Naked You Die
Italy | 1968
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring
Mark Damon
Eleonora Brown

Michael Rennie
Color
| 97 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Dark Sky Films
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
 
6
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: April 24, 2007
A shiny, happy giallo? Well... yeah. Sort of.
    Compared to the darker, sleazier, and certainly more violent gialli unleashed by the likes of Fulci and Argento just a few years later, 1968's Naked You Die* plays like a bright 'n' breezy romp it never takes itself too seriously. Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), considered the first true giallo, contained elements of humor but was first and foremost a murder mystery; his follow-up, Blood and Black Lace ('64), established the template for the sadistic mayhem and sexual fetishism with which the genre is most identified. With Naked You Die, director Antonio Margheriti (Castle of Blood, Cannibal Apocalypse) chooses to wink at the audience with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Doubtless a lot of giallo fans won't go for this lighthearted approach... To be honest, I wasn't expecting to, either. Yet the film surprised me. It's fun.
    Margheriti starts things off with a classic staple of the genre, the 'Bathtub Kill.' A woman, alone in her Paris apartment, is taking a bath when she's attacked, strangled and drowned by a methodical black-gloved killer (whose face naturally isn't shown). The murderer puts the victim's nude body into a steamer trunk, which is then shipped to an exclusive private school for girls in southern France. It's near the end of the summer break at the St. Hilda Academy, with only six students in residence there. A handful of teachers arrive along with the trunk by car. None of the girls claim the trunk so the school's servants store it in the garage, where it's forgotten.
   
Before the day is out one of the students goes missing. Another of the girls, perky, hyper-imaginative Jill (Sally Smith), fancies herself a mystery novelist and starts conducting her own amateur investigation. But her peers, as well as the faculty members, aren't that terribly alarmed, even after a search turns up nothing. It's assumed that the missing girl ran off with her boyfriend or some such, so the police aren't summoned. They soon will be, however. The very next night a student is found strangled to death in the shower. Inspector Durand (Michael Rennie of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Battle of El Alamein) is called in, bringing with him a squad of uniformed cops. While his men comb the school buildings and grounds, Durand sets up shop in the office of the headmistress and begins his investigation, questioning the students, faculty and staff, who aren't permitted to leave the premises. Before long the inspector realizes he's hunting an incredibly bold murderer. Regardless of risk, it seems, this killer MUST kill again even with the gendarmes alert and on guard! The gardener is discovered stabbed to death, a sickle buried in his chest, while another of the girls is almost drowned in the swimming pool by an attacker clad in a wetsuit and facemask... And what's up with that body in the trunk?
    Margheriti was no auteur, but he was definitely a pro. Naked You Die looks great, featuring a stylish if not especially flashy use of colors and compositions that take advantage of the wide 2.35:1 canvas. The pic's 'James Bond meets Batman TV series' theme song ("Night-MARE!") is a goofy gas. And if slick editing/precise camera positioning render the blink-and-you'll miss-it nudity tame rather than tawdry, and there's no gore whatsoever (this is the '60s we're talking about), at least the central mystery is an interesting one. It's outlandish without being preposterous, picking up considerable steam in the third act. The cast is good, too. Rennie, who at first seems a bit stiff (as if embarrassed to be appearing in an Italian potboiler), eventually loosens up and gets with the program. Luciano Pigozzi, AKA "Alan Collins" (Baron Blood), essays yet another 'creepy servant' role (just how many of these characters did he play?); he gets rather comically hot 'n' bothered while peeping into the girls' bathroom. Much of the story revolves around a romance between the school's studly riding instructor (House of Usher's Mark Damon) and a 17-year old heiress (Eleonora Brown), but it's Sally Smith, as busybody/amateur sleuth Jill, who effortlessly steals the movie from everybody else. She has a flair for comic timing (evident even with her voice dubbed into Italian) and is as cute as a button with her big blue eyes and short pixie 'do. The Scooby Doo antics of Smith's character and her bubbly performance give the film much of its lighthearted buoyancy. (I mean, how can you not like Jill... She reads Marvel comic books!)
    Completely undistinguished, Naked You Die is nonetheless capably mounted, attractively cast and, most importantly, entertaining.
* Nude... Si Muore in Italian. The film has had at least three alternate English-language titles: School Girl Killer, The Miniskirt Murders and The Young, the Evil & the Savage.

Naked You Die makes its North American home video debut thanks to the folks at Dark Sky Films. The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks terrific; a teeny smidgen of print damage here and there never really detracts from the pleasing visuals. Audio Italian language 2.0 Digital Mono is disappointingly flat-sounding but otherwise serviceable enough. The easy-to-read English subtitles are excellent.
    For extras the disc offers the Italian theatrical trailer (subtitled, in surprisingly fine shape) and an image gallery of international lobby cards. 'Tis a pity that the English-dubbed American version, The Young, the Evil and the Savage (distributed by AIP), was, for whatever reason, unavailable. I'm sure it's inferior to the Italian edit (since it runs some 15 minutes shorter), but it would've been nice to hear Rennie, Damon and especially Smith in their own voices. (The cast's English speakers are the worst dubbed.) 4/13/07
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