• Death Occurred Last Night

    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: May 6th, 2014.
    Director: Duccio Tessari
    Cast: Raf Vallone, Gillian Bray, Frank Wolff
    Year: 1970
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    The Movie:

    Director Duccio Tessari's DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT occupies an interesting niche in the Giallo pantheon. Unusually well plotted and often quite somber in tone, it neatly sidesteps the outlandish sexism of the likes of STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER and avoids the overwrought plot machinations that were often trademarks of the genre. Essentially a locked room mystery that incorporates - surprisingly tastefully - some salacious elements it retains a core of genuine pathos.

    Widower Mr. Berzaghi (Raf Vallone) has come to the police for help. His lovely but severely mentally handicapped daughter Donatella (Gillian Bray) has gone missing. The catches are twofold. One is that Donatella is 25 years old but has the mental acuity of a three year old. The second is that she has a history of being attracted to young men and a possible proclivity to running off with them if given the chance. This has put her disabled father under a horrific strain. He keeps her under lock and key at the home they share but the father also has to work part time to pay the bills. While away at work he has devised a system to keep track of Donatella by phoning home every hour to speak with her. One day she simply vanishes and the mystery is truly baffling - nothing seems disturbed, all the doors that lock the apartment from the inside are intact and there is no sign of a struggle. After a month of no new leads Berzaghi comes to the police station again and ends up speaking with policeman named Lamberti (tragic genre staple Frank Wolff).

    The entrance of Lamberti into the film is where things start to become interesting. Berzaghi is an extremely sympathetic character but oddly so is the inspector. Lamberti initially seems skeptical of making any progress due to Donatella's age ("25 is no girl, that is a woman") and the staggering number of women that disappear every year - usually into the clutches of the sex trade. But the case strikes a chord and he decides to take a personal interest in the matter. First the cop plays at being a pervert trolling for girls by visiting, along with his younger partner Mascaranti (Gabriele Tinti) every illegal brothel and sex den holding captive women he can find. Some of this section of the film is played for inappropriate laughs but it still works dramatically. Parallel to the police investigation the tortured father has been doing some investigating on his own as well.

    DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT moves smartly to a plausible conclusion of the central mystery. That alone makes it a rare beast in the Giallo jungle. Most Giallo plots made so little sense that the actual identity of the "killer" was unimportant. But here it IS important. The other thing that makes the film stand out is its unusually complex characters. Inspector Lamberti has a quirky personality - he plays guitar to relax and has a prominent nasal condition. Wolff has a nice world-weary quality that is contrasted by Vallone's utterly beaten man. Having had taken from him the one thing he loves in his miserable life all he has left is the slim hope of finding his daughter alive. It's a truly heartbreaking turn. Tinti does well as the clich├ęd hotheaded younger cop and the various pimps, degenerate customers and call girls that pop up throughout Lamberti's underworld tour manage to sketch vivid impressions as well.

    The conclusion, indeed the entire final reel, of DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT manages to pack an emotional wallop that stings. This is grim but masterfully executed stuff. Even the bizarre musical score - long a source of contention for even the film's most ardent fans - seems purposefully designed to throw the audience off kilter. And the cinematography by Lamberto Caimi has some nice flair with location work and effective close-ups.


    While some very mild use of DNR is occasionally evident Raro have delivered a very strong transfer here. The 1.75.1 framed 1080p image suffers from no serious defects. The color palette is strong with natural hues and flesh tones look natural. Aside from the aforementioned mild DNR the image has not been compromised by sharpening tools. Black levels could be slightly better but aren't noticeably deficient either. Overall this is a good transfer of a rare film.

    Audio is provided byItalian and English LPCM Mono tracks. While clearly showing the limited range that recording during the period of their creation entailed, both are well balanced and perfectly listenable. The Italian track can be equipped with well-rendered English subtitles that are easy to read as well.

    The extras consist of a video introduction to the film by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander that is well worth your time as well as a theatrical trailer. Alexander has a strong knowledge of the film and addresses its slightly convoluted home video history as well as his own informed personal interpretation of the film, its themes and the director's overall filmography. Raro have also provided liner notes by Alexander and a slipcase for the Blu ray with alternate artwork.

    The Final Word:

    DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT comes highly recommended. Thoughtful, genuinely powerful and well-plotted this one is a bit of an undiscovered Giallo gem. Filled with excellent performances, genuine pathos and strong production values it should be seen by any aficionado of the form.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Honestly, before this review and Chris Alexander's comments on the disc, I've never heard any negative comments about Gianni Ferrio's wonderful score. It stands out for not just having one or two constantly repeated themes, instead having several distinct pieces. I love the score - which I've had for years - I think it's odder if you don't like it. Nice review though.
    1. Horace Cordier's Avatar
      Horace Cordier -
      I do find the score quite strange. But I liked it the first time I heard it. I simply find the film extremely bleak and the score an odd fit. It's a very playful and rousing score. The movie isn't.
    1. Mark C.'s Avatar
      Mark C. -
      Those screencaps look great, I will have to buy this one next order I make.