Death Walks at Midnight ★★★½

Here we come to the Luciano Ercoli giallo that absolutely defines the screen persona of the wonderful Nieves Navarro. Her glamourous photo model protagonist in this film, Valentina, is one of the great giallo heroines: resourceful, absolutely. Spirited, you betcha! Beautiful ... most assuredly. But, boy - is there anyone in the history of Itallian genre cinema more disaster prone? She innocently visits a mental asylum with an acquaintance, and immediately gets trapped in a roomful of its gibbering inmates (pretty lax regime here); after she  escapes this ordeal she hitches a lift back to Milan - only to have the driver turn out to be a over-enthusiastic sex pest who tries to bundle her into the back of his shag van.

 In fact,  this woman cannot walk down a street without getting herself involved in an altercation of somekind or other, usually ending up with her either slapping someone in the face; screaming how such-and-such is  "a bloody bastard!" at the top of her lungs; or defiantly hurling a rock or a brick through a window. When she exits a room she will inadvertently smash a door into some poor sap's face; or if she opens a door, there will probably turn out to have been someone leaning on the other side of it who will then fall into the room! 

Death Walks at Midnight is a wonderfully stylised and colourful piece of 1970s Italian popular cinema that veers wildly between an Argento-esque combination of screen violence and art-for-art's-sake asthetics and pure comedy slapstick. Even the rooftop punch-up at the end is choreographed more along Buster Keaton lines than the hard-hitting, gritty action fest one imagines you'd find at the heart of this type of thriller. It looks stunning, but it never pretends to be anything other than a finely wrought but highly superficial piece of pop entertainment. I've seen it four times now and I still can make precisely no sense whatsoever of a plot that is surely an example of one of screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi's less coherent narratives, although that fact never detracts from the entertainment value.

Ian liked this review