Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude… si muore (1968)

Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)‘I have to look for some worms for my darlings.’

A young woman is strangled in her bathtub, and her body shipped to an exclusive girls’ school in a trunk. Shortly afterwards, one of the students is sceretly murdered and, while the search for her goes on, the killer is already lining up the next target…

Early Giallo thriller from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (credited as usual as ‘Anthony Dawson’) that leans far more heavily toward the murder-mystery aspect of the sub-genre. This approach differs from the later incarnation, which featured far more graphic violence and nudity and paved the way for the American slasher horrors of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yes, the setup is classic exploitation: a private girls finishing school with a ready-made roster of eye-candy and potential victims. However, the emphasis is on the story and guessing the killer’s identity, rather than the more sensational elements of the situation.

It’s vacation time at the St. Hilda’s School for Girls, but, unfortunately, not all the students have left for the holidays. You see, it’s tough being a daughter of privilege; parents are often too busy making millions to bother with you. So, spring break involves lounging around by the pool in the beautiful Italian countryside, playing a spot of tennis if you want and contemplating the contents of your large checking account. But there’s a summer romance in the air for pretty young redhead Lucille (Eleanora Brown), and it’s getting a little bit serious. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is handsome Richard Barrett (Mark Damon), and he happens to be the school’s riding instructor. Headmistress Miss Transfield (Vivian Stapleton) and new teacher Ms Clay (Ludmilla Lvova) are not likely to approve of this extra-curricular activity. After all, it’s not likely to stay under wraps for long with kookie gossip-monger Jill (Sally Smith) prowling the campus looking for excitement.

Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)

‘But I thought I was going to meet James Bond. Why else would I be in the shower?’

However, there’s far more serious intrigue afoot with the sudden disappearance of classmate Betty Ann (Caterina Trentini). This development brings the forces of law and order, represented here by veteran British character actor Michael Rennie and his assistant Franco de Rosa.

The investigation proceeds quickly, with suspicion falling first on resident gardener/handyman/peeping tom Luciano Pigozzi. After him, it’s the suddenly absent Damon, eccentric Professor André (Aldo De Carellis) and skin-diving instructor Di Brazzi (Giovanni Di Benedetto). It’s worth mentioning here that this school has a somewhat unique curriculum: skin-diving, tennis, horse riding and fencing. Maybe all finishing schools are like that; I wouldn’t know. Back at the plot, the clues and killings pile up and Margheriti does a good job of lining up all the suspects. When we get to the final reveal, it may not be all that original, but at least it makes sense. All the threads are securely tied, even if how the killer expected to get away with it is another mystery entirely! Once the murderous scheme is concluded, it wouldn’t be remotely difficult for any detective to put the pieces together.

This is a decent thriller, delivered with consummate professionalism in all departments. Fans of better known Giallo pictures are likely to be disappointed by the (very) discreet nudity and the almost bloodless kills, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Horror maestro Mario Bava was involved with the genesis of the project, originally titled ‘Cry Nightmare’, and it’s interesting to speculate how his visual genius might have shot these locations. Still, director Margheriti was a capable, if not always inspired, hand on the tiller.

Margheriti has a long and extraordinarily variable filmography, including science-fiction: ‘Assignment: Outer Space’ (1960)‘The Wild, Wild Planet’ (1966) (a personal favourite of mine), toga pictures like ‘The Fall of Rome’ (1963), horrors such as the under-rated ‘The Long Hair of Death’ (1965), Eurospy flicks ‘Lightning Bolt’ (1966) and ‘Killers Are Challenged’ (1966), and a couple of Hercules pictures, including ‘Ursus, il terrore dei kirghisi’ (1964). He also tackled Vietnam-based action films, crime dramas, Westerns, a rom-com, a driving movie with Joey Travolta, some Indiana Jones rip-offs, a knock-off of ‘The Abyss’ (1989) without a budget, and finished off his career making films starring ex-undisputed World Middleweight Boxing Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He also co-directed Andy Warhol’s notorious ‘Flesh For Frankenstein’ (1973) and was solo in the canvas seat for the epic ‘Yor, The Hunter From The Future’ (1983), which still awaits recognition as one of the greatest films of all time.

Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)

‘They only released us in black & white in Germany? In 1968?!’

Margheriti might have been a directorial ‘gun for hire’, following whatever trend was out there, but, if you want a crash course in the history of cult cinema, you could do worse than check out his filmography; he pretty much did it all. The same can also be said for veteran character actor Pigozzi, who plays the tree-hugging janitor here. He often worked for Margheriti and has many other interesting, and sometimes bizarre, credits to his name, such as ‘Devilman Story’ (1967).

