When director Duccio Tessari's grim thriller Death Occurred Last Night begins we meet a man named Berzaghi (Raf Vallone) as he visits a policeman cop named Lamberti (Frank Wolff). Berzaghi is understandably upset that his only daughter, Donatella (Gillian Bray), has disappeared and not been seen for a good month now, though the fact that Donatella is twenty-five years old gives Lamberti pause to think until the concerned single parent tells him that she's mentally handicapped. As her mental growth seems to have stopped at pre-school age, Berzaghi has done what he can to shelter the girl from the world, her tendency to flirt with men obviously causing some problems. Berzaghi convinces Lamberti to take the case and together, with some help from a younger cop named Mascaranti (Gabriele Tinti), they start investigating.
When it turns out that Donatella may have been kidnapped by white slave traders and forced to work in an underground prostitution ring, Berzaghi starts to look like he's going to be taking the law into his own hands. Lamberti and his cops aren't moving as fast as Berzaghi wants them to and he's starting to feel that if he wants his daughter back in one piece, he has no other choice but to bend the rules. Lamberti can only hope he finds out what really happened to the girl before her father goes too far…
Essentially an Italian cop film with strong Giallo trappings (director Tessari had experience with both genres having directed the superb cop film Tony Arzenta and the classic Giallo The Bloodstained Butterfly), Death Occurred Last Night is strong on suspense and ripe with tension. The movie offers up enough of a backstory for what happened to Donatella to set things up and from there, brings us along for the ride as the two investigating parties troll through Rome's dens of sin. Colorful characters are plentiful along the way, helping to keep things interesting and offering up some fun red herrings, and as all of this plays out we get some interesting character development. We understand completely why Berzaghi would be concerned with his daughter. He cares for her and knows she is only too easy to manipulate given her condition. As such, when he sees the cops as failing him, his anger and his intentions become not only understandable, but almost righteous in intention. At the same time, we know that Lamerti is a good cop. So committed to his job is he that he can't even take time off work to get his sinus problem sorted with the doctor. So as the story progresses we witness how these two men, who are simultaneously similar and opposite, go about their own respective ways of getting to the same destination.
Thankfully the performances from Vallone and Wolff do not disappoint. Both men deliver fine work here, with Wolff having a world weariness to his character that grounds him, making him more of a human than a typical hero cop. Vallone, on the other hand, transforms his character from fairly meek and understated into a man bent on vengeance. His character is completely sympathetic and his emotional portrayal of a tormented man is quite strong. Supporting work from Gabriele Tinti and Gillian Bray is also quite good but Vallone and Wolff get a lot more to do here and come out on top.
Complimenting the solid character development and strong performances are some nice location photography and slick camera work. Cinematographer Lamberto Caimi, who not only shot this picture but plenty of others including Umberto Lenzi's Gang War In Miland and Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto, really gets some great compositions here and the use of shadows and bold colors can sometimes make for interesting contrast. Throw in an oddly engaging score from composer Gianni Ferrio and this proves to be both well-made and completely worth seeing. It is frequently dark and occasionally unpleasant given what it deals with, but so too is it a very effective thriller.
Death Occurred Last Night arrives on Blu-ray form Raro Video in a 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.75.1 widescreen. While some of Raro's recent transfers have been smeared with obvious noise reduction, this one is, thankfully, pretty solid. Though some light noise reduction is obvious here and there, it doesn't completely obliterate the image. Detail looks quite good not just in close up shots but in medium and long range shots as well. Texture is typically impressive and skin looks like skin and not like wax even if some pores do seem to disappear. Black levels are good if maybe not reference quality sometimes looking more like a really dark grey but color reproduction, red in particular, is very strong. There's virtually no print damage to complain about, whatever elements used for this were obviously in excellent condition, and all in all the movie and its slick cinematography translate very well to Blu-ray on this disc.
Audio options are provided in both English and Italian language lossless tracks in LPCM Mono with optional subtitles in English only. While the range is understandably limited by the older source material, both tracks are quite clean, clear and well balanced. There are no noticeable problems with any hiss or distortion outside of a few minor spots that most won't likely notice while the levels are set properly throughout. The subtitles are free of any obvious typos and easy to read. There are no problems here, both tracks sound fine.
There aren't a ton of extras on the disc but we do get an optional introduction to the film from Chris Alexander of Fangoria fame. He offers up his opinions on the picture and provides a few welcome facts about it. The disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the movie, menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a booklet of liner notes with an essay on the film by Alexander as well as a biography and filmography for director Duccio Tessari. All of this comes housed inside a slick cardboard slipcover featuring some nice alternate artwork from that featured on the insert sleeve.
Raro's Blu-ray release of Death Occurred Last Night isn't jammed with extras but it does offer up this engaging and effective thriller in a decent and with solid audio. The movie itself benefits from some pretty fine acting, good production values and a tight, suspenseful script. All of that adds up to a film that fans of both Italian cop films and Giallo thrillers should definitely appreciate. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.