A doppia faccia (1969)

a.k.a. - Liz and Helen, Das Gesicht im Dunkeln (GER) Double Face (USA)

Klaus Kinski stars in Riccardo Freda's Edgar Wallace inspired thriller. Alfa Digital R0 DVD

The Film

Industrialist John Alexander (Klaus Kinski) has met and fallen in love with the young and beautiful Helen Brown (Margaret Lee) and they were married, but now two years on she seems to be spending a lot of time with her friend Liz and John is suspicious that they are in love. Helen leaves for a while but someone plants an explosive in her car and it crashes in what appears to be a terrible accident. John is devastated and takes some time off - he returns to London to find a young woman squatting in his flat and she leads him to a hippie party where he sees a pornographic film that features a veiled woman wearing the same ring and with the same scar that Helen had. John becomes desperate to find the woman from the film...

A doppia faccia was co-written by director Riccardo Freda and German writer Paul Hengge (some sources also list future iconic horror director Lucio Fulci as a co-writer) and although an Italian production, was co-funded by the German Rialto Film company to form part of their popular neo-Noir Edgar Wallace crime series. Accordingly the storyline feels a lot more like a Wallace adaptation than one of the newly popular Italian Giallo films (for German release, the film was titled Das Gesicht im Dunkeln (Face in the Dark) and tied into the 1924 Wallace novel 'The Face in the Night' although it bears no connection to the book's storyline).

The central mystery of the film is not the identity of the killer (there are only two real suspects here) but instead John's pursuit of the woman who could be his wife who apparently died in the car crash. This thread is well written and more than sufficient to keep the film moving - the opening flash-forward narration in the film states that the whole event has been carefully organised, which immediately makes it clear that something suspicious is going on. Pacing is strong and the film builds up well to the climax, although sadly this is not quite as carefully written as the rest of the film, feeling slightly rushed and lacking an explanation on a couple of points that could have used some clarification (not really plot holes per se, they can be explained away, but it would have been neater for the film to answer these rather than leaving them hanging).

Behind the camera, Freda similarly looks to Germany rather than Italy for inspiration and the film shows no sign of influence from the Gialli - his direction instead emphasises the Film Noir feel of the storyline and for most of its runtime could easily have dated from a decade earlier. The only sequences that betray the film's date and nationality are the psychadelic hippie party - which is surprisingly well directed for a mature director and feels suitably impulsive and drug induced - and the generous quanitities of female nudity throughout. Unfortunately the film does suffer from a couple of horrible special effects - most notably in the first sequence showing a car being hit by a train which (aside from being clearly Italian despite the film's British setting) uses a very obvious cut to a model shot, so blatant that one expects it to be a deliberate joke like the opening of Mario Bava's Il rosso segno della follia (1970) in which the model shot turns out to actually be the character's model train - not the most important issue in a film that is not effects driven but its does start things off on an off note. Composer Nora Orlandi provides an interesting soundtrack with a memorable main theme and some suitably ominous piano work.

Klaus Kinski is perfectly cast here, giving a powerfully convincing portrayal of a haunted lover. While he seemed to sleepwalk through most of the films he appeared in, particularly later in his career, he really gives it his all here. Euro-cult regular Margaret Lee (Venus in Furs (1969)) does not get much to do but provides a memorable presence as Liz, herself played by Annabella Incontrera, best known for wild Giallo entry The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972).

Despite the rather odd premise of an Italian made faux-Edgar Wallace thriller aimed at the German market, A doppia faccia is a well written and strongly directed thriller with an excellent Klaus Kinski lead performance, only the slightly rushed conclusion and a couple of distractingly terrible minature effects put a dampener on proceedings. It would ultimately prove a flop for Rialto Film but fans of the Wallace series will find plenty to enjoy here and it comes recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Klaus Kinski - one of the most infamous actors of the era, best known for his work with Werner Herzog.
Directed by anyone interesting? RRiccardo Freda - an Italian director who worked in every genre going but is best known for being the mentor of Mario Bava and giving him the first chance to direct on I Vampiri (1956).
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? A number of female topless scenes.
Who is it for? Certainly of interest to Edgar Wallace fans and Freda collectors.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The DVD uses a composite of two prints. The first, used for most of the film, is very good quality with strong colours and detail and only minor damage and grain, however it seems to have been heavily trimmed down of any non-essential shots (people walking into rooms, introductions to scenes etc.) and so these have been inserted from a much poorer print looking like an nth generation VHS copy. The transitions however are smooth.
Audio English and French mono - the French sounds clear throughout.
The English again seems to be a composite with some dialogue almost obscured by loud hissing but other times clear. A couple of short scenes are in French with English subtitles.
Subtitles English subtitles for the French audio.
Track 2 provides English subtitles for the French dialogue on the scenes missing from the English dub.
Extras None
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Available in Germany as 'Das Gesicht im Dunkeln' as part of the Edgar Wallace Edition Vol. 8, the shorter print but using only good quality footage, some of the five included films have English audio although not necessarily all of them.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut as per the original French theatrical cut, the German edition was shorted and incorporated scenes from another film while a later French release apparently inserted hardcore sex scenes. Print language is French (the credits are from the lower quality source).



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 28th September 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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