genre cinema, the lead vocals for Death Walks on High Heels were sung by Nora Orlandi, his diversity as a composer and how he has worked in every film genre, how his time spent as part of Jazz band later on helped him as a film composer, how he likes not repeat himself as a composer and during the height of Italian genre cinema in the 1970’s he was composing about one film per month.
Topics discussed in the interview with Ernesto Gastaldi include, the basic rules on how to write a giallo, the differences between thrillers and suspense films, he uses his screenplay for Once Upon a Time in America as an example of what to do and want not to do when writing a thriller, he reveals that he primarily works by himself as a screenwriter and who are the few writers he has collaborated with, Death Walks on High Heels and various other films he worked on.
Luciano Ercoli: How his first job in the film industry was an errand boy directors and actors, working as an assistant director for Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis, making the transition to producer and forming his own production company with Alberto Pugliese, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, actor Simón Andreu and living in Spain under general Franco’s dictatorship.
Nieves Navarro: Why she became an actress after years of working as a model, how he first impressions of Luciano Ercoli were not that good, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, actor Simón Andreu, working with Luciano Ercoli and how he works with actors, the origin of her stage name Susan Scott, producer Alberto Pugliese, shooting sex scenes and living in Spain under general Franco’s dictatorship.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Tim Lucas include, the cast and other films that they have appeared in, Stelvio Cipriani’s score for the film, locations featured in the film, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Ercoli direction and other production related topics. Also throughout the commentary track he often describes and then comments on what has just occurred onscreen.
Extras for Death Walks at Midnight include, an introduction before the film with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (1 minute 57 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), a visual essay titled ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ (27 minutes 54 seconds), an interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi that is titled ‘Crime Does Pay’ (31 minutes 3 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), an extended T.V. version of Death Walks at Midnight (106 minutes 4 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Tim Lucas.
The introduction with Ernesto Gastaldi before the film is a brief overview about the film and those involved in making it.
The extra titled ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ film critic Michael Mackenzie’s provides an insightful critic of the three giallo’s collaborations between Nieves Navarro and Luciano Ercoli. Other topics explored in this extra include a primer pertaining to giallo’s with female protagonists.
Topics discussed in the interview with Ernesto Gastaldi include, how he got into filmmaking, attending Centro Sperimentale, his early days as a screenwriter / ghostwriter, how producers Luciano Ercoli and Alberto Pugliese gave him his big break as a screenwriter, the importance of genre cinema in Italy, Mario Bava, various producers and directors that he worked with throughout his career, the screenwriting process how some scripts can be written in one night while others can take eight months, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Sergio Corbucci and the changes he made to Death Walks at Midnight’s screenplay.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Tim Lucas include, the cast and other films that they have appeared in, Gianni Ferrio’s score for the film, locations featured in the film, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Ercoli direction, other key films and filmmakers who contributed to the giallo genre. Also throughout the commentary track he often describes and then comments on what has just occurred onscreen.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option for each film and a sixty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, three essays – the first essay is titled ‘Teetering on High Heels’ written by Danny Shipka, the second essay is titled ‘Death Walks the 70’s: Luciano Ercoli and the Gialo’ written by Troy Howarth and the third essay is titled ‘The Comedy Stylings of the “Yellow” Genre’ written by Leonard Jacobs and information about the restorations / transfers for each film.
Also included with this release are DVD’s for each film that have the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli in an extraordinary release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: This is a limited edition release (3,000 copies).