"You have to tell me! Any moment the murderer could do it again."
St. Hilda College is a prestigious private academy for rich, beautiful young women, but this semester the students are getting an education... in murder! Someone is killing off the girls (and a few members of the staff) and plucky aspiring crime novelist Gille (Sally Smith) wants to be the first to get to the bottom of the case. Before long, Inspector Durand (Michael Rennie) is on the case, sorting out suspects and motives. Could it be dashing riding professor Richard Barrett (Mark Damon), who is having a secret affair with a student? Or perhaps stern Headmistress Transfield (Vivian Stapleton)? What is the killer's motive and why did he ship his first victim all the way to the school in a steamer trunk?
Naked You Die is a fantastic early giallo from Antonio Margheriti, with an uncredited script by Mario Bava. With that kind of pedigree, how could it not be one of the best gialli ever? Bava's fingerprints are all over this one, from the many references to Psycho (two bathroom murders, a top-of-the-stairs attack, and the twist ending) to the mystery novel-loving heroine Gille, who is clearly a variation on Leticia Roman's character in The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Even though there's almost no blood and the only nudity is fleeting, the story holds up, the pace is quick, and the characters are well-defined. Further, it's a significant stepping stone in the development of the genre: thematically, a direct line can be drawn from Psycho, through Naked You Die to Torso, which led to the development of the slasher flick.
- Two of the five victims are naked at the time of their death so, technically, the title holds up.
- Sci-fi fans will undoubtedly recognize Michael Rennie, who plays Inspector Durand, from his most famous role as Klaatu in 1952's The Day The Earth Stood Still.
- Mark Damon mostly retired from acting in the 1970's and turned his attention behind the cameras. He has become a producer of some major films including Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot (1981), The Lost Boys (1987), and Monster (2002) starring Charlize Theron.
- The version available on both Netflix and YouTube is in subtitled Italian, but the translation is full of typos, inaccurate phrasing, and poor syntax. One of my favorite lines goes completely un-translated. Lucille is sneaking out of the dorm to meet her boyfriend under the pretense of going to the showers. Gille runs into her in the hallway and knows what's up:
Gille: Where are you going?
Lucille: To take a shower.
Gille: Because you're dirty?
- The theme of a secret teacher-student affair and its impact on a murder investigation would be explored again a few years later in What Have You Done To Solange?
- Is there a gay character in the cast? I've decided that "gay character" includes lesbians, bisexuals, trans-gender characters and transvestites, so yes.
- The one animal death is the live butterfly that gets pinned to Professor Andre's specimen board. It's reminiscent of a similar scene in Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve.
The movie's main theme song sounds an awful lot like the music from TV's Batman.
One of the victims is strangled by hand from behind, which is impossible – you can't close off a wind pipe from that angle. What the killer does is really more of a Vulcan neck pinch.
The forbidden teacher-student affair is creepy enough, but throughout the movie the two perform role-playing as Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. I suppose if the girl is in college and over 18 it's not as bad, but still. And after all that, they let the teacher off the hook at the end! Unheard of!
So are we left to deduce by the ending that Gille's father is a secret agent with a license to kill?
I love the uniforms at this school. When we first see the girls, they're lounging poolside in these white suits with yellow trim. Even the accessories like hair bows and sunglasses match.
Later, everyone got the memo to wear white. Love the tie.
These stylish green uniforms make the girls look like St. Hilda's is a flight attendant school.
There's even a uniform for bedtime.
Of course, having all the girls in identical uniforms helps drive the plot, which involves the killer striking several times due to mistaken identity.