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  Death Walks on High Heels a stylish way to die
Year: 1971
Director: Luciano Ercoli
Stars: Susan Scott, Frank Wolff, Simón Andreu, Carlo Gentili, Jorge Rigaud, José Manuel Martin, Fabrizio Moresco, Luciano Rossi, Claudie Lange, Rachela Pamenti
Genre: Horror, Sex, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gorgeous striptease artist, Nicole Rochard (Susan Scott) dazzles Parisian nightclubs with her trippy routines involving blackface, blonde wigs, feather boas, coloured glitter and wild, psychedelic lightshows. However, the past catches up with Nicole after her father, a notorious jewel thief, is brutally murdered. The cops are convinced Nicole knows the whereabouts of a fortune in a stolen diamonds, and later a balaclava-clad killer with piercing blue eyes threatens to carve her up unless she reveals all. When Nicole notices boyfriend Michel Aumont (Simón Andreu) keeps a pair of blue contact lenses in his bathroom cabinet, she flees Paris with wealthy admirer, Dr. Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff). The lovers settle down amidst the English countryside, but Nicole’s relentless pursuer won’t give up so easily, and soon more murders occur.

This delightfully convoluted giallo was one of a handful produced by Luciano Ercoli as star vehicles for his wife, Nieves Navarro who acted under the alias: Susan Scott. A charismatic actress, Scott/Navarro is pretty striking as the vivacious heroine, who seems sadly luckless when it comes to men. Trading quips with cops, seducing flustered male leads with effortless chic or scorching the screen with strip shows straight out of an LSD fever dream, while Ercoli’s camera lovingly admires her naked, glitter-daubed curves, she’s a gutsy, engaging presence. But anyone who expects this to be a standard woman-in-peril thriller is in for a surprise.

Veteran giallo scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi throws a shock murder midway that splinters the narrative in several intriguing directions. Especially interesting is how each character takes turns as both sleuth and suspect, with sleazy Michel, shifty Robert and his vengeful wife (Claudie Lange) piecing the mystery together bit by bit. On the downside, this leaves us with no obvious hero to engage our sympathies, although the bickering cops (Carlo Gentili and Fabrizio Moresco) are great fun with some memorable wisecracks. Luciano Ercoli doesn’t bring a whole lot of style to the bloody murders, but ably handles the remarkably twisted plot that encompasses blackmail, voyeurism, a blind safecracker, a shock transvestite, the theft of five thousand pounds, and successive twists involving the central love triangle.

That reoccurring giallo nightmare of being paranoid about one’s own sexual partner is well utilized here, while the rural English setting adds a quaint, almost Agatha Christie-like touch, including a pub full of the most unwelcoming yokels this side of An American Werewolf in London (1981). Every time you think you know what’s going on, along comes another mind-blowing titbit to make you reassess what has gone before. Ercoli pulls off a succession of false climaxes, keeping us on our toes and switching our sympathies, before the breathless fistfight finale. Whether viewed as high camp or exploitation thrill-ride, this is a fun giallo. Ercoli and Scott returned with a companion film titled: Death Walks at Midnight (1972).
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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