The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - DOUBLE FACE (1969) | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - DOUBLE FACE (1969)

double face 1969 review
An industrialist's wife dies in a rigged car crash. Is her husband responsible, and could she still be alive?

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Riccardo Freda

Starring: Klaus Kinski, Christiane Krüger, Günther Stoll, Annabella Incontrera, Sydney Chaplin

double face 1969 arrow video bluray

In the 1960s, a slew of cinematic adaptations of the work of British crime author Edgar Wallace emerged from Germany, and the sub-genre known as 'Krimi' was born. Hugely influential on the subsequent Italian 'Giallo' movement, Krimis similarly featured casts of international stars in outrageous plots, and often boasted hyper-stylised camerawork, lurid colour schemes and lounge-tastic soundtracks. An Italian-German co-production, director Riccardo Freda's 1969 thriller Double Face feels like a passing of the torch from Germany to Italy, from Krimi to Giallo.

double face 1969 review

To cash in on the Krimi craze, Double Face was marketed as a Wallace adaptation, despite it boasting an entirely original script, unrelated to any of Wallace's works. Along with Freda, no less than four writers worked on its script - Paul Hengge, Lucio Fulci, Romano Migliorini and Giambattista Mussetto - which might explain why it's so overly verbose and bogged down in its plot mechanics.

Like most Krimis, Double Face sets its drama in the halls of London's high society. Klaus Kinski, who had arguably been the face of the Krimi movement, is John Alexander, an uptight, wealthy industrialist whose wife, Helen (Margaret Lee), is having a lesbian affair under his nose. A faceless figure rigs a bomb to Helen's car, which later explodes on a trip to Liverpool. The guilt seems to point to John, but this being a Krimi/Giallo thriller, nothing is ever quite as simple as it appears.

double face 1969 review

Freda was one of those Italian filmmakers who latched onto whatever the current genre fad was, though he's best remembered for his numerous contributions to the sword and sandals genre. Giallo was never quite a comfortable fit for Freda, who lacked the visionary chops of the likes of Argento, Bava and Fulci. Like his Dublin set Giallo, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, the London set Double Face is a talky affair, desperately in need of a more cinematic filmmaker's touch. There are lengthy dialogue scenes that clearly weren't penned by writers for whom English is a native language, often causing unintentional chortles, such as Kinski's response to a detective's query about his home cinema projector - "Mickey Mouse delights me!"

What livens up the otherwise drab drama is its swinging London setting. Freda cashes in on/rips off Antonioni's Blow-Up with a visit to a psychedelic club, replete with motorcyclists ripping the blouses off tripping female dancers and a bunch of extras who look completely mangled off their faces. Kinski's granite-like mug is quite the contrast to this far out backdrop. Christiane Kruger turns up in the Vanessa Redgrave role of a sexy drop-out whom Kinski finds in his shower, as you do. Composer Nora Orlandi's score, which sounds like Liberace and Richard Clayderman wrestling on a Steinway, jars with the swinging Soho setting.

double face 1969 review

Without spoiling it, Double Face features one of those classic Giallo twists that feels like the writers got to the 90 minute mark and needed to pull something out of their ass to wrap it all up. Of course, any half-sentient viewer will have twigged that the entire plot is a red herring, simply because of how Freda shoots a particular early, crucial scene. If it's an involving mystery narrative you're after, you won't find it here. What you will find is a watered down primer for the subsequent decade's explosion of Italian genre creativity.

Optional English and Italian soundtracks, with newly translated English subtitles for the latter; new audio commentary by author and critic Tim Lucas; video interview with composer Nora Orlandi; an appreciation of Orlandi by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon; a video essay on Riccardo Freda’s gialli by author and critic Amy Simmons; image gallery from the collection of Christian Ostermeier, including the original German pressbook and lobby cards, and the complete Italian cineromanzo adaptation; original Italian and English theatrical trailers; illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Neill Mitchell (first pressing only).

Double Face is on blu-ray now from Arrow Video.