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Dark Sky Films presents
"Maybe she passed out, fell into the suitcase and it locked up."
DVD ReviewWith the DVD releases of most of the output of bigger names such as Dario Argento and Mario Bava already under their belts, the DVD studios are forced to dig into the catalogues of less well known practitioners of the gialli. This minor entry from the prolific Antonio Margheriti (under his standard nom de cinema, Anthony Dawson) is a reasonably satisfying little thriller that relies on character more than brutal set pieces.
At an English girls' school, St. Hilda College, some of the students start to turn up murdered one by one. Suspicion immediately falls upon new teachers, riding teacher Richard Barrett (Mark Damon), who is altogether too friendly with the girls, oddball swimming instructor di Brazzi (Giovanni Di Benedetto) and stern new governess Ms. Clay (Ludmilla Lvova). Or could it be the creepy Peeping Tom gardener, La Floret (Luciano Pogozzi). The murders somehow seem connected to young Lucille (Eleonora Brown), and her friend Jill (Sally Smith), an aspiring mystery writer, decides that she will turn detective in order to solve the mystery. Inspector Durant (Michael Rennie) doesn't seem to be getting anywhere as more girls are attacked and even other suspects start turning up murdered.
Although the murders aren't spectacular, there are plenty of elements of the giallo here even though it's a quite early example of the genre. The first murder is committed with the requisite black gloves, and the entire opening sequence can't help but intrigue as you follow the trail of the nude body of a woman murdered in the bathtub as she's dragged into a trunk, and then we follow the trunk on its journey to St. Hilda. Why, and by whom, is the central mystery, and the resolution is reasonably satisfying even if there are some questionable lapses of logic along the way. It's unfortunate that Margheriti can't maintain the fascination of the memorable opening, getting bogged down in a half hour or more of schoolgirl crushes on teachers that don't move the picture forward in any substantial way.
What sets Naked You Die apart from many others in the genre is the attention given to characters. One of the more intriguingly developed is Jill, with her penchant for Nancy Drew tactics and delight at minor gadgetry (such as a set of walkie-talkies). Her overactive imagination also helps complicate the situation as she begins to assume all manner of improbable motives for the killer. Her developing crush on Durant leaves Rennie suitably nonplussed, since he gives every indication of being gay and certainly seems unsure how to handle an underage girl. It pays off in a charmingly silly gag at the finale, as Jill turns out to have a surprising father. The impetuous nature of the girls both in their romances and their desire to solve the mystery themselves offers plenty of opportunity for both comedy and drama, and the script makes the most of it. It's entertaining to see young women who are neither doomed to die because of their sexuality nor super action heroes.
Despite the title, the nudity is rather limited, with only some brief skin early on. There are some suggestive moments later, but even the obligatory shower scenes are quite discreet. Violence is also restrained, without the rampant gore that would be a feature of the genre in the 1970s. The murders are commited POV of the killer, but since the favored modus operandi is strangulation there isn't a lot of horrific content. Should someone want to try the gialli in mild form, one could do a lot worse than this offering. Released in substantially cut form as The Young, the Evil and the Savage in the U.S., this appears to be the picture's first uncut release in America.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture has its good moments and some that are less than happy. The opening has some serious wear in spots, and modest speckling is evident throughout. The picture is disappointingly soft, lacking in fine detail and texture. Black levels are very weak, but on the other hand colors are reasonably well rendered with nice strong reds, greens and golds in particular. Since the blacks are limited, shadow detail is pretty good.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The only audio track included is a 2.0 mono Italian version, which is pretty badly dubbed. It's too bad there isn't a proper English version available with Rennie's voice included; hearing him speak Italian in an entirely different voice is a little discomfiting. The sound quality is pretty marginal, with the bass on the main title song, Nightmare, cranked up to distortive levels. The audio is lacking in definition generally and does little more than get the job done. It is relatively clean, however.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsA rather mild but character-based Italian thriller that has some good moments. The source has some issues, and the extras are limited.
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