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Dean Reed and Fabio Testi in convoluted but entertaining Euro-mystery
DEATH KNOCKS TWICE is an excellent vehicle for both leading man Dean Reed (in this film he reminds me of a cross between James Franciscus, Tab Hunter, and the pre-burnout Jan-Michael Vincent), who plays a detective out to solve a murder and robbery while stumbling across other corrupt activities, and for leading hunk Fabio Testi, who opens the film with a semi-nude outdoor love scene and seems to play half the film without his shirt on. If Joe Dallesandro had begun his European career at this point, he would have been great in this part, but Testi plays a sulking hunk well too, and here he is a spoiled painter who lives in a wonderful beach-front villa and sleeps with various women who meet untimely ends. The film may tend to introduce too many characters too soon, and the mystery does not seem so mysterious in the initial reels, but somehow the whole thing chugs along and becomes more exciting in its second half, which features an excellent high-speed car chase on a wet winding country road and some exciting stunts from Reed. There is a superb all-star Euro-trash cast, including Adolfo Celi, Anita Ekberg, Werner Peters, Leon Askin, Nadia Tiller, and Ricardo Garrone (the film was co-written by his brother, Sergio), and direction is handled by the reliable German director Harald Philipp, whose credits include some of my favorite films such as MANHATTAN NIGHT OF MURDER with George Nader as Jerry Cotton, and RAMPAGE AT APACHE WELLS, an adaptation of Karl May's novel THE OIL PRINCE, starring Stewart Granger as Old Surehand and Pierre Brice as Winnetou. The feel of the film is halfway between some of the later German crime films of the Edgar Wallace cycle, and some of the earlier proto-giallo films of the mid and late 60s. One wonders if Dean Reed viewed this film as a critique of capitalistic decadence (which it certainly is, although that may be unintended) or just a good leading role to give the Italian period of his acting career a shot in the arm. Either way, he handles himself well, looks great, and has charisma to burn. DEATH KNOCKS TWICE (the title will make sense when you see it) is not a must-see film, but I'm glad I watched it again, and the combination of director and stars make it desirable to the fan of European genre-films. Also, Dean Reed was not that prolific of an actor and some of his films have never circulated in English-language versions (to my knowledge), so anything that can be found is worth watching. My copy was taped off a TV station in Aruba back in the 1980's. A letter-boxed, restored version would certainly be welcome!
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