Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli

| April 8, 2016

Giallo, that peculiarly Italian strain of mystery and horror that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, has seen a huge resurgence in popularity among cult films fans over the last decade. DVD helped bring many of the best of these films to audiences in the States who may have never had a chance to see them otherwise except in low-quality bootlegs or in butchered English dubs. One small home video imprint that made a big splash among giallo fans was NoShame, who gave a number of Italian exploitation films their proper debuts on English-friendly DVD in the early 2000s and whose catalog titles often fetch a tidy sum on the secondhand market. Arrow Video has recently picked up where NoShame left off with lavish editions of some of the best of that company’s catalog, including a new set that gives a significant upgrade to one particularly sought-after NoShame release: Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks in High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight. Released by NoShame as “Luciano Ercoli’s The Death Box,” Arrow has given the films a dual-format Blu-ray/DVD release packed with special features under the title Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli.

In addition to sharing directors and partial titles, these two films both star Susan Scott (born Nieves Navarro). In Death Walks in High Heels Scott plays a dancer living in Paris whose father, a jeweler, has been murdered. She flees to London but someone follows, leaving a bloody trail in their wake. In Death Walks at Midnight, Scott plays a model who witnesses a murder from the window of her apartment but has difficulty convincing anyone of the crime because she was high at the time. Unfortunately for her, even though almost everyone else has a hard time believing her, the murderer is all too aware of what she saw and is closing in on her. Both films are prototypical giallo, packed with beautiful people doing awful things and being dispatched in a number of gruesome and imaginative ways while the story twists and turns improbably. Both feature excellent scores, although the score for Death Walks in High Heels has a slight edge thanks to legendary composer Stelvio Cipriani. However, Death Walks at Midnight features a killer with a distinctive spiked glove, helping set it apart from its contemporaries a bit more. Fans of the style will want to pick up this set immediately, and for newcomers these are a great place to start.

Both films are presented in gorgeous new 2K transfers from the films’ original negatives, and Arrow has packed this set with features that would shame most Criterion releases. It comes in a beautiful package with reversible covers that includes the films on Blu-ray and DVD as well as a copiously illustrated 60-page book featuring 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 Leonard Jacobs. The discs themselves offer a wealth of information: both films have feature-length commentary tracks by film critic Tim Lucas (whose book All the Colors of the Dark is the definitive word on Mario Bava) and introductions by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. Death Walks on High Heels includes English and Italian trailers as well as an archival interview with Ercoli and Scott, an interview with Cipriani, and an interview with Gastaldi about the film and the giallo genre in general. Death Walks at Midnight includes an alternate, extended “TV cut” of the film running 105 minutes as well as another interview with Gastaldi and a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie about the collaboration of Ercoli and Scott.

It’s honestly almost unbelievable that Arrow has given these films such loving care. Arrow has made a reputation among cult film fans for exactly this sort of presentation, but they have been outdoing themselves regularly lately. Any fan of these two films who has the previous NoShame release will find this more than a worthy upgrade, and anyone who wants to see them for the first time can hardly do better than this definitive edition. Arrow will soon be releasing a pair of horror/giallo films from director Emilio Miraglia that NoShame originally released with a collectible doll of “The Red Queen” from The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. While Arrow may not be interested in matching that particular bit of ephemera, fans should be breathlessly anticipating whatever else they might have in store.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium: www.medium.com/@rabbitroom
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