Horror Movie A Day: Quint on NAKED YOU DIE (1968) This thing is heavy! Maybe there’s a dead body inside.
Published at: Oct. 13, 2008, 11:44 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
Now this is a bizarre little movie. I can’t really say it’s particularly well done. The big twist is telegraphed from the opening 5 minutes, the kills are without any real sense of danger or mood and the photography is bright, devoid of any atmosphere.
However, this is something compelling about the film that I’m still trying to put my finger on as I write this column.
I think a lot of it is how it acts as a precursor to the career of Dario Argento, who kind of took this giallo formula and added in tension, atmosphere and a pre-Lynchian fucked up bizarreness that became cornerstones of his career.
Also, the lovely Italian (and English) girls cast in the movie don’t hurt the eyes, either.
Essentially what you have in this film is a direct precursor to SUSPIRIA, set in an all-girls boarding school, but outside of that and the POV of a gloved killer there’s very little to compare to Argento’s work.
The movie opens with a murder of a woman taking a bath, where the NAKED YOU DIE title comes up, of course. Because she is naked. And dies. The movie delivers on the title in the first five minutes!
My favorite part of the opening actually involves what happens to the girl after she dies. The unseen killer puts her body into a trunk and we follow that trunk as it’s put on a taxi, loaded onto a bus, etc and then it’s delivered to the boarding school as the baggage of one of the people within the bus.
Which gives us a very interesting opening, pretty much telling us that one of the four or five people we meet in the bus is the killer. We have a few different characters… a handsome riding instructor (BLACK SABBATH’s Mark Damon) returning from holiday, an older man who is the new Gym teacher, the Peter Lorre-looking creepy groundskeeper and a quiet, well-kempt woman, another new addition to the staff.
I really dig this set-up, but the movie kind of squanders it, never really getting scary. And if you’re not scared of this phantom killer, if you can guess the identity of the killer before the bus even arrives at the school, then the rest of the time it seems the movie’s trying to catch up to where the audience already is.
And I’m not one to see twists coming. I don’t typically figure out endings to movies. I usually don’t spend the movie trying to guess what’s going on, rather I tune into the story and flow along with it. So, me saying I saw the ending coming means it’s pretty damn obvious. I actually blame the dubbing job (the film was in Italian, with English subtitles) that tipped the hat too early.
But even with those flaws, the girls are actually pretty interesting. We soon learn that the dead students who start popping up were mostly mistaken for one of the main characters, Lucille, played by the hazel-eyed beauty Eleonora Brown, a rich heiress waiting to take control of her riches on her 18th Birthday, which is quickly approaching.
She’s in love with Damon, which means for a lot of sneaking around. At one point he becomes the main suspect and I’ll give them credit for almost throwing me off my initial guess at the killer’s identity, but ultimately I found my theory to continue to strengthen as the movie went on.
One of the other girls, Jill, played by English actress Sally Smith, is one of the highlights of the movie for me. She’s a bouncy, wide-eyed aspiring crime writer who spies on the investigating team that comes in after another girl is found dead.
Michael Rennie, of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL fame, plays the lead detective who doesn’t do much more than sit around the principal’s office and ask questions. He’s mostly there to find Jill eavesdropping at the door and give her someone to bounce her enthusiasm off of.
She’s not scared at all about the killings and seems to view it all as material for her book.
The movie is very ‘60s which also helps, I think, in its watchability. It’s in that weird middle ground between ‘60s thriller and ‘70s exploitation/giallo filmmaking. There is nudity, but it’s very quick and delicately handled. The killings are usually not more than gloved hands around the neck of the victim. And the atmosphere is definitely swinging ‘60s in color and costume. There’s even a crazy up-beat psychadelic swinging pop tune called NIGHTMARE that would sound more at home on an episode of the Adam West BATMAN series than in a horror film.
An interesting side-note… apparently Mario Bava was an uncredited writer of this film, directed by Antonio Margheriti, better known to genre fans as Anthony Dawson, director of CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE and YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE, among other flicks.
Final Thoughts: The movie is very flawed, but still compelling thanks to hitting that sweet-spot I talked about earlier between ‘60s thriller and ‘70s exploitation. If the twist was hidden better, it’d be one of the most shocking reveals of the era. If the kills had any real atmosphere or menace, then I think this would be a gem of the genre. As it stands now, the characters are likable and quirky enough to keep you engaged, but it’s ultimately a pretty forgettable, if enjoyable, movie.
Now check out this shameless poster for a US release promising a radically different movie. The flick was also released under the title THE MINISKIRT MURDERS, FYI.
The reputation this one has isn’t good. Moriarty actually tried to get me to take this one out of the drawing pool because he said it’s so shitty. Maybe so, but c’mon… it has Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid and Clint Howard! There’s got to be something to take away from THE WRAITH, right? See you folks tomorrow for that one!