Fantastic title, unfortunately this Eurothriller from Luciano Ercoli is only a so-so giallo.
The film opens not with an airplane landing (like so many gialli), rather a train hurtling through the night. Before the audience has even got a chance to get comfy, a man who is being especially furtive with a gun is suddenly knifed in the neck by an assassin with piercing blue eyes, wearing a balaclava helmet. … Cut to Paris, where exotic dancer Nicole (Susan Scott aka Nieves Navarro) is being interviewed with her boyfriend, Michelle (Simón Andreu), by the Chief Commissioner. Turns out that the murdered man was an international jewel thief; not only that but he also happened to be Nicole’s father – not that you’d know it as she seems almost bored by the news of his bloody demise. The Commissioner tells her that a million dollars worth of diamonds are missing, and if she knows their whereabouts it’d be in her best interests to tell them where they are. Otherwise she might put herself in mortal danger.
Nicole takes her mind off things with not one but two erotic cabaret routines, in a joint so classy one patron tells a doorman, “… and they were so big you couldn’t see her feet!”. In one routine she dons loads of fake tan to emulate a black woman, and grinds on down with a fistful of feather boa. The next she wears a gold wig and energetically frugs about in a cage to the delighted whoops of a drunken lounge audience. Backstage, she gets an appreciative visit from a British man, Doctor Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff - who tragically took his own life the same year). However, it’s not long before the diamond business catches up with her when she gets a phone call from someone using a voice-box to disguise their voice (sounding suspiciously like the quacking killer in Lucio Fulci’s later NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)!): “Tell me where the diamonds are .. or I’ll kill you!”. To her credit, Nicole takes this all with her characteristic laissez faire attitude; she tells the caller, “Watch your big act, Dracula!”
However, later that night Nicole is attacked by the killer with the blue eyes, as she relaxes in her apartment. He rips her flimsy negligee open and threatens to cut her to ribbons with a cutthroat razor unless she says where the diamonds are; teasingly running the razor over her trembling body. Nicole says she has no idea, and he gives her one more chance before leaving her with the parting shot, “Next time I’ll use the sharp edge of the blade …”
Nicole runs into the arms of Michelle, but flees when she finds blue contacts in his medicine cupboard; fearing he might be the killer. She looks up Dr Matthews, and urges him to take her back to England with her – promising, “I’ll do anything to get away from Paris!”. The pair jet back to Blighty, and after a jolly round of pub lunches and trying on flares in swinging London Dr Matthews takes Nicole to his very isolated seaside cottage for some R&R. However, R&R is in short supply as Nicole’s past eventually catches up with her … and she’s stalked by death on high heels!
Ercoli’s gialli have been called a showcase for his wife, Susan Scott, and it’s easy to see why. Watch her dance! Watch her try on groovy threads! Thrill to her wigs! See her drop her negligee and wriggle on a shagpile! However, whilst she’s certainly no Edwige Fenech, Scott pretty much manages to carry the film with her, admittedly limited, thespian skills – and is always fun to watch.
Interestingly, although the production obviously came to the UK, with some effective location shooting in both London and some English countryside backwater, Dr Matthew’s seaside cottage is patently not British (unless they’ve started growing olive trees in Cornwall!). As is often with Italian productions, ostensibly British locations are filled to the brim with Latin performers. Even the archetypical British pub has genre stalwarts Georges Rigaud and Luciano Rossi as part of its shifty clientele!
I know it’s a little bit odd to suggest that a film made over thirty years ago might be a little bit dated, but DEATH WALKS IN HIGH HEELS owes as much to 50s and 60s espionage dramas and heist dramas as it does to the then contemporary giallo films of Argento, Martino and Mario Bava. The body count is secondary to intrigue. Certainly, there are red herrings a-go-go – my personal favourite is when Nicole hears the voice of the killer whilst she’s in the pub, for it to turn out to be a vicar with a tracheotomy! Then there’s some ingenious stuff about ice delaying rigor mortis, and a suspect puking on a copper’s helmet, but it’s not enough to raise the bar.
DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS will delight any fan of 70s Euro cheese, but it’s not grade-A giallo stuff – and is probably Ercoli’s lesser entry (both FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A WOMAN ABOVE SUSPICION (1970) and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT (1972) are superior). However, it’s certainly worth a look by any hardcore fan of the genre.
female:2 / male:1
1) Male has throat cut with knife
2) Female found drowned
3) Female slashed to death with knife