The strongest element of this project, though, turns out to be a nice surprise, both in the writing and performance. It’s the character of Jill, played by Sally Smith. At first, she seems like the irritating comedy-relief; bitching about the other girls, playing inane pranks and generaly getting on the nerves of everyone involved, including the audience. But when Rennie arrives, she develops a crush on him (despite the significant age difference). This could have been allowed to become creepy, but instead both actors pull it off with quiet wit and natural charm. Smith begins her own investigation to help out, and, by the end of the film has emerged as the heroine, showing smarts and bravery in equal measure. It’s an excellent, well-judged turn by Smith that makes you wish the movie had been centred on her character, rather than spending so much time with Brown and Damon. They aren’t weak in the acting department, but their roles are not as well-developed and interesting.

Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)Naked You Die/School Girl Killer/The Young, the Evil and the Savage/Nude... si muore (1968)

‘You mean, I’m the best thing in this movie?’

Smith didn’t have an extensive screen career, mostly playing on British TV before this, including an episode of ‘The Avengers’. She appeared in only one more film before taking a break of over 20 years, but this new phase included only a few scattered credits at the end of the 1980s and the start of the 90s.

Brown had a major supporting role in director Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Two Women’ (1960), which starred Jean-Paul Belmondo and an Oscar-winning Sophia Loren. This film seemed to be her final role as she retired from the business at the age of 30. However, a couple of producer’s credits in the last couple of years have been followed by a part in ‘Un Amore Così Grande’ (2018); a film released half a century after this one. Now that is one hell of a career break! Interesting that both leading women pretty much quite the business after this film. Perhaps filming was not a happy experience.

American Damon began his career on TV but soon graduated to leads in small movies, including the surprise smash hit ‘House of Usher’ (1960) with Vincent Price. After his career stateside failed to take off, he tried his luck in Europe, appearing mostly in Spaghetti Westerns, but also landing the lead in the Eurospy picture ‘Agente segreto 777 – Operazione Mistero’ (1965). Moving into the producer’s chair later in the following decade, he quickly racked up a diverse list of credits including big hits ‘The NeverEnding Story’ (1984)‘Clan of The Cave Bear’ (1986)‘9½ Weeks’ (1986)‘Short Circuit’ (1986) and cult favourite ‘The Lost Boys’ (1987). Subsequent decades found him involved in less notable projects such as ‘Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time’ (1991)‘The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo’ (1997) and the execrable ‘Feardotcom’ (2002). But he bounced back with ‘Monster’ (2003) which featured an Oscar-winning Charlize Theron and has half a dozen future projects lined up at the time of writing.

A thoroughly professional, efficient thriller that’s not likely to be a favourite of those who enjoy the more extreme examples of the Giallo experience.

The House in the Square (I’ll Never Forget You) (1951)

The_House_In_The_Square_(1951)‘There is a smell of brimstone about you.’

An American nuclear scientist lives alone in an 18th Century house in London, spending his evenings reading his family’s old diaries and papers. He confesses to a colleague that he feels as if he belongs back in that era, rather than in modern times. Shortly afterwards, he is struck by lightning and his wish comes true.

Sweeping, romantic costume drama led by Hollywood stars Tyrone Power and Ann Blyth. It’s unashamedly what was known as a ‘woman’s picture’ back in the day with its themes of doomed romance and eternal love. Not surprisingly, it’s a remake of a much older property, ‘Berkeley Square’ (1933), which had starred Leslie Howard and was itself based on a play by John L Balderston. However, it’s to the credit of director Roy Ward Baker that the plot never seems unduly old hat, even if the addition of Power’s job as a nuclear physicist seems like a rather clumsy ‘modernising’ device.

The main thread of the love story is pretty standard stuff, boy meets girl, no one approves and the conventions of the time and the ignorance of others keeps them apart. But there are some nice touches here. Power has idolised the past; the courtly manners, the great houses, the lavish parties, the lord and ladies, but what he isn’t prepared for is the grinding poverty of the lower classes and the indifference of the privileged. Also, his in-depth knowledge of his family’s past and wider historical events is not quite the advantage you would think. He constantly refers to things that haven’t happened yet, and quickly gains a somewhat unhealthy reputation. He ‘reinvents’ several technological advances, such as the electric light bulb, but finds himself branded as a madman and his inventions smashed.


I’m sorry, I only know the Macarena.’

In fact, this is a story that could probably benefit from an update. With the right handling, there’s enough scope to create something quite thought provoking and relevant to current times. Here, it’s our principal players that engage the audience and drive the story. Power was a Hollywood heartthrob and never gained his due as an actor. He is outshone here by the excellent Blyth, but still delivers a persuasive performance, free from the overly mannered style that still marred films of the time.

