Color, 1970, 97 mins. 38 secs.
Directed by Duccio Tessari
Starring Raf Vallone, Frank Wolff, Gabriele Tinti, Gillian Bray, Beryl Cunningham, Eva Renzi, Gigi Rizzi
Radiance / Raro (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Raro Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Cargo Records (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

The line between the giallo Death Occurred Last Nightand the poliziottesco (or cop crime film) can be very thin when it comes to Death Occurred Last NightItalian '70s cinema, and few ride that line more skillfully than this memorable thriller from Duccio Tessari. Significant for his early spaghetti western A Pistol for Ringo and its sequel, Tessari only made two more gialli after this (The Bloodstained Butterfly and Puzzle) but showed a strong proficiency in jumping around between genres over the course of his career. Armed with a memorable and catchy score by Tessari's regular composer, Gianni Ferrio, this one got overlooked to a certain extent thanks to another, far more famous giallo from the same year, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but it's one that can still surprise and reward if you're looking for something a bit outside of the usual black-gloved killers.

Arriving in Milan, widower businessman Amanzio Berzaghi (Vallone) is searching for his mentally disabled daughter who's gone missing and has a thing for boys. He Death Occurred Last Nightenlists the help of a detective, Lamberti (Wolff), and his sidekick Mascaranti (Tinti), fearing that the girl has been abducted and forced into a life of prostitution. Scouring through Death Occurred Last Nightthe Milanese underworld, the two cops have very different tactics and ultimately head to a tragic twist that sends Berzaghi on a far more feverish quest for revenge.

Very gritty, well acted, and unflinchng in its portrayal of the downside of being part of a criminal investigation, Death Occurred Last Night (La morte risale a ieri sera) was obviously geared to appeal to an international audience including the preparation of a good English track in addition to the usual Italian one. However, for whatever reason it didn't get much play outside of Italy and West Germany and was mostly accessible on home video via blurry bootleg copies for ages. That's a shame as it has a lot of offer including two terrific lead performances (sadly, Wolff would be dead by the following year) and a solid supporting cast including Eva Renzi (from Crystal Plumage) as a slighted wife and actress-singer Beryl Cunningham (The Weekend Murders) as a brothel worker who holds a key to the investigation.

Raro Video released the film on Blu-ray and DVD in 2014 featuring one of their better video presentations, albeit encoded on the Blu-ray Death Occurred Last Nightin the already antiquated VC-1 codec that pretty much everyone besides Fox had abandoned. In 2024, Radiance Films added this to its Death Occurred Last Nightslate of U.K. releases in conjunction with Raro, here from the same scan but presented without the slight windowboxing from the U.S. disc and still framed at 1.66:1. The results are still pleasing and benefit here from better encoding, while the 1.0 LPCM English and Italian tracks both sound solid; improved English translated and English SDH subtitles are provided. Ported over from the U.S. disc are the English trailer and an enthusiastic video intro by onetime Fangoria editor Chris Alexander (7m13s) about Tessari and the film's genre-straddling approach. New here is an interesting audio essay (over a black screen) written by Francesco Massaccesi (11m6s) and narrated by Howard S. Berger about the role of Milan in Italian crime thrillers and its place in the themes of unease and anxiety percolating in society at the time.

UK Blu-ray

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US Blu-ray

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Reviewed on May 28, 2024