14 August 2008 | Bunuel1976
YOUR TURN TO DIE (Michele Lupo, 1967) ***
Lengthy, convoluted but generally gripping mix of caper and espionage film – with so many clever twists of the 'nothing is what it seems' variety and double-crosses/shifts in allegiances to make even Hitchcock's head spin! From what I've watched of director Lupo's output (ranging from peplums to Spaghetti Westerns and comedy-adventures), this emerges as easily the most substantial – thus satisfactory – effort.
Luis Bunuel regular Claudio Brook may be an unlikely action hero, but he's nonetheless wonderful here. Sydney Chaplin is the tough cop who finally supplies the biggest surprise of the film; Jess Hahn, naturally appearing as a thug, is involved in a surprisingly bloodthirsty fistfight with Brook's photographer sidekick); Anthony Dawson is sinister as always, while Andrea Bosic (from the "Kriminal" films) turns up as a corrupt diplomat. Luscious heroine Daniela Bianchi, again, plays an ambiguous character until the final revelation: she also proves that her role in FROM Russia, WITH LOVE (1963) was no fluke – incidentally, much of what little she did seems to have been in this vein! The equally gorgeous Tina Marquand is typically perky as an unwitting 'agent'; Harriet Medin, appropriately, appears as Dawson's stern-looking assistant; there's also a nice bit by Raymond Bussieres as a train conductor whose passengers are constantly vanishing.
The film is stylish (given its Swinging London and fashion-house backdrops) and exciting (with an elaborate opening robbery sequence and plenty of chases around the dock area and in vast warehouses that are made even more tense by frequent use of odd/tilted angles). For the record, two cinematographers worked on this title – Franco Villa and Stelvio Massi (later a director of several poliziotteschi): the latter was only employed towards the end of the shoot because the former was contracted to start work on another picture; incidentally, the notorious Joe D'Amato (then still Aristide Massaccesi) served as camera operator on this one! Of course, there’s a lively Francesco De Masi score – even if it seems to have lifted its memorable main theme from KRIMINAL (1966)! – and gratuitous nudity involving a black girl (whose character unaccountably disappears thereafter) as well as Marquand (aka Aumont). The hilarious closing gag, then, provides a nice twist on the much-used 'history repeats itself' scenario.
Interestingly, my two main sources for low-brow Italian cinema – the "Film.Tv.It" website and the "Stracult" book – offer contradictory opinions on YOUR TURN TO DIE: the former rated it "Mediocre", while the latter found it "ultracult" so, when it turned up on late-night Italian TV (which is how I became aware of it in the first place), I had decided to tape it, to be watched at some future date and then erased…but, now that I've gone through the recording and thoroughly enjoyed this delightful outing (despite a rather lackluster choice of titles – the original, by the way, translates to TOO MUCH TO LIVE…TOO LITTLE TO DIE), I've opted to keep the copy I taped for my collection!