Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks at Midnight and Death Walks on High Heels are two films to come out of the Italian giallo movement of the early 70's. The films are linked by their casting of Nieves Navarro, using her adopted stage name of Susan Scott, who in both films is cast as the woman in peril.
In Death Walks on High Heels, Navarro plays Nicole, an exotic dancer and daughter of a murdered jewel thief who finds herself being terrorized by a black-clad assailant who seems intent on acquiring her father's stolen gems. Attempting to evade the assailant, she flees Paris and arrives in London to realize that death is now following her at every corner.
A year later, Navarro starred as Valentina in Death Walks at Midnight. As a model who witnesses a murder in an apartment opposite hers during a drug-fueled photo shoot, Navarro gives a mesmerizing performance that is near the top of giallo cinematic experiences.
Reminiscent of early De Palma, Ercoli's films are classic giallo films with narrative twists, glamorous settings and an abundance of perversity. For those who don't know, Navarro was at the time married to Ercoli. While this isn't a particularly remarkable fact, I've always found such a thing odd when one considers just how often Navarro is scantily clad or nude in the film. Maybe I'm just more of the jealous type!
It could be said that both films are loosely within the giallo sub-genre. Death Walks on High Heels is the lighter of the two films, a more loosely structured film than we often find within genre yet easily possessing enough giallo traits to rest within giallo. The lensing from Fernando Arribas is, at times, rather amateurish or simply falls victim to the film's modest production budget. Arribas at times frames shots awkwardly and tracks scenes in such a way that things feel unpleasantly off-kilter. The film, easily the weaker of the two, unwinds itself unsatisfyingly and with a climactic scene that feels undeserved.
On the flip side, Death Walks at Midnight features top notch lensing from Arribas and a script that is tighter and more satisfying in terms of its mystery and suspense. While at times reminiscent of Fulci, Death Walks at Midnight maintains an artistic vision all its own and can easily rest on its own merits. Vastly superior to High Heels, Death Walks at Midnight is truly classic giallo and deserves to be seen by any fans of the sub-genre.
As is always true with Arrow releases, the special limited edition contents for this collection are top notch including a wealth of the usual interviews and a host of other extras.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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