DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHT (1970) Review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Radiance Films. Blu Ray. Limited to 3000 copies. Out Now


Donatella Berzaghi (Gillian Bray) has been missing for a month. Whilst she is 25, she has a mental age of a 3 year old and needs constant care from her father Amanzio (well played by famous Italian star Raf Vallone). Worryingly, she is also something of a nymphomaniac and will go with any man who pays her attention – so her dad normally keeps her locked in at their flat.

Getting nowhere with the local police in finding her, he goes above their heads and talks to Commissario Lamberti (Frank Wolff) and his underling Mascaranti (Gabriele Tinti – Laura Gemser’s hubby from 1976) to try and galvanise the authorities into looking for his offspring. Luckily for the distraught parent, the lead cop takes pity on him – despite there being numerous unsolved cases of missing people – and they begin to investigate.

Suspecting that she has been dragged into a prostitution ring, the cops shake down a former pimp Salvatore (Gigi Rizzi), who claims he is trying to go straight, as he knows where all the local sex establishments are to be found – in the potentially vain hope of finding some information. Interrogating many of the young ladies involved, they come across one of the workers (Beryl Cunningham) who seems to know more than she is letting on…

Ultimately they are too late as Donatella’s still smouldering, burnt alive body is found in a field. As the police race to try and track down the killer, her father is driven to investigate himself…

Whilst this more often than not is identified as a giallo, this is a mix of both that Italian genre and their poliziotteschi, leaning more towards the latter. Directed by Duccio Tessari – who also helmed the gialli THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY (1971) and PUZZLE (1974), this rather grim tale was co-written with Biagio Proietti (THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS – 1974), adapted from the novel Milanesi Ammazzano al Sabata (The Milanese Kill on Saturdays).

Lacking the stylistic excesses of the more famous examples of its oeuvre, this is a more realistic police procedural, that is until the burst of rage and violence near the end. The blu ray looks great for the most part, with a nicely controlled layer of grain, with only a few shots looking soft (which I suspect is as per the source – the original camera negative). Performances are strong, especially Vallone as the haunted parent. Eva Renzi (BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE – 1970) appears as Lamberti’s wife. The jaunty, jazzy music by Gianni Ferrio is an added bonus.

Steve Kirkham

Original title: La morte risale a ieri sera. Also known as Death Took Place at Night/Horror Came Out of the Fog

The disc contains both the Italian and English versions

2 stars
Audio Essay by Francesco Massaccesi on the importance of Milan in Italian noirs – narrated by Howard S. Berger (11 mins)
An enthusiastic intro (watch after seeing the film) from Fangoria Editor Chris Alexander (7 mins)
US Trailer