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The corpses are piling up at St. Hilda's School for Girls, leaving top cop Michael Rennie with more than the usual suspects. Is the killer Mark Damon? Peeping Tom Luciano Pigozzi? Or someone else? Mario Bava's original script "Cry Nightmare" was entrusted to director Antonio Margheriti. Be sure to see the Italian version which runs 98 mins. (the film was hacked by 15 minutes and retitled by American International Pictures to show mainly at drive-ins). Written by
Girls just wanna have fun... And so do maniacal black-gloved killers!
Co-written, albeit unaccredited, by Mario Bava (who's the greatest Italian horror genius of all times) and directed by Antonio Margheriti (who's the most underrated Italian horror genius of all time); this simply had to be a terrific Giallo-outing and a downright must-see for all fans of the Italian horror industry. It's a bit unfortunate that the majority of reviews I encountered thus far aren't as enthusiast as they ought to be. Several people seem to complain about the predictability of the plot and the overall lack of rudimentary Giallo trademarks like gory murders and naked chicks. Well, they do make a valid point but also appear to be forgetting that "Naked You Die" is actually one of the earliest entries in this wondrous sub genre of horror, predating Dario Argento's most famous Gialli ("Deep Red", "Bird with the Crystal Plumage") and carefully elaborating on the trend started by the aforementioned deity Mario Bava ("The Girl Who Knew Too Much", "Blood and Black Lace"). "Naked You Die" was made in an era when clichéd plot twists were still considered original and the image of black gloved hands around the neck of a young defenseless co-ed were still found ultimately shocking and disturbing. On the contrary, I bet in 1968 "Naked You Die" was quite controversial and provocative with its themes about lewd boarding schoolgirls secretly meeting up with their hunky teachers at night and pervert janitors peeping at young girls showering. And, if anything, this was undeniably an influential piece of horror film-making being one of the first to use a remote all-girl school as the playground setting for a psychopathic killer. Several films followed this example, including "The House that Screamed", "What Have you done to Solange" and not in the least Dario Argento's "Suspira" and more recent Lucky McKee's "The Woods".
The movie opens with the atmospheric and reasonably creepy murder of a young woman in her bathtub. For whatever motivation, the killer literally parcels up the victim in a suitcase and sends her to a secluded boarding school. Here, we meet a handful of playful and very sexy girls and an assembly of staff members (teachers, headmasters and garden personnel) that all appear suspicious in some way. As to be expected, not everything is kosher in this boarding school. The riding teacher meets up with his favorite pupil in the birdhouse, the overly talkative girl aspires to date the new gym teacher and the gardener is a peeping tom. When girls mysteriously start to disappear and turn up brutally murdered, the experienced police detective Durant has a difficult time getting everyone to fully cooperate with the investigation and tell the truth. The first half hour to forty-five minutes (after the promising intro) admittedly pass very tediously and there isn't much excitement to behold, but at the same time you could also claim director Margheriti takes the time and effort to extendedly introduce all his main characters and make them look extra suspicious. The pacing increases quite a bit around the hour, but sadly from then on the film also becomes very predictable and the climax is even downright transparent. Still, avid Giallo buffs will unquestionably find "Naked You Die" a highly pleasing effort, partly also thanks to the stylish photography, adequate acting performances and the stupendously catchy and rhythmic credit song "Nightmare".
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