Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)
by Robert Trippett
DISCLAIMER: This review is for an advanced copy of Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973) on Blu-ray and was provided to us by the people at MVD.
"I'm not young but I'm very enthusiastic. I'm lucky in that I've been able to make any movie I've wanted to: war movies, thrillers, terror movies, even porno movies. I don't have any movies in me that I haven't been able to do."
Joe D'Amato (ANTHROPOPHAGUS, BUIO OMEGA, PAPAYA: LOVE GODDESS OF THE CANNIBALS) was a man of many hats and many, many names. With a different new pseudonym for each sandbox he chose to play in, you gotta believe that for him to sign a piece of his art with his given name (Aristide Massaccesi), it would be a message of "This is me. This is what I'm about." DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER may be the best example of what Joe D'Amato was all about.
The story revolves around doe-eyed Greta (Ewa Aulin), who is in an abusive sexual relationship with her brother Franz (I know, just roll with it) until she falls for wealthy Dr von Ravensbrück, who whisks her away to be treated like a queen for the rest of her--
Nah. He gets her pregnant and high-tails it, ultimately resulting in her dying during childbirth. Poor Greta.
Grief-striken rapist Franz has a plan, though, vowing before her tomb that he'll black magic his dear sister back to the land of the living with the help of a cursed medallion. (Released only months apart from Psychomania. Banner year for necklace-based necromancy.) One gruesome carriage flip later and amnesiac Greta is at Castle von Ravensbrück being creepily examined by mad Doctor Sturges, played with trademark intensity by Klaus goddamn Kinski. It isn't long before the mystery starts unfolding and the bodies start piling up in classic giallo style.
DEATH SMILES has everything you'd want in a gothic/giallo hybrid. The 1906 Austria setting means the scenery and costuming are beautifully lavish, but at the same time you get all of the weird angles, quick zooms and in-your-face brutality that give 70s Italian horror its distinct voice. Sorta like if Downton Abbey had eye trauma.
Arrow Video went all out with their new 2K restoration, making even an angry feline clawing a face weirdly beautiful in its crispness. They also loaded this disc up with a feature commentary by Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog), a nearly hour-long career retrospective with Ewa Aulin, and a new video essay by Kat Ellinger chronicling D'Amato's filmography. If you're like me, you love bells and whistles with your blood and shadows. This one's required viewing and an essential addition to a horror fan's collection.
DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER is out now from Arrow Video. Visit MVDshop.com and pretty much everywhere blu-rays are sold.