Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Death Occurred Last Night (RaroVideo Blu-ray) - There's Always Room for Giallo (on Blu-ray)

Not too long ago I set out to watch every giallo picture ever created or at least every Italian film that might represent the subgenre that I could find. I went off a great big list and ravaged the internet, dumped loads of cash at the project and created my own beautifully color-coded, well organized spreadsheet. I got through a little over a third of the 280 plus moves on the list before I realized that I needed a break. In those days I reviewed less, slept less or at least had more consistent sleep throughout the night for short spurts and only had one kid to worry about with a bedtime of 8. That was just over two years ago, and despite my best efforts I haven't gotten back on the challenge. I simply cannot find the time, resources or reliable sleep to viewing ratio that makes this possible. Even when Ava was a newborn, midnight feedings were the perfect opportunity to check another movie off the list. Now that she's older... Bubble Guppies if I'm lucky when she wakes and won't sleep. Still I've noticed some great changes happening across the great wide horror-verse in the last couple of years. neo-giallo is becoming thing though not entirely Italian focused. There's plenty of new genre movies to enjoy and more to come. Then there's the absolutely essential cataloging of some of the greats by companies like RaroVideo. RaroVideo is giving Italian cinema a new life with some really spectacular Blu-ray releases. These are primo packaged (though jokingly we can never get the slip sleeves off) with fan friendly extras, brilliant transfers and booklets. Today we discuss Death Occurred Last Night. While this wasn't my first time around with Death Occurred Last Night, I promise you that the hacked up copy I saw last time was a joke compared to this release. This is the release you need to pick up if you like Italian crime or giallo.

Synopsis from RaroVideo

An astute mix of classic Italian crime and giallo, Duccio Tessari’s Death Occurred Last Night is a dark slow burning murder mystery. A mentally handicapped woman is kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, sending her distressed father and a jaded police detective on the hunt for clues in Milan’s underworld. Tessari (THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY) keeps a tight rein on the action, focusing on the characters and their collective desire for justice and revenge. An unforgettable, disturbing and fascinating thriller.

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First off, in the time that I had spent enjoying gialli, the common tropes that we all joke about seem to wash away. Sure everyone's drinking J&B, but not every movie features a shadowy figure in a black fedora. Not all of them are intensely violent, and they aren't all sex filled Italian hottie fests though admittedly I prefer them as gratuitous as possible. Death Occurred Last Night might be described as a kinder gentler giallo feature. It isn't as off the wall as some of the other movies in the genre, but in 1970 things were just starting to pick up. The scores were becoming a little bit edgier walking slowly toward progressive jazz or rock, and audiences wanted to see EVERYTHING on screen. Death Occurred Last Night is a mystery that has some erotic moments, but isn't an Edwige Fenech nudie fest. It's cooks you on simmer, providing ample time to decipher the mystery. Think of this as the Columbo of gialli. This is not uncommon mind you. This is actually probably closer to the norm from the third of of the great 280 on my list.

I urge you not to sit down to DOLN and expect an Argento or Martino picture. Duccio Tessari did Puzzle and The Bloodstained Butterfly, but he was more over noted for his involvement in the founding of the spaghetti western genre. He co-wrote a Fistful of Dollars, and this type of feature wasn't exactly a regular occurrence in his forty plus movie filmography. He was make movies well in advance of this, and Death Occurred Last Night is a competently shot feature with real intrigue, balance and although not riveting, it will certainly keep your attention over its 98 minute run time.

RaroVideo's transfer looks great from a 35mm negative. 1920 x 1080 @ 23.976 1.75:1. It's in Italian with English subtitles and has linear stereo audio. Plenty of grain and the preservation didn't go over the top with the DNR. It isn't a smeared painting of a mess. It's crisp and tight. The extras include both the Italian and English theatrical trailers. The interview with Chris Alexander is a treat. Alexander does quite a few of these introductions and brief summations on other titles. He'll help to put the picture in perspective. While he's the editor of Fangoria, Gorezone and Delirium magazines, it is in this capacity that I find his work most valuable. If you're new to Italian cinema or giallo, make sure to pay attention to this special feature. The booklet, also written by Alexander, reinforces his points and fleshes out the cinematic landscape during the early 70's as well as provides a nice well-rounded background on DOLN. It's handsome. The cover art for both the slip and the insert are perfect and traditional.

Death Occurred Last Night isn't necessarily the best starter movie when it comes to delving into the world of giallo, but once you've seen a few it will fill in the spaces between early Bava and movies like Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red. RaroVideo fanatics, another good one. Nothing wasted and everything you've come to expect from this boutique distro company. It's great to see such care taken with a film that is considered a cult fan favorite. It's a great age when movies like this are being taken care of quite well and even given the royal treatment.

You can order Death Occurred Last Night now! Pre-order it. Also available on DVD.

Enjoy RaroVideo's titles HERE.

-Doc Terror

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