DEATH WALKS TWICE, Luciano Ercoli, director/Arrow Blu-Ray Luciano Ercoli’s gaudily entertaining duo of ambulatory Italian horror outings Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight premiere on Blu-ray in a restored, limited edition collection. Emerging at the peak of the giallo boom of the early ’70s, Ercoli’s Death Walks films are two prime examples of the genre linked by their shared casting of the genre favourite Nieves Navarro (billed under her adopted stage name of Susan Scott) as the lead woman in peril. In Death Walks on High Heels (1971), exotic dancer Nicole (Navarro), the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, finds herself terrorised by a black-clad assailant determined on procuring her father’s stolen gems. Fleeing Paris and her knife-wielding pursuer, Nicole arrives in London (the Italian language version much preferable here, despite the oddity of everyone in the UK capital speaking Italian), only to discover that death stalks her at every corner. Returning in Death Walks at Midnight (1972), Navarro stars as Valentina – a model who, in the midst of a drug-fuelled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. But when it becomes clear that the savage slaying she describes relates to a crime that took place six months earlier, the police are at a loss – forcing Valentina to solve the mystery alone. Offering up all the glamour, perversity and narrative twists and turns that are typical of the giallo genre at its best, Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight anticipate the super-stylized trappings of Brian De Palma’s early psycho thrillers (most notably, Dressed to Kill).TRAPPED, Baltasar Kormákur, director/Arrow Blu-Ray Arrow Films’ label Nordic Noir & Beyond is the natural home for the critically acclaimed Icelandic crime drama Trapped after its successful BBC Four outings. And any new edition of the present writer’s Death in a Cold Climate would have to include this most snowbound slice of Nordic Noir, with its acute (and frigid) send of place. The burly Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is beleaguered local police chief, Andri, and the drama is the creation of director Baltasar Kormákur. In a remote Icelandic town, a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable corpse murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri (Ólafsson), whose personal life is in shatters, realises a killer may be hiding in his town. As word spreads, order disintegrates into chaos as the town’s residents realise they are all possible suspects. The series had money thrown at it, and it shows: Trapped enjoyed the highest budget invested into an Icelandic series and premiered to 1.2 million viewers on BBC Four. Kormákur o helmed last year’s true-story epic Everest. The series takes its time, but nevertheless exerts a considerable grip, not least for Ólafsson’s taciturn, out-of-his-depth copper.
NO EXIT, Norman Lee, director/Network There are two ways to look at No Exit: as an impossibly dated, highly artificial film from a long-vanished era of British crime, or as a fascinating curio which can afford the viewer (if in the right frame of mind) a series of guilty pleasures. Certainly it is no undiscovered classic (I tried to unearth quite a few of the latter in my book British Crime Film), but its unintentionally acute picture of the British class system (notably the impeccably posh coppers) is fascinating. A crime novelist stages an imaginative prank to prove that the perfect murder is possible – but finds it has catastrophic consequences in this cleverly plotted thriller with a deft humorous touch. Shot in the Autumn of 1936 at Welwyn Studios, No Exit (which was filmed as No Escape before reverting to its original title) is featured here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio. Convinced that it is possible to commit a murder and avoid detection, a crime writer wagers a young friend that he can conceal him for a month – he is confident that even if the disappearance is noticed he will be able to hoodwink Scotland Yard. When the ‘victim’ accidentally comes to grief, however, the harmless prank goes disastrously wrong…
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? Massimo Dallamano, director/Arrow Blu-Ray If you’re seeking the time-tested (let’s not say shopworn) ingredients of the classic gialli – colourful visuals, lurid sexualised violence, the amateur sleuth, the black-gloved sadistic killer — not mention a quirky score by Ennio Morricone — they are all present and correct in Massimo Dallamano’s delirious What Have You Done to Solange? Dallamano (who was the cinematographer on both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) produced this memorable giallo which comes to Blu-ray and DVD in a new 2K transfer taken from the film’s original negative. What Have You Done to Solange? was the debut feature for actress Camille Keaton (of I Spit on Your Grave fame). The new disc comes with intriguing features including a newly recorded audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, and an archive interview with actor Fabio Testi. A sexually sadistic killer is preying on the girls of St. Mary’s school. Student Elizabeth witnessed one of the murders, but her hazy recollections of a knife-wielding figure in black do nothing to further the police’s investigations. Why is the killer choosing these young women? And what does it have to do with a girl named Solange? Also starring Cristina Galbo, What Have You Done with Solange? has a more coherent structure than most gialli, where such niceties are not generally a priority.
OCCUPIED, various directors/Dazzler Media Blu-ray Unquestionably King of the current Nordic Noir wave, Jo Nesbo is a writer whose name can help sell practically anything these days – as it did with an earlier film of his work, Headhunters, in which (in this country) his name was actually used as part of the title. It’s hard to say exactly what he provided for Occupied – his contribution is a matter of some debate — but there is no questioning that the presence of his name will attract many viewers This political suspense thriller is set in the not-so-distant future, when climate change has brought Europe to the brink of war. Henrik Mestad stars as environmentally friendly prime minister Jasper Berg. He has convinced his voters that the best way to tackle climate change is to halt all oil production in Norway, sending the country and the rest of the world into crisis. Unable to ignore calls from the rest of the world to intervene, Russia, at the behest of the EU, stages a ‘silk-glove’ invasion – to secure the oil for the rest of the world. They have, they say, every intention of retreating once this has been accomplished. But it’s not long before events unfold that threaten to change everything. Based on ‘an idea’ by Nesbo, this multi-layered 10-part series examines what happens to a nation under occupation, and explores the themes of loyalty to oneself, one’s family and one’s country.
BANDE-A-PART, Jean-Luc Godard, director/BFI Many regard Godard’s later films — when his Maoist agitprop philosophy had him instructing his actors to simply lecture the audience, direct to camera — are not much watched these days, but his earlier films bristle with edgy excitement of a young filmmaker exploiting the medium. Bande à part stars Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur. Shot in just 25 days on the wintry streets of suburban Paris, the film remains one of Godard’s most loved films and is often remembered for its exhilarating café dance sequence and famous race through the Louvre. Released on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, it’s packed with special features including a new interview with Anna Karina and a feature-length audio commentary by film critic Adrian Martin. Godard’s playful reimagining of the Hollywood crime films of the 1940s follows young misfits Franz (Sami Frey), Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Odile (Anna Karina) as their plan to burgle a rich old lady go tragicomically wrong.
FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, Mario Bava, director/Arrow Video The fashion in which Mario Bava’s influenced the younger Dario Argento may be seen in this curious but intriguing misfire, and despite its restrained bloodshed (not to mention its outrageous, often hilarious 70s fashions), Five Dolls for an August Moon, is not without interest. On Blu-ray and DVD, this dual-format release joins a roster of previous Bava titles released through Arrow Video – A Bay of Blood, Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Lisa and the Devil, Rabid Dogs and Blood and Black Lace. This new disc comes with a wealth of bonus content including the documentary Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre – a profile of the director, hosted by Mark Kermode and featuring interviews with Joe Dante, John Carpenter and Tim Burton). Wealthy industrialist George Stark (Teodora Corràs) has gathered a group of friends – played by a who’s who of Italian genre cinema including William Berger, Ira von Fürstenberg, the sultry Edwige Fenech and Howard Ross – to his island retreat. He hopes to entice them into investing in a new project, but soon the sunbathing and cocktails parties give way to murder, as the corpses begin to pile up one by one. Paying homage to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, Five Dolls for an August Moon makes up in eye-popping style what it lacks in narrative rigour.