Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Antonio Margheriti, 1968
Starring: Mark Damon, Eleonora Brown, Michael Rennie

A woman is strangled and drowned to death in her bathtub, and then her body is placed in a trunk and delivered, unnoticed, to St. Hilda’s School for girls. There a number of young ladies are dispatched by the same mysterious killer, whose target seems to be the pretty, but nervous Lucille. A detective tries to weed out the plentiful suspects, including a riding instructor having an affair with Lucille, a number of other professors, the gardener with Peeping Tom tendencies, and more. One of the students, the perky Jill, gets a hold of a police walkie-talkie and begins a dangerous investigation of her own.

Also known as The Young, the Evil and the Savage, this film is based on a script from Mario Bava, originally titled Cry Nightmare, and at its core, feels like a blend of his first two giallo films. It has the light tone and occasional humor of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and some of the pacing and staging of Blood and Black Lace. For some reason, the film was abandoned by Bava and handed to the prolific Antonio Margheriti, who directed everything from sword and sorcery epics (Yor, the Hunter from the Future) to Jaws rip-offs (Killer Fish), westerns (The Stranger and the Gunfighter), peplum (The Fall of Rome), and science fiction (Battle of the Worlds), though he was primarily known for Italian Gothic horror films like Castle of Blood, The Virgin of Nuremberg, and The Long Hair of Death.

Though it isn’t particularly noteworthy and remains tame in terms of sex and violence – despite the title of Naked You Die, only two of the victims are unclothed and are shown very sparingly on screen – it’s still a fun entry in the budding genre. The dialogue (and especially the dubbing) is absolutely hilarious and there are moments when the film has a soap opera-murder mystery feel, where characters make ridiculous decisions obviously meant to further the plot and to send them right into the killer’s path. Aside from the hysterical Lucille (Eleonora Brown) or Nancy Drew-wannabe Jill (British actress Sally Smith), the girls are largely forgettable and neither Margheriti nor the script try very hard with character development.

Packed with red herrings, this reminded me a little one of my favorite giallo-esque films, bizarre Spanish wonder Pieces (1982), which is set at a university and contains an equal amount of comedy and scares, as well as suspicious campus employees. There is something sweet and innocent about Naked You Die and it is strangely out of place compared to the other early giallo works like the dreamlike, existential The Possessed, or violent, exploitative, and relentlessly strange efforts like Death Laid an Egg, A Quiet Place in the Country, The Frightened Woman, or Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – all made before the big giallo boom of the early ‘70s.

Certainly, a number of these character types would appear frequently in giallo films. The determined, ruthless inspector (played here rather robotically by The Day the Earth Stood Still’s Michael Rennie), the gardener who tries to spy on the girls while they’re showering (Luciano Pignozzi of Blood and Black Lace and Yor), a repressed, disapproving female professor, a tottering, absent-minded male professor, and more. The handsome instructor (Mark Damon of Black Sunday) in love with one of his students is a conceit that would be used far more effectively in What Have You Done to Solange?, though Naked You Die makes decent use of some clever twists and turns.

SPOILERS: The reveal here has little to do with the typical giallo conclusion – which often and has much more in common with German krimi or old-dark-house movies of the ‘30s, like The Cat and the Canary. Lucille is an orphan from a wealthy family (presumably all the girls attending the exclusive boarding school are upper class) and her guardian is determined to kill her before her 18th birthday so that he can take possession of her inheritance. I may have missed something, but this doesn’t explain some of the earlier murders – unless the killer was watching the same film I was, where all the female characters basically look and act the same. And of course they all have some fantastically ‘60s attire in matching pastels colors – school uniforms, bathrobes, bathing suits, sunglasses, accessories, and more.

Naked You Die is available on DVD, fortunately in the uncut Italian version. American International Pictures went through an ill-advised period in the ‘60s and ‘70s where they would release Italian horror, but often in cut, re-edited version with new scores. Bava suffered the most from this, though the original U.S. release of Naked You Die was cut by an entire 15 minutes. Considering how tame this movie is, I can’t help but wonder what on earth was trimmed away – possibly some of the lengthy scenes of dialogue or lounging by the pool. Despite its flaws, Naked You Die is definitely a fun film and is worth a watch for fans of more lighted hearted murder mysteries and sillier giallo films. Just brace yourself for the title song, “Nightmare,” which is stuck in my head yet again just from typing this.

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