Death Walks on High Heels

Death Walks on High Heels

"And one day it dawned on me that every one of my questions meant listening to an answer 
and every answer led to a disappointment."

Nicole Rochard (Nieves Navarro, credited as Susan Scott) is a successful nightclub dancer in Paris but her life isn't all glamor. For one thing, her boyfriend Michel (Simón Andreu) is jealous and frequently drunk. For another, her father (a notorious jewel thief) was recently murdered. And to top it off, she's been harassed and attacked by a masked stranger with piercing blue eyes who demands to know where her father hid millions in diamonds. When Nicole finds blue colored contact lenses in Michel's medicine cabinet, she seizes the opportunity to skip town with a married middle-aged doctor (Frank Wolff) to set up a love nest in the English countryside.  Unfortunately, she gets caught up in her new lover's drama, complicated by the sudden appearance of Michel. Who will live to the end? Who is the mastermind behind these dangerous games? And what does any of this have to do with the diamond heist?

Not a bad giallo, though it's light on blood and scares, focusing mainly on the byzantine plot. The film relies heavily on flashbacks, as it unfolds from different points of view. This can be intriguing but also confusing. Especially since Nicole and Robert's wife Vanessa (Claudie Lange) look very similar – both are petite redheads with high cheekbones and their makeup and clothes are similar. You might be tempted to think that there's a Vertigo-esque double-role plot twist or an identity-switch scam afoot but they are, in fact, just two similar-looking actresses playing two different roles.

  • The props department must have had a good deal on telephones, because the same distinctive two-tone model shows up in the Paris police station, the London police station, Nicole's house, the local tavern, and Robert's cabin.
  • Frank Wolff appears in The Cold Eyes of Fear which, though it's not technically a giallo, is worth checking out.
  • Apparently, everyone had a good time making this movie because Ercoli gathered a lot of the same cast and crew the following year for a follow-up, Death Stalks at Midnight. Though the films have similar titles, Midnight isn't a sequel. Though it is a trashier, scarier, and better movie.
What the Hell Am I Watching?
There are a few good jaw-droppers in this movie, starting with the sexy-eating scene a la Tom Jones. It's meant to be erotic, but it's just nauseating.

Then there's the extended eyeball surgery sequence. We watch in extreme close-up as a knife cuts into an eyeball, removing a cataract.

What about that last shot, where the two detectives talk about how the high-heeled killer could easily have been a man and then share a knowing, pursed-lipped glance? Are we meant to assume that they're actually a gay couple?

But most astonishing of all is the blackface dance routine. For her first nightclub act, Nicole dances in a beaded g-string bikini a boa, and a short, dark wig, and at first it just looks like the lighting is weird. She's against a white background, which maybe possibly could make her skin look a little darker.  But then, Michel visits her backstage looking for some naughty time. He offers to help her remove her body makeup and he actually says "I like you when you're all blacked up."  YIKES!

Fashion Moment
There's a montage where Nicole is trying on clothes and for a brief second we see her in a mod orange and black mini-dress and the titular thigh-high boots. Or there are her cabaret costumes: the aforementioned beaded bikini and, later a metallic gold wig like the one that shows up in Death Stalks at Midnight. That's pretty cool, but my favorite is Vanessa's all-purple outfit with a leopard-pattern coat.