Michael Rennie makes his usual strong showing as Power’s modern day colleague in the same year that he was unforgettable as Klaatu in ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ (1951). There’s also a very striking cameo from the under-rated Kathleen Byron, best known these days for her showings in the Powell-Pressburger classics ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1945) and ‘Black Narcissus’ (1947).

Power didn’t have that many films left in him, dying of a sudden heart attack at the age of 44, and Blyth‘s career somehow petered out into TV shows like ‘Wagon Train’. Similarly, director Baker did a lot of television; episodes of routine adventure shows like ‘The Saint’, ‘The Champions’ and ‘Department S’. But, check his filmography, and you find that he was also behind some of the Diana Rigg shows on ‘The Avengers’. Additionally, he was heavily involved with the Hammer Studios in the late 1960s and early 1970s and, although his films aren’t perhaps titles that immediately spring to mind, for my money they are some of the very best the studio ever offered. There was the chilling ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ (1967), pitch black comedy ‘The Anniversary’ (1968) with Bette Davis, ‘The Vampire Lovers’ (1970) with Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing, and the sadly neglected ‘Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde’ (1971). Unfortunately, it’s probably best to look away now rather than watch the tatty, appalling mess that was ‘Scars of Dracula’ (1970). Well, you can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

This is a decent romantic drama with a science fiction twist, that works due to the fine performances and some interesting themes and unexpected angles to the story.

Los Monstruos Del Terror/Assignment Terror/Dracula Versus Frankenstein (1970)

Los Monstruos Del Terror (1970)‘Their passion… is what makes them strong, stronger perhaps than their nuclear weapons.’

Aliens from the planet Ummo plan to take over the earth by releasing ancient monsters to scare mankind into submission. But some of their party are finding it hard to keep their minds on the job and the monsters prove harder to control than anticipated…

Michael Rennie came to our planet once before as an alien in the classic ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) but this time around his intentions are far from peaceful. The planet Ummo is dying and his people need a new home. The answer: destroy the human race and take the Earth. The plan: well, errm… to revive Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy! This will scare the population into submission… or something. It’s a pretty sophisticated strategy from beings that have travelled 8 light years to get here, even if I do seem to remember hearing about rather a similar scheme once before… ‘Plan 9’, wasn’t it?

This monster mash is mostly a homage/rip off of ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944), even down to the discovery of ‘Dracula’ as a skeleton in a fairground act. Rennie is assisted by various Euro beauties including Karin Dor, just two years after she met James Bond and even less time since she starred in Hitchcock’s ‘Topaz’ (1969)! Also, to be pedantic (and despite one of the film’s titles), this isn’t Dracula, after all (it’s Count de Meirhoff) or Frankenstein, it’s Farancksollen (or something equally unpronounceable beginning with an ‘F’). Whether the film makers ran into some kind of legal trouble when this Spanish horror was released in the States is unrecorded but the ‘Assignment Terror’ title card is completely mismatched with the rest of the credits so it would seem likely.

Sadly, the film is a complete hodgepodge of odd scenes that just don’t hang together as a coherent story at all. Some of the aliens go to Egypt for a couple of minutes to get the Mummy. The local police inspector starts an affair with the magistrate’s daughter. The Wolf Man scares a couple leaving a party. Rennie’s troops start fancying each other so he keeps them in line by strapping them to a chair and playing loud noises at them. Frankenstein’s monster (sorry, Farancksollen’s monster) fights with the Wolf Man but never even meets Dracula (sorry, Count de Meirhoff), who does almost nothing at all anyway.

Be afraid... oh, go on!

The Farancksollen Monster relaxing at home.

This was Rennie’s last movie, and he  looks very ill, so the obvious assumption is that he died during production, leaving the filmmakers to salvage what they could from the footage they’d managed to shoot. Not so. Rennie was still alive more than a year after the film’s original release, although he may have been too ill to do as much filming as was needed. Whatever the reason, there are lots of repeated close ups of his eyes.

Perhaps of most interest is that all the monsters were played (where possible) by Euro horror star Paul Naschy, who also originated the story and co-produced (under his real name of Jacinto Molina). Naschy was best known for playing werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in a loose series of pictures that weren’t directly related beyond some of the same story elements. No extended universe for him! This was the 3rd of Daninsky’s 12 film appearances. Naschy was still at it with the yak’s hair over 30 years later in ‘Tomb of the Werewolf’ (2004) for U.S. director Fred Olen Ray. He was over 70 years old at the time.

The follow up to this feature was ‘The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman’ (1971) and it’s nowhere near this bad. It’s probable that the production simply ran out of money in the middle of filming… it would explain a lot.