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us title: Death Walks on High Heels
italian title: La morte cammina con i tacchi alti
year: 1971
director: Luciano Ercoli
composer: Stelvio Cipriani
full details: IMDB
overall score: 78

Bottom Line: Entertaining
Nothing ground breaking here, but a fun time nonetheless.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

Death Walks on High Heels is a great example of a Giallo that walks the fine line between sticking to the conventions of the genre while at the same time embellishing on them. Luciano Ercoli's second Giallo is unconventional in many ways, but it doesn't stray too far from the genre's formula. While clearly the ulterior motive behind the film's production was to showcase Ercoli's gorgeous wife Nieves Navarro (credited as Susan Scott), it doesn't get in the way of his ability to deliver an effective thriller that moves (mostly) at an entertaining pace.

Like most thrillers, Death Walks borrows a bit from Hitchcock in both obvious (the telescope spying on the exchange between Nicole and Vanessa, a la Rear Window) and subtle (killing off the main character mid-way through the film, a la Psycho) ways. But its primary influences are the Italian thrillers that came before it. The film is successful is in its ability to adhere to most of the genre conventions without coming off like a copy-cat Giallo.

Despite the murder in the opening scene, the first half of the film spends a significant amount of time establishing the character relationships. No additional murders take place and except for the nauseating fish dinner scene, the pace is lively enough to command the viewers attention. Once Dr. Matthews is shot and Nicole is found dead, the second half of the film (again like Psycho) focuses on solving the mystery, and this is where the film strays a bit from Giallo conventions.

The police and the amateur detective share responsibilities in a dual role of comic relief and utility. Inspector Baxter and Bergson find plenty of attempts to act silly (with the help of "Miss Pennypacker") but they are also responsible for filling the gap left by Michele's half-assed attempts at being the amateur detective. Notice that most of Michele's sleuthing is done off screen which reinforces the idea that he's not to be taken too seriously.

The film lost 15 points in the Staples section due to the killer's monetary gain motive and his (safe to assume) ultimate capture by the police. But the film made up for most of these lost points in the Standards and Signatures sections, with the only omissions being the Paris/London locations and the soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani.

I like this film enough to recommended for most fans of the genre and if you're inclined to salivate over Nieves Navarro then it's a no-brainer. It borrows from many popular themes but still has enough originality to stand on its own. With regard to the Ercoli canon of Gialli, Death Walks is the most conventional and least entertaining of the three. Ercoli's first Giallo, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (not yet scored), is my favorite of his films.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 45/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Black Gloves5 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Classic Period (1970 - 1975)5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 24/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Flashback Revelation3 points
Mistaken Identity2 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Nude Scene >= 13 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 9/10
Airplane1 point
Animal, Number, Color, or "Death" in title1 point
Comic Relief Character1 point
Foreigner1 point
J&B1 point
Pathologist1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Prove Innocence1 point
Taunting1 point
Total Points : 78/100



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Published: 2014-02-19