Director: Riccardo Freda
Notable Cast: Klaus Kinski, Christiane Kruger, Gunther Stoll, Annabella Incontrera, Sydney Chaplin, Barbara Nelli, Margaret Lee
When Arrow Video announced that they would be releasing Double Face, I really had no reaction. There is a sense of trust from the cult cinema community concerning what Arrow aims to accomplish with their releases and I share in that trust, but Double Face was a film I had never come across previously. Thus, I had no expectations for it prior to watching the film. I saw the cover, but I even refrained from reading the synopsis to go in with as fresh eyes and mind as possible. Not everyone will be able to see the film that way, but it made for a very different experience for me. Double Face is a strange and stylish spin on the usual murder mystery film. The narrative tends to get muddled underneath what it feels is a relatively clever premise, but the style is effective and a couple of key performances make it an interesting film even if its foundations start to crack under the weight.
More or less, when someone mentions an Italian murder mystery, it’s easy to assume that the film is a giallo. Particularly when it comes from this era. However, Double Face is more akin to an exploitative and Italian version of a Hitchcockian mystery film than a giallo. As it unravels its plot, the film loves to play things light and loose with its story and narrative. It even makes the problematic choice to start the film with a car wreck sequence (complete with questionable toy model effects) that is from the third act before leaping back in time to explain who the story made it to that point. It’s just the first of many questionable choices in narrative that arise. Most of them arise in the first act, whether it’s inconsistent voice-overs or vague time jumps, and it makes for a hard film to buy into as it attempts to lay the groundwork for the rest of the murder mystery.
To its benefit, Double Face does gather momentum in style and quality once it establishes the main plot where our main character, played for the entirety of the film in a state of stern confusion by Klaus Kinski, begins to believe that his supposedly deceased wife is not actually dead. Unfortunately, that first act does not spend enough time establishing the key characters in a way that creates the best arc for the narrative. Despite the best efforts of surprise reveals or twists within the plot that unravel into a much larger conspiracy, Double Face cannot find its footing as it tries to run. There are intriguing elements embedded within the framework of its script and director Freda has a knack for slathering the film in just enough style that it passes by a decent watch. There are some erotic thriller aspects that arise in the second act that indicate there was perhaps a better exploitation film to be unearthed here, particularly in how Kinski’s character starts to spiral into a world of sex, drugs, and partying that betray his stern businessman life, but those exist to get the film from point A to point B and rarely add the depth they might have.
Fortunately, for those Italian cinema connoisseurs that are going to leap into Double Face with the usual vigor they bring to everything relating to cinema from this era, the latest Arrow Video Blu Ray is a fantastic addition to the collection. The new 2K restoration brings to light all of the solid visual moments that Double Face has to offer and once again Tim Lucas’ encyclopedic knowledge of cinema makes his new commentary the true highlight of the entire release and gives a mediocre film a much-needed lift. Various other features, as listed below, are great for cinephiles and a new visual essay on the director is a fitting addition.
Double Face features a few key elements that Italian cinema consumers will want to experience for themselves. Director Freda gives the basic Hitchcockian murder mystery premise an intriguing Italian visual punch and it’s fun to see how far that interpretation goes as the film plays out with some fun left turns and wildly outlandish reveals that pop up in the third act. It’s just incredibly unfortunate that the script and narrative of the film are so cracked and underdeveloped that the rest of the film cannot build much on top of them. Every time it starts to add in some layers, the foundation it’s built on crumbles under the weight. For fans of the era, genre, or various creative players involved, Double Face is a middle of the road experience that is worth seeing at least once to see how it plays out. However, the impressive Blu Ray release of the film is far more deserving of praise than the film itself.
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Written By Matt Reifschneider