Now On Blu-ray: DEATH WALKS TWICE, RAGE OF HONOR, BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA From Arrow Video
Let's take a look at some of the latest April 2016 releases from Arrow Video USA!
Arrow Video began it's life six years ago as a sub-label of Arrow Films designed to showcase the Italian giallo film with releases of classic films from Dario Argento. In the years since they have certainly diversified their offerings, but have stayed true to their original intentions with releases of films like Sergio Martino's Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and Massimo Dallamano's What Have You Done to Solange?, along with reissues of Argento's Deep Red. The latest addition to their giallo collection is a highly regarded pair of films from Luciano Ercoli, Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, a pair of thrillers starring Spanish beauty Nieves Navarro. Long out of print on DVD from No Shame, Arrow's new releases really make up for lost time be providing essential pieces in the ever unfolding giallo home video puzzle.
In Death Walks on High Heels, Navarro plays a stripper/model who also happens to be the daughter of a jewel thief who dies mysteriously at the hands of a black gloved fiend. Over the course of the film, we're treated to numerous twists and turns that leave the viewer in a tizzy trying to discover the identity of the stalker determined to recover the late thief's ultimate haul. Navarro plays it cool while her co-stars fumble for clues in an mystery for which no reasonable conclusion can be found.
High Heels is a fun little giallo film that borrows tropes from better known (and objectively better) films like Psycho in disposing of its heroine early on. However, the chase is most definitely better than the catch in this case. Ercoli's direction combined with a decent morbidly amusing script from Italian giallo master Ernesto Gastaldi, makes for an interesting and fun ride. Beautifully framed violence and a lovely score from Stelvio Cipriani add to the appeal of High Heels as one of the more solid entries in the deliriously overstuffed giallo oeuvre.
Ercoli's follow up, Death Walks at Midnight, is a bit more engaging, though certainly more of its time than High Heels. In this film, Navarro plays a supermodel who witnesses a murder while in the midst of a hallucinogenic haze. When the cops and her own love interest have trouble believing her, she jumps in to solve the crime, but at what cost? This popular Rear Window-esque plot served as the starting point for many a giallo, including the genre's widely accepted first entry, Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much, but Ercoli spices it up compared to that entry from a decade before with plenty of sex and bloody violence.
Nieves Navarro is eminently watchable in these films, even when the film abandons her, she's still the most exciting this about the proceedings. Much like Soledad Miranda or Lina Romay for Jess Franco's early '70s adventures, Navarro truly was Ercoli's muse. Unlike Franco's girls, Navarro had a sense of belonging on the screen, perhaps due to her “mature” age, she was in her early thirties by the time they started. Whatever the reason, Navarro, Ercoli, and screenwriter Gastaldi created a potent mix of sex and violence that makes these films stand out in a genre with hundreds of entries over a very brief lifespan.
Arrow Video pulled out all the stops for their Death Walks Twice box set. Both films look gorgeous in their Blu-ray upgrades. The prints are quite clean and colorful without any sign of digital over-manipulation. There is the occasional print damage, but the scratches are minimal and don't adversely affect the viewing experience. Audio tracks are provided in both the original Italian and English language dubs with English subtitles available on demand. Also available on both films are audio commentary tracks by Tim Lucas, the Video Watchdog editor is well-informed and exceptionally well prepared for these tracks, and while his tracks may feel a little dry at times, they are packed to the brim with information on each film and its place in Italian film history.
If that were all the package offered, it would be stellar, but the package contains a lot more supplemental content for fans to peruse. We get a career retrospective interview with High Heels composer Stelvio Cipriani, one of Italy's most famous composers, as well as Ernesto Gastaldi talking about writing these and many other classics. Gastaldi also offers introductions for each film on their respective discs.
There is a wonderful featurette titled From Spain With Love that features interview footage from both Navarro and Ercoli exploring their collaborations on film and behind the scenes. In addition to this exploration of their work, historian Michael Mackenzie offers up a visual essay on their film history on the Midnight disc that is as fascinating as anything in this package. Wrapping it up we have a sixty page booklet with writing on each film from giallo expert Troy Howarth and Danny Shipka.
Death Walks Twice is a must own for any giallo fan. The films look gorgeous, and there are mountains of contextualizing bonus features in the set that makes it a crime to miss this one. Highly recommended!