I am officially on the record (more than once as anyone who has actually followed my writing in these pages can tell you) as being an enormous fan of what are sometimes called "boutique Blu-ray labels." Companies like Arrow Video, Severin, and Kino Lorber are putting out really nice sets of odd, obscure, low-budget, and forgotten films. As someone who spent great swaths of his teenaged years staying up all night with USA’s Up All Night, and renting ridiculously bad movies from my local VHS shop, I appreciate that so many of these types of films are getting new lives on home video. Even more so as the world moves more and more to streaming video over physical copies. Yet even I, owner of more than my fair share of T&A comedies and no-budget horror flicks, sometimes have to wonder why anyone would bother upgrading and releasing a film. I’m a fan of gore-filled horror, I get camp, I love women in prison films and cheerleader comedies. I say release all of those films in high-definition, extras-filled boxed sets. But boring dramas, uninteresting mysteries, and tedious crime films? Leave those on the shelf.
Ricardo Hampton (also known as Ricardo Freda, also known as the director of such films as Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, and The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire) both directed and wrote (from a story by Lucio Fulci) Double Face, a ridiculously bad “thriller” that fails to thrill, chill, or even be mildly interesting. It stars Klaus Kinski in the most subdued role I’ve ever seen him in. The only thing worthwhile I got out of this release is an interest in the genre called "krimii," which is a type of German crime film from the 1970s that relys on some old noir elements. But apparently this film isn’t even a good representation of that genre as it is a mix between krimi and giallo, and as far as I’m concerned a big helping of what I like to call dullsville.
Kinski stars as wealthy industrialist John Alexander whose marriage to the beautiful Helen (Margaret Lee) turns sour once he suspect she’s cheating on him with her friend Liz (Annabella Incontera), though he does seem to enjoy watching Liz give Helen a massage while she’s taking a bath. Nor does his own infidelity with his secretary cause him to bat a hypocritical eye. When she decides to take off on holiday by herself, he seems relieved. When her car is found wrecked on the side of the road with her body burned beyond recognition, he seems non plussed. So much so that when he takes off on his own island holiday the police are quite suspicious.
When he returns home, he finds a mysterious woman (Christiane Krüger) in his home taking a shower. As uninterested as ever, he simply makes her get dressed and demands she gets out of his house. But after a few drinks, a little light slapping, and a massive thunderstorm, he agrees to take her home. Home is apparently European cinema’s idea of a crazy 1960s hippie party complete with wild music, wilder clothes, and motorcycles driving around in circles, periodically ripping the clothes off the pretty girls dancing nearby. After far too many over-loving, totally male-gazing shots of these women, the film finally remembers it has a story to tell and it follows John into another room where Christine excitedly tells him they are going to show the most recent movie she’s starred in. It is a stag film in which she gets chummy with a woman who rather resembles John’s recently departed wife, even down to the ring she wore and the scar on her neck. When John learns that film was shot jut a few days prior, he buys the print and obsesses over it. Could his wife still be alive? If so, what happened to her?
He spends the rest of the film trying to find out. Meanwhile, the cops move on the idea that he killed her. But none of it is particularly exciting, stylish, or remotely absorbing. Kinski, who can usually be counted on for an interesting, if not wildly over the top performance, is more subtle than I’ve ever seen him, and immensely dull. The rest of the cast doesn’t far any better. The script is confusing and Hampton's direction doesn't help matters. Cinematographer Gábor Pogány at least makes it all look beautiful. I don’t know enough about the krimi genre to tell if this film fits neatly into it but the only parts of it that remotely resemble giallo are the brief appearance of a black-gloved killer (we see him plant a bomb on Helen’s car) and the rather confusing plot. But it has none of the style or bloodletting of the genre.
Arrow Video has put out a lot of really great bad movies. They usually release the types of movies that are fun at late-night parties where you can laugh at their ridiculous. They should have skipped over Double Face as it doesn’t come close to the "so bad it's good" category, it's just bad. Worse than bad, it’s boring.
It does have the usual Arrow production quality with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and a new 2K transfer culled directly from the original 35 mm print with lots of cleanup done to give it a very nice quality. Extras include both the original Italian audio and an English language track. Critic Tim Lucas brings his usual enjoyable commentary, and critic Amy Simmons has a new video essay on the director. There’s also a new interview with composer Nora Orlando and and appreciation of her work. Then there is the usual trailers, loads of images and a nice essay in the full color booklet.