“What’s in the box? A dead body?”
A woman relaxes in her bathtub, only to have a gloved killer sneak into the room and strangle her to death. Her still-wet body is stuffed into a trunk and mailed to an expensive, exclusive all-girls school in the middle of nowhere. There, the murders continue. Jill (Sally Smith) is a troublemaker who longs to write a spy novel someday. She sets out to solve the crime. Lucille (Eleonora Brown, Two Women) is in the midst of an illicit romance with a hunky teacher (Mark Damon, Johnny Yuma), and all of her secrecy and sneaking around makes the police suspect her as the killer.
1968’s Naked You Die, a.k.a. The Young, The Evil and the Savage, a.k.a. The Miniskirt Murders, a.k.a. School Girl Killer, a.k.a. Cry Nightmare, is the brainchild of Italian horror-meisters Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace) and Antonio Margheriti (Cannibal Apocalypse). It’s a “scary things happening under the surface of a posh boarding school” film, the type for which Dario Argento would achieve great fame a few years later.
Naked You Die isn’t quite up there with Argento’s best, though. The dark and gloomy scenes are appropriately dark and gloomy, but you should prepare yourself for a lot of sitting and talking in between. Many of these dialogue-heavy scenes are spent on establishing Jill’s obnoxious “cry wolf” behavior, as well as Lucille’s fairly creepy love affair with her teacher. There’s also generous talky time spent on getting to know the other suspects, such as a beefy swimming instructor, the stern headmistress, the bitchy girl no one likes, and the pervy peeping tom groundskeeper.
The scare scenes are similarly subdued, with a sinister atmosphere filling in for intense sex or violence. This is a mostly bloodless thriller, with the killer sticking to the shadows, and remarkably fast strangulations as the M.O. For all you horndogs out there, know that despite this movie’s title, the nudity is of the “blink and you’ll miss it” quality. On the plus side, the writers play it straight with the murder mystery plot, which, although implausible, has all the pieces fitting together at the end.
At this point, I can almost hear thousands of movie lovers out there yelling at me, “It’s a product of its time!” You’re correct, of course. This movie’s biggest novelty is the basic setup of a killer picking off a select group of victims one by one in a remote setting. This was still fairly new at the time, and made for an exciting show at the movies. These days, though, we’ve already seen so much stuff like this that Naked You Die will come across as mostly tame.
And hey, how about the music in this one? The opening “Nightmare” song is a real toe-tapper, and deserves to be played at Halloween parties everywhere. The score, meanwhile, brings to mind stuff like the Batman and Hawaii Five-O ’60s TV show themes, with a peppy combination of keyboards and bongos. When we first meet the girls as they lounge around by the pool in matching white swimsuits, the score suddenly goes into full-on “happy music” mode, suitable for the most saccharine Saturday morning cartoon you could ever imagine. Yes, the music is sometimes incongruous to the action on screen, but it’s still like another character in the film.
Fans of this film have two big reasons to celebrate this DVD. First is that this is the original 98-minute version, never before released in North America—when it debuted in theaters, Naked You Die was mercilessly cut down to 83 minutes so it could be shown as part of a double feature. Second is the picture restoration. The movie looks like it could have been made this year, with sharp detail, vivid colors, and deep, rich blacks. There are a few scratches seen during the opening credits, but otherwise, this is a pristine visual transfer. The 2.0 sound, in Italian with English subtitles, is a little less impressive, but sound effects and the bizarre score still come through clearly. For extras, the theatrical trailer practically retells the entire story, and the still gallery features several of the movie’s original posters.
Naked You Die doesn’t have the adrenaline rush feel of other movies of its kind, which will likely frustrate some viewers. For horror/thriller fans with an interest in exploring the history of the genre, there will be a lot to enjoy here, as it has a lot of ideas that other filmmakers would explore with great success in the years that followed.