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  Death Walks at Midnight Scream, Susan, Scream
Year: 1972
Director: Luciano Ercoli
Stars: Susan Scott, Simón Andreu, Peter Martell, Carlo Gentili, Ivana Staccioli, Fabrizio Moresco, Claudio Pellegrini, Luciano Rossi, Raul Aparici, Claudie Lange
Genre: Horror, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sexy fashion model, Valentina (Susan Scott) is tricked into sampling an hallucinogenic drug for a bogus science experiment, by smarmy journalist Gio Baldi (Simón Andreu). Under the drugs influence, she witnesses a killer in dark sunglasses bash a spiky, iron glove into a screaming woman’s face, grinding it to a bloody pulp. Neither the clueless cops, headed by stern-faced Inspector Seripa (Carlo Gentili), nor her broody sculptor boyfriend Stefano (Peter Martell) believe anything is going on. Especially when the evidence vanishes mysteriously. After the killer lures Valentina into an abandoned apartment, she barely escapes with her life and resolves to solve this mystery. The trail leads to an insane asylum, an enigmatic woman (Claudie Lange) out to catch her sister’s killer, a strange hippie (Fabrizio Moresco) who follows Valentina’s every move, a drug-trafficking gang, and some nasty surprises.

Following the success of Death Walks on High Heels (1971), producer-director Luciano Ercoli tailored another vehicle for his lovely and talented wife, Nieves Navarro who acts under her anglicised pseudonym, Susan Scott. With script input from spaghetti western specialist Sergio Corbucci, writers Ernesto Gastaldi and Menahaem Velasco deliver another twisted murder-mystery that hinges this time on a typical giallo conceit: the clue lurking within the detective’s own subconscious mind. It’s less ingeniously constructed than the previous film, but consistently teases and thrills right down to the genuinely suspenseful rooftop finale, where good guys and bad bash the living hell out of each other.

We also get more screen time for Scott/Navarro. Always a good thing, even though she disappointingly remains fully clothed throughout. Matching the bright and breezy tone, Scott shines as the feisty, outspoken heroine, modelling some pretty outrageous seventies fashions (Watch out for her wig made of silver tubes!) and exchanging witty banter with returning co-stars Andreu (again the outwardly slimy, but two-fisted hero), Gentili (ditto: the dumb cop), and Lange. Most of the male characters seem more irked by Valentina’s carefree, hedonistic lifestyle than by the grisly antics psycho-killer. Girls, get ready to fling your remote at the screen when Stefano smugly intones: “If you settled down and had a kid, you wouldn’t waste your time doing stupid things.”

The somewhat conservative script includes attacks on hippies, modern art and feminists, but is counterbalanced by the proactive heroine, who gets to shoot bad guys and kick a comedy rapist in the balls. A scene set in an insane asylum where Valentina is molested by a tap-dancing mental patient is somewhat distasteful (not to say bizarre), but her encounter with the van-driving, would be rapist (“You look like an actress, lovely. Something in you moves me”) proves surprisingly funny. Ercoli’s command of the widescreen frame has improved and he helms an eye-catching sequence with Valentina menaced in the abandoned apartment, with flickering lights, shadows and gory snippets from her drug-induced hallucination. The soundtrack by Gianni Ferrio is also excellent, particularly his hauntingly lovely “Valentina” theme. Of course, the strangest thing about this movie is, despite the title, every scene takes place in daylight.

Susan Scott would return, sans Luciano Ercoli (but also sans clothes, exploitation fans!) in Death Carries a Cane (1972) and The Slasher is a Sex Maniac (1972).
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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