Sunday, August 13, 2006

The connoisseur and his lady

In three years and three films, the Luciano Ercoli-Susan Scott duo left a touch of their own to Giallo, before disappearing with a large sum of money Ercoli had suddenly inherited from a relative.

Lots have been said about Ercoli/Scott's films bringing a feminist point of view to the genre, and there is no question about it: for the first time in this otherwise rather machist production, women were empowered and key to the plots (on this topic, read this interesting review of "Forbidden photos" and a previous article from this blog).

Despite this undeniable emphasis put on women, almost as a political statement, it is also interesting to see "Le foto proibite di una signora per bene" (1970), "La morte camina con i tacchi alti" (1971) and "La morte accarezza a mezzanotte" (1972) as visual testimonies of what state-of-the-art fashion and design meant in early 70s' Europe.
Building on glamourous lifestyles (Susan Scott is either a model or a dancer or even a lady with no other known activity than just taking pleasure out of life), these three movies are definitely landmarks of the genre: skirts, dresses, sunglasses, handbags, make-up and wigs - just remember Dagmar Lassander in "Photos..." - are displayed in an endless ballet, turning the movies into 90 minutes-catwalks in which the star of the show would be Susan Scott.

And indeed Susan Scott - aka Nieves Navarro - shines like a star in her boyfriend's movies. Everytime she's on screen she becomes the main focus and grabs attention like no other. So much so that when she disappears half-way through in "La morte camina con i tacchi alti", the film is somehow loosing its substance.
Evidence that in the end, all three movies would certainly not have been the same if Luciano Ercoli, decidedly a connoisseur, hadn't been in love with Susan Scott, decidedly a lady with an attitude.

"Le foto proibite di una signora per bene" (Forbidden photos of a lady above suspicion - 1970), "La morte camina con i tacchi alti" (Death walks on high heels - 1971) and "La morte accarezza a mezzanotte" (Death walks at midnight - 1972) are three highly enjoyable gialli, with an outstanding collection of soundtracks composed respectively by Morricone, Stelvio Cipriani and the great Gianni Ferrio. Don't miss them.


robert said...

Forbidden Photos is my favourite Ercoli giallo, an excellent film.

Stephen Grimes said...

Waiting for Forbidden Photos disc to arrive any day now,your excellent piece has certainly whetted my appetite.

Whiggles said...

I tend to be more critical of the kitschy, camp gialli by the likes of Sergio Martino etc., I have a soft spot for Ercoli's offerings. Partly it's because I think Susan Scott was a much better heroine than than Edwige Fenech ever was, but I also think there's a sense of fun in these films that makes them enjoyable even if they lack the complexity of Argento, Fulci, Lado or Dallamano's films. And I completely agree that Death Walks on High Heels grinds to a halt after Scott's character is killed: for that reason it's my least favourite of the "trilogy".

Sylvain L. said...

Whiggles, I must give you credit for this observation re: "Death walks on high heels". It actually made me realise how much Ercoli's films are built around Susan Scott. So thanks for your very insightful review that everyone can find here:

Anonymous said...

i love all of ercoli's gialli, but i think the two death films are a bit too long for the material at hand, Midnight especially suffers from what is probably Gastaldi's worst giallo script.

Marc said...

the thing I love the most about Ercoli are that his films are not as "head heavy" as many other gialli. These are clearly made for enjoyment. The camera is completely in love with Scott, and it shows. I've written a product review of the Death Box Set for Joe Horror.

Feel free to read it here: