BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Fashion models know a thing or two about being stalked. The paparazzi are always present and that camera they hold is always snap, snap, snapping away. Every photo could be the one to make them a million bucks.
It is not everyday; however, that these models are threatened by a creepy dude in dark wraparound sunglasses and a spiked iron gaunlet. That’s what happens to Valentina, the woman at the center of this Italian thriller, and no one believes her. It doesn't help matters that she's also describing a murder that has already happened.
But let’s back up a bit, Death Walks at Midnight is a true masterpiece from the Giallo era of Italian cinema. The layered mystery is handled nicely; the slasher violence is shocking enough; there’s a nice chemistry between the cast (and this extends to the characters); and the skepticism on display from the police and her friends is enough to drive you mad. Everything here works; this is a Giallo film that gets the distrust and the terror and the amount of blood-soaked bludgeoning exactly right for the hot-headed fashion model at its center.
Death Walks at Midnight is directed by Luciano Ercoli and is one of the three thrillers he did with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi,. The film is, hands down, the best of the three as they got the formula all "ironed" out with this one, complete with sharp spikes to boot. Not only do the Italian locations provide a great contrast of beauty for the ugliness of murder to take place against again and again, but the tense film builds an impressive amount of suspense and compassion thanks to a story that is solid from beginning to end as a trio of killers chase their targets up to the roof for a little one on one action.
Starring the exquisite Nieves Navarro (under the name of Susan Scott) in the leading role of Valentina and Simón Andreu as the photojournalist who gets her in and out of trouble, Death Walks at Midnight begins with Valentina taking an experimental drug - of the LSD family - in her apartment. You know, for science (or some shit like that) she says. The doctor administering the drug isn't who he says he is, but - don't worry - she's in safe hands. She wants to do it anonymously, but her photographer boy-toy has other ideas and exploits the session when she beings to feel the effects of the drug. Many a roll of film is used as her bad trip is documented and then later sent to the newspaper.
But what she experienced is something some would say impossible. She saw a 6-month-old murder play out in front of her eyes. And it involves a man with a spiked iron hand punching a brunette repeatedly in the face. She is immediately scarred. She begins seeing the man in the busy streets, convinces Andreu of his existence, but has little luck with anyone else…until it is far, far too late.
Layers are added to the story and, one by one, her old way of life and its many connections begin to fall into place; people come through to offer their support and then are snatched away back into the shadows. With nowhere to run to – and she does a lot of it – Valentina must face the truth of the murderer who is stalking her and that fact hits her where she least expects it: her bed.
If the beginning of the movie exists as a sort of delirium due to the effects of the narcotic she takes, the rest of the movie is the awakening. We pass back into consciousness with her and the paranoia is extreme; it is hard to concentrate with the dizzing speed at which she processes her confusion. She reacts to everything in an explosive manner. And in it she finds that she is a loose end that must be dealt with.
Full of lovely scenery thanks to the Italian shoot and a wild jazz score from Gianni Ferrio, Death Walks at Midnight casts a spell of profound paranoia that extends to the audience. Ercoli’s masterpiece is made available on blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video, who provide the film with a 2K restoration from the original camera negative. Owning this one is an easy decision.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 103 mins
Director: Luciano Ercoli
Writer: Ernesto Gastaldi
Cast: Nieves Navarro, Simón Andreu, Pietro Martellanza
Tagline: A film by Luciano Ercoli
Memorable Movie Quote: "Stefano, come over here. I'm in danger."
Theatrical Distributor: No U.S. theatrical release
Release Date: November 17, 1972 (Italy)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 28, 2017
Synopsis: Valentina, a beautiful fashion model, takes an experimental drug as part of a scientific experiment. While influenced by the drug, Valentina has a vision of a young woman being brutally murdered with a viciously spiked glove. It turns out that a woman was killed in exactly the same way not long ago and soon Valentina finds herself stalked by the same killer...
Home Video Distributor: Arrow Video
Available on Blu-ray - March 28, 2017
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Arrow Video’s 2K restoration from the original camera negative is definitely an improvement. Colors are far and away more pronounced and shadows are deeper. There is a wonderful attention to background details throughout the production and the 1080p transfer highlights this with a nice definition in lines and edges. The film is presented with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks crisp and inviting; nothing about it looks dated. The original Italian and English soundtracks are presented in a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track. Nothing too special there, but adequate for the film’s range.
The Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas dives in with lots of good information about the shoot and the director. He even covers the subgenre, detailing why this is a classic film.
Complete with an introduction to the film by Gastaldi, Arrow Video have provided a solid assortment of supplemental items covering the movie. There’s an extended television version of the movie, an extended conversation with the Gastaldi and covers his screenwriting career, a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie, and reversible cover art newly commissioned featuring the art of Giles Vranckx.
- Ernesto Gastaldi Introduction
- Extended TV Version
- Crime Does Pay
- Desperately Seeking Susan