Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 23rd, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1971 (Death Walks on High Heels), Italy, 1972 (Death Walks at Midnight)
Director: Luciano Ercoli
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)
DVD Released: February 28th, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 108 minutes (Death Walks on High Heels), 102 minutes (Death Walks at Midnight)
Aspect Ratio: Both films are 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $34.95
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.
No Shame presents both Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight in anamorphic widescreen that preserves their original aspect ratios. No Shame also presents both of these films uncut for the first time ever in North America on DVD. The colors are vivid and nicely saturated through out as the early 1970’s décor is shown off in grand fashion. Black levels are deep and run solid through out as there is an exceptional amount of detail not only in the foreground but the background as well. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. Overall these progressive scan transfers look stunning and outside a few minor instances of print damage they look immaculate.
Both Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight come with two audio options. The original Italian language track and English dubbed audio language track that are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The audio tracks for both releases are crisp as dialog is sharp and easy to follow. The music blends in with the perfectly with the rest of the mix as there are no problems with distortion. On the English dubbed audio language for Death Walks at Midnight there is some noticeable background hiss, still nothing that ever becomes distracting. Overall considering the rarity of these films and their age all the audio options more then exceeded my expectations. Removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
Extras for Death Walks on High Heels include the films Italian and English language trailers. Rounding out the extras for this film is a brief poster and still gallery.
Extras for Death Walks at Midnight include a brief photo gallery and the television version of Death Walks at Midnight which includes a few minor scenes with the police to pad the story. These scenes add nothing to the story and I wonder if it might not have been better if instead of offering the full television versions as a bonus if it might not have been better just offering these scenes as separately as a bonus. The television version is in English and there are no chapter stops. The opening credits are in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and then the rest of the film goes to a full frame aspect ratio. The quality of the transfer for the television version is all over the place. There is print damage, faded colors and this version looks like it was sourced from a VHS source as there are tape rolls and tracking issues through out.
No Shame has also included with this release a collectible booklet which includes bios for Luciano Ercoli, Nieves Navarro, Frank Wolff and Luciano Rossi. The booklet also includes a text piece about Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight.
For this release No Shame has also included a CD of music composed by Stelvio Cipriani. The booklet also includes a track listing for all the tracks included on the CD. The tracks are from the following films Killer Cop, Blood, Sweat and Fear, Dear Wife, L Ispettore anticrimine, Ransom! Police Is Watching, Take All of Me, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, The Cursed Medallion, Nightmare City, Due cuori, una cappella and Evil Eye. Overall this CD is a nice mix that takes a look at the various stages of Stelvio Cipriani’s career and the various genres he worked in.
The complete track listings for the CD:
1. “Papaya” from La Polizia ha le mani legate 2. “Mark il poliziotto (Suite)” from Mark il poliziotto 3. “Alfredo, Salomone E Il Grimaldello” From Cara Sposa 4. “Love Theme” From L Ispettore anticrimine 5. “La Polizia Sta a Guardare (Titles)” From La Polizia Sta a Guardare 6. “St. Michel” From Dedicato a Una Stella 7. “La Polizia chiede aiuto (Chase)” From La Polizia chiede aiuto 8. “Un Regalo Per Pasqualino” From Cara Sposa 9. “Emily’s Studio (New Edit)” From Il Medaglione Insanguinato 10. “La Polizia chiede aiuto (Titles)” From La Polizia chiede aiuto 11. “Masquerade” From Incubo Sulla Citta’ Contaminata 12. “Due Cuori E Una Cappella (Titles)” From Due Cuori E Una Cappella 13. “La Polizia ha le mani legate (Chase)” From La Polizia ha le mani legate 14. “Sotto I Ponti Di Parigi” From Dedicato a Una Stella 15. “Astaroth” From Malocchio 16. “La Polizia ha le mani legate (Investigation)” From La Polizia ha le mani legate 17. “Turning Point” From La Polizia Sta a Guardare 18. “Bloody Love” From Malocchio
The DVD comes in a slip cases that has three trays and there is an outer slip case that goes over the main DVD case. The DVD case art is different then the outer slip cases art. Both films are represented as Death Walks on High Heels is the front cover art and Death Walks at Midnight is the back cover art. Both covers take images from the film and they are surrounded by a plain white background that also includes drawings of iconic images form each film and the text from each of these covers resembles the text on the outer sleeve cover. Also included with set are two post cards one for each film and they each contain six lobby card replicas on each post card.
No Shame’s The Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set is sure to find its way into every hard core giallo fans collection. It is hands down one the best DVD releases of 2006, highly recommended.