Death Walks Twice Blu-ray Review

Arrow gives A-class treatment to these Italian features

Arrow Video creates a fine double-bill of giallo movies from director Luciano Ercoli in this collection aptly titled Death Walks Twice. Both Italian films star his future wife, Spanish actress Nieves Navarro, under an assumed stage name of Susan Scott. Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks At Midnight are both penned by noted giallo screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, often showing his signature flourishes in tone and story. Despite sharing star actors and the same director, the movies each stand by themselves.

Death Walks on High Heels is the real gem of these two Ercoli films, a sexy romp fused with suspense in a clever script. It is a sensuous giallo mixed with a gripping, intricate mystery. Susan Scott plays Nicole Rochard, a stripper living in Paris. Nicole begins receiving ominous threats about the whereabouts of her father’s stolen jewels. A masked man with penetrating blue eyes sneaks into her bedroom and threatens to scar her for life if she doesn’t reveal the jewels’ location.

Her boyfriend Michel Aumont (Simon Andreu) doesn’t believe Nicole and when evidence points to him being the masked man, she runs off with an English doctor that has fallen in love with Nicole from her stage shows. Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff) is a respectable doctor and already married to another woman, so he takes Nicole to a quaint seaside village where he can hide the affair. When Michel finally tracks Nicole down to where her and Matthews have been holed up, the doctor is shot by a mysterious woman hidden in darkness. Inspector Baxter and the police are baffled as the bodies mount up in this challenging mystery. This is taut storytelling from beginning to end.

Death Walks At Midnight is a different kind of giallo, relying on an even more convoluted narrative and mystery. Valentina (Susan Scott) is an actress that agrees to take a newly experimental drug called HDS for her journalist friend, Gio Baldi (Simon Andreu once again). The imaginary HDS is clearly a stand-in for LSD, likely an attempt to evade the censors. Valentina experiences a vision of a woman being gruesomely murdered with an iron glove. Gio publishes the story in his paper, turning the incident and Valentina into a temporary celebrity.

Valentina’s career as a model is severely hurt by the publication of Gio’s story, which was supposed to protect her identity. She attempts to reconcile with her estranged lover Stefano and soon after is saved by him when she crosses paths with the killer seen in her vision. Valentina soon learns there was a murder similar to her vision, occurring six months before in the apartment across from her building. The police dismiss Valentina and her concerns that she’s seen the real killer, since a man was imprisoned for the earlier crime. They chalk it up to hallucinations. This is a dense, confusing narrative with a ridiculous payoff.

The lead role in Death Walks At Midnight likely asks too much of Susan Scott’s limited acting talents.

Gialli are known for their lurid violence, beautiful women and dangerous men. Death Walks On High Heels is a first-rate giallo with convincing performances and an engrossing mystery. Death Walks At Midnight is a lesser example of the genre, built around a convoluted mystery. It peaks early with a gruesome vision of murder, only to be sidetracked by numerous red herrings and false endings. The lead role in Death Walks At Midnight likely asks too much of Susan Scott’s limited acting talents. More comfortable playing the sexy siren in Death Walks On Two Heels, that role doesn’t place the same demands on her and makes it a much more lively and thrilling feature.

Genre fans should most definitely see Death Walks On High Heels at some point, it’s a classic giallo with much to offer fans of vintage Italian movies. Death Walks At Midnight works as a fine companion but isn’t in the same class. Both deal in the glamour, perversity and narrative twists that are typical of the giallo genre at its best.

Death Walks at Midnight Blu-ray screen shot 5

Video

Arrow Video does wonders for Death Walks On High Heels, while admirably doing everything possible for Death Walks At Midnight from lesser film elements. Both Italian movies from the early Seventies look better than they ever have before in new, film-like transfers. Both represent quality 2K scans from the best available elements, encoded with best practices by stellar AVC video encodes.

The new 2K restoration done at L’immagine Ritrovata Bologna from the original 35mm 2-perf Techniscope negative for Death Walks On High Heels breathes with amazing clarity and proper vintage definition. Possessing a rich contrast with lush color saturation and convincing black levels, it displays palpable film texture in perfect grain reproduction. Loaded with fine detail in close-ups and crisp definition, the scope presentation shows off the nearly pristine negative. This is easily some of the best color grading released by Arrow Video in the last year, nailing the film stock’s original intentions.

Death Walks At Midnight receives a mostly similar looking presentation, albeit done from a softer 35mm 4-perf internegative. That leads to shallower detail with lesser definition. A hint of ringing also creeps into the video, though the grain structure is left untouched. This is another fine vintage presentation of natural film stock, showing fairly similar density and grading decisions.

Audio

Italian and English dubs are offered for both movies in solid 1.0 DTS-HD MA soundtracks. The English dubs hold up surprising well, though the Italian soundtracks are probably the purest choice for die-hard fans.

Some minor hiss is noticeable but fidelity is fairly clean. The English soundtrack may sound ever so slightly more muffled but dialogue is largely crystal clear. For classic Italian movies, these soundtracks sound better than average with audio elements having survived without much deterioration. There are no drastic differences in sound quality between the two movies, though Death Walks On High Heels once again takes the edge in clarity and staging.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font, always remaining inside the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Arrow Video gives the option of watching the movie with Italian or English credits.

Extras

This is a healthy assortment of new special features in a limited edition set of 3000 units. Buy it quickly if you want this limited edition set. Most places have already sold their allotment. Besides the movies on two Blu-rays, you also get two DVDs and a 60-page booklet. This is a deluxe offering that should provide value in future years.

  • 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 extras

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (01:48 in HD)
  • From Spain With Love (24:21 in HD) – Newly-edited archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro
  • Master of Giallo (32:33 in HD) – A 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 (26:28 in HD)
  • Original Italian and English Trailers (05:38 in SD)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT extras

  • Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
  • Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi 01:57 in HD)
  • Extended TV version of the feature (106:04 SD) – This version made for television actually features alternate scenes not found in the theatrical cut.
  • Crime Does Pay (31:03 in HD) – A brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks at Midnight and a career script-writing crime films
  • Desperately Seeking Susan (27:54 in HD) – 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


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

Death Walks in High Heels:

Death Walks at Midnight: