FTP: Death Walks on High Heels (1971)

JUNE 21, 2022


Most "pile" movies are acquired (trivia winnings, unrequested review mailings, etc) but Death Walks on High Heels (Italian: La morte cammina con i tacchi alti) was apparently a purchase; as I tore off the shrink wrap I noticed a Fry's price tag. Fry's, for non locals, was a strange electronics store chain that seemingly specialized in outdated tech; whenever I needed an ancient kind of adapter or wire, I would almost always be able to find it there. Remember those "Game/TV" switches we used to have in the '80s for our 8-Bit Nintendos? I bought one there in like, 2013. So basically RadioShack, but with the size and scope of the glory era of Best Buy. The chain went belly up during Covid, but the writing was on the wall long before then - I remember going in 2019 and seeing several empty shelves, as if it were the last week of business.

It was probably on one of these final trips that I picked the movie up, since they for some reason always had a healthy supply of Arrow releases; it wasn't uncommon to see a Disney or Universal blockbuster be completely MIA but seven copies of something like The Stuff just sitting there. So it was probably on sale when I was getting something else and I was like "Hey, a Giallo I haven't seen!", but who knows. All I know is... it wasn't worth the wait. It's fine, nothing I hated watching or anything, but definitely falls in the "for completists only" section of the sub-genre, with only one solid twist at the halfway point setting it apart from a dozen others. It's a twist that has been done before (most famously in 1960, clue!) but it still surprised me all the same and gave the movie a little bit of a spark when it needed it most.

Alas, most of it is just too much "same ol" fare: the killer is after some stolen jewelry, there's a pervy guy across the way who is clearly NOT the killer but has to be there to give a red herring, etc. I tend to prefer the gialli where the killer is driven by some kind of psychological torment as opposed to a financial motive, but I can still be engaged if there's enough flair to the proceedings. Alas, the screenwriter even notes on one of the interviews that the director (Luciano Ercoli) was a guy who worked regularly because he could get the job done and on time, not because of his ability to dazzle audiences with his skills. So it's no surprise that the movie seemingly works from a checklist, with the script doing all the heavy lifting.

That checklist lacked one thing though: J&B whiskey! There's one (1) bottle in the middle of an arrangement, where you can't even see the label (the green glass and red top gives it away), breaking a longstanding tradition in these things. But on a positive note, it's slightly less misogynist than most of the era; a good chunk of the movie is about an older guy who is unhappy in his marriage and thinks the world of our heroine, so he treats her very well, and her previous lover isn't as much of a jerk as many of his counterparts. If not for a rather gruesome demise at around the hour mark, where the killer seems to be sawing the woman's throat with his knife, I'd say it was overall the least problematic (to modern audiences) one I've ever seen. So in that regard it might make for a good entry one for audiences who get easily offended, but at the same time it's so perfunctory that they likely won't be excited about seeing any others.

Even Tim Lucas seems kind of indifferent to it; his historian commentary is loaded with uncharacteristic stretches of silence - at one point I considered whether I had accidentally turned the regular audio back on. More often than not he's just sort of narrating the film and adding some insight about its themes, as opposed to noting its place in the sub-genre's canon, what its other actors did before/after, etc. There's some of that, of course, but nowhere near as much as average. The interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi is also seemingly disinterested in the actual topic; he spends nearly fifteen minutes complaining about how Sergio Leone changed part of his script for Once Upon A Time in America!

So it's kind of fitting that I acquired the movie so randomly in the first place. I certainly didn't set out to buy it; very likely just grabbing it while I was getting other things that I presumably watched already. Because it likewise seems like it's an afterthought for most involved, though lead actress Nieves Navarro married Ercoli a year later, so I guess something nice came from- nope, they met on The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, I'm now seeing. Maybe this one helped pay for the wedding? I dunno. It's fine.

What say you?


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