Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I just wrote to Arrow's Francesco Simeoni and Ewan Cant to congratulate them on the DEATH WALKS TWICE box set, a compendium of Luciano Ercoli's films DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT that streets both here and in the UK on April 5.

The films themselves, frankly, are only slightly above average for their genre - conceived as pulp entertainment rather than as exercises in style or atmosphere, and primarily of interest for Ercoli's pre-De Palmian techniques and the fiery performances of lead actress Nieves Navarro (who acts as "Susan Scott"). However, this is one of those rare cases when Blu-ray/DVD supplementary features go above and beyond their basic mandates to offer a thorough education in the subject matter, generally and specifically - and, in this case, more factual and anecdotal information than has been published in book form on the subject to date, at least in English. There is a marvelous 2012 interview with producer-director Luciano Ercoli (who died in 2015) and Nieves Navarro, his wife, in which, among other things, they discuss how they were somehow impervious to interference from Spanish state censorship during the Franco era because they knew how to work within official constraints, and also perhaps owing to their personal wealth. Navarro, still beautiful in her 70s, denies that she was ever beautiful, just "normal." Another extra gives us more time in the presence of composer Stelvio Cipriani than we ever thought we might have, and he plays HIGH HEELS' main theme for us on piano, as well as his famous theme for THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN.

But the real meat of the set begins with Ernesto Gastaldi's hour of reminiscences, presented in two parts; his robust, humorous disclosures are nothing short of extraordinary (he even goes into what he was paid), and Michael Mackenzie's articulate visual essay on the subject of Nieves Navarro and her work in Ercoli's three gialli (the first, THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION, is sadly absent from the set) persuasively carves out a place for her as a giallo icon of the first order, and the genre's only consistently feminist figurehead. If you don't know her work, you need to.

The four-disc set (Blu-ray/DVD) also includes a 60 page booklet with original writing by Danny Shipka (PERVERSE TITILLATION) and Troy Howarth (SO DEADLY, SO PERVERSE) and is limited to 3,000 copies - I imagine that figure covers both the US and the UK, so I imagine they will disappear fast.

Suffice to say, I don't write congratulatory letters to my co-workers often. But, for people who care about Italian thrillers - particularly those who haven't ventured much outside the boundaries established by Bava, Argento, Martino and Fulci - DEATH WALKS TWICE represents one of those special moments in a collector's life when something comes along which changes our perception of something specific - and, in doing so, changes everything. I learned a great deal from the wealth of history and insight concentrated here - and, as this set includes two full length audio commentaries by me, you might think I was the set's main commentator! It's also very good news that the presentations of the films themselves sparkle in a way that was not visible to me in the reference material I was using to script my two commentaries.