Death Walks Twice – Arrow Video Boxset Review

Arrow Video Horror

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You would be hard pressed to find a disappointing Giallo. Most of them are able to offer something exciting. It could either be stunning women, blood or beautiful sets filled with colour. The greats like Argento and Bava know how to insert all that into a film – Blood and Black Lace from Mario Bava springs instantly to mind. All of this brings me to a director I wasn’t aware of until Arrow Video decided to release the fantastic Death Walks Twice Blu-ray boxed-set that I’m reviewing today. The two films included in the boxed-set are Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, both of the movies directed by Luciano Ercoli. The films are also written my Giallo master Ernesto Gastaldi (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key). Both films tick off everything I’ve listed above. It has the beautiful Nieves Navarro (going by Susan Scott in these two flicks), a bit of blood – moreso in Death Walks At Midnight, and amazing sets in Milan, Paris and the English coast. The films both succeed at giving the viewer a mystery that won’t be easy to solve and keeps you entertained the entire way through. The boxed-set from Arrow Video is once again, a fantastic release. If you want to know what comes in the set and how damn good the movies are, read on…

Product Information

DISCS: 2 (2 Blu-ray, 2 DVD)
RUN-TIME:
Death Walks on High Heels (105 minutes)
Death Walks at Midnight (103 minutes)
ASPECT RATIO:
Death Walks on High Heels (2.35:1)
Death Walks at Midnight (2.35:1)
RESOLUTION: 1080p
AUDIO: Uncompressed PCM Mono 1.0
LANGUAGE: English, Italian
SUBTITLES: English SDH, English
REGION: A/B
RATING: NR
PRODUCTION DATE: 1971, 1972
RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2016

Plot Summary

Emerging at the peak of the giallo boom of the early ‘70s, Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks films are two superlative examples of the genre linked by their shared casting of the stunning Nieves Navarro (billed under her adopted stage name of Susan Scott) as the lead woman in peril.

In Death Walks on High Heels (1971), exotic dancer Nicole (Navarro), the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, finds herself terrorised 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 that death stalks her at every corner.

Returning in Death Walks at Midnight (1972), Navarro stars as Valentina – a model who, in the midst of a drug-fuelled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. But when it becomes clear that 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.

Offering up all the glamour, perversity and narrative twists and turns that are typical of the giallo genre at its best, Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight anticipate the super-stylized trappings of Brian De Palma’s early psycho thrillers (most notably, Dressed to Kill).

Death Walks on High Heels

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Nieves Navarro plays Nicole, a striptease artist who’s work borders on extreme racism – her one act involving black face is probably the biggest racist striptease I’ve ever seen. It isn’t her risque job that gets her into trouble, though, but in fact her father’s line of work. Her father is a bank robber, who recently stole some diamonds and hide them somewhere. He is murdered by a masked individual who is looking for said diamonds. The police believe Nicole knows where the diamonds are and the masked killer thinks the same. Her life is in danger and she believes her boyfriend (Simón Andreu) could be the killer. Due to this fear, Nicole hooks up with the dashing gentlemen Dr. Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff) and goes with him to his seaside cottage in the English countryside. However, death follows her to her little oasis and her life is put on the line.

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Death Walks on High Heels screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi crafts a fantastic murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. He also does things a little differently with his characters, which I won’t spoil. You’ll definitely be shocked and appropriately confused with Death Walks on High Heels.

The film does slow down a bit during the middle half, especially due to a certain character being absent from the plot, but it never once feels boring. It’s a movie that after you figure out who the killer is, you’ll want to go back and watch the movie again to see the little hints at who is doing the sleuthing and murdering.

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Death Walks at Midnight

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The next movie in this wonderful boxed-set is Death Walks at Midnight, which is once again written by Ernesto Gastaldi and directed by Luciano Ercoli. It also stars Nieves Navarro and several other actors who were in Death Walks on High Heels. The film was released in 1971, so the two films feel very similar in look and style.

Taking a cue from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Death Walks at Midnight has Valentina (Navarro) witnessing a murder across from her apartment while high on a hallucinogen. She at first is not sure if it was real or some drug induced fantasy, but when the killer she pictured starts stalking her, she realizes it’s very much a real thing. Valentina goes to the police, but they are no help, so she decides to conduct her own investigation.

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Death Walks at Midnight is yet another fantastic murder mystery, with a strong female lead. Unlike the normal damsels in distress, who collapse at the first sight of something scary, the character of Valentina is a strong woman, who takes charge. She does fall into that cliche damsel in distress role in the middle of the movie, wanting and needing a man to comfort her, however, that’s only for a short period and she is back in charge in no time.

As for the mystery, I had a few ideas as to what was going on, but in the end, I was still very much surprised. Death Walks at Midnight was a wonderful Giallo that should keep you entertained. It also has a bit of the red stuff to entice gorehounds and you can’t go wrong with Navarro, as she is drop dead gorgeous.

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Blu-ray Opinion

Sliding in nicely next to other Arrow Video boxed-sets, Death Walks Twice is another fantastic release, which comes in a hard cardboard sleeve, with an impressive 60-page booklet to read. The audio and video for both films are damn impressive. Each film retains a nice look, with even audio and video. Death Walks at Midnight does switch over to English for a small section if you’re listening to the Italian dub. This was due to the original Italian audio being too damaged. Other than that small, tiny thing, the rest of everything else is near perfect.

Death Walks on High Heels features an impressive lineup of special features. First and foremost is an audio commentary with film critic Tim Lucas. Next, you have a quick introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. There is also an interview with actress Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli. This feature doesn’t talk much about Death Walks on High Heels. In fact, not many of the features talk about the movie but instead discuss the Giallo genre instead. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, as the interview with Ernesto Gastaldi is damn entertaining for any fan of the Giallo, but I do wish more was discussed in regards to the making of Death Walks on High Heels.

Death Walks at Midnight doesn’t feature as many special features as High Heels, but what is provided is very much welcome. You have another commentary with Tim Lucas, an introduction to the movie and an interview with Ernesto Gastaldi, a visual essay about actress Nieves Navarro, which provides a nice dissection of her career in regards to the two Death films in this set. Another nice feature is the 105 minute TV version, which features different scenes from the theatrical cut. An all-around impressive set of features.

Special Features

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) containing Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight
  • Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
  • Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing 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, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

 

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Newly-edited archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro
  • Master of Giallo – brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks on High Heels and offers up his thoughts as to what constitutes a good giallo
  • An interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani
  • Original Italian trailer
  • Original English trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

 

DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Extended TV version of the feature [105 mins]
  • Crime Does Pay – brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks at Midnight and a career script-writing crime films
  • Desperately Seeking Susan – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive Giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

 

Verdict

The Death Walks Twice boxed-set from Arrow Video is an easy recommend. The two films provide plenty of everything a Giallo fan wants. If I had to pick a favorite, I would probably say Death Walks at Midnight, but you can’t go wrong with either one. The special features are going to keep you busy for awhile, which is usual with Arrow Video’s releases. This is a big recommend.

 


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