Friday, July 11, 2014

Death Walks at Midnight (1972)


This is what happens to you if you take drugs.  Beautiful model Valentina takes the experimental hallucinogen H.D.S. as part of a magazine expose, but, during her trip, she sees the vicious murder by spiked glove of the startled woman below.


You'd think that deaths aplenty would follow, but they mostly don't.  If Death Walks is a giallo, it definitely leans more towards that subgenre's mystery roots.  The focus is on tension and menace with the deaths making brief cameo appearances between chase scenes.  We don't get tons of bloodletting or spilled gore, and we only get flashes of the things I most enjoy about these movies.  For a lot of its running time, this is a mighty pedestrian affair—not offensive, but definitely not noteworthy.  Death walks.  It never sprints.


Occasionally, director Luciano Ercoli gives us the sort of gorgeous visuals we might hope to see, but these are the exception to the film's low-energy rule.  Also rarely present are the kinds of nutso minor characters that sometimes end up being these films' best elements.


We get a brief visit to an insane asylum with very hands-off supervisors.  We meet a crazy dude who's super happy about tapdancing in a straightjacket.  We get a scene with a guy who apparently lives in his van, in which he's installed a bottle opener (and, by now, we should all know not to trust guys who have vans!).  Valentina herself is intermittently interesting—the script gives her an edge in the form of a pretty short temper.  Still, Death Walks is not a smashing character study.


Maybe my favorite characters only get spotlighted at the end.  I love how vicious thugs in these movies always dress like alcoholic banquet managers.  Plus one guy keeps smoking that cigarette throughout a long chase scene and fight scene, so hats off for that.  


Overall, this is pretty much an also-ran as far as these things go.  I've seen far worse, but also much better.  Completists have probably already caught it and, if you're a casual fan of this genre, you probably won't miss much by giving this one a pass.

**3/4

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