DEATH SMILES AT MURDER (1973) Reviews and overview

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Death Smiles at Murder – aka Death Smiles on a Murderer (Italian: La morte ha sorriso all’assassino) – is a 1973 Italian supernatural horror feature film photographed and directed by Aristide Massaccesi [aka Joe D’Amato] from a screenplay co-written with Claudio Bernabei and Romano Scandariato.


The film was released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 21 May 2018. Extras include:

• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Italian and English soundtracks
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas
• D’Amato Smiles on Death, an archival interview in which the director discusses the film
• All About Ewa, a newly-filmed, career-spanning interview with the Swedish star
• Smiling on the Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression in the horror films of Joe D’Amato
• Original trailers
• Stills and collections gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Stephen Thrower and film historian Roberto Curti

The movie stars Ewa Aulin, Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre; Schizoid; Venom), Angela Bo, Sergio Doria, Luciano Rossi (City of the Living Dead), Attilio Dottesio, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.


1909: A rich couple takes in a young girl who was in a horse carriage accident and has amnesia, and both have an affair with her. Meanwhile, Doctor Sturges (Klaus Kinski) uses an ancient Incan formula to raise the dead for his own series of revenge murders…



Languid, yet morbidly compelling, with a delirious amount of close-ups of the actors’ eyes, Massaccesi’s focus on eroticism and an obsession with dead bodies predates his 1979 ‘nasty’ Beyond the Darkness, yet is considerably more oneiric – perhaps explaining why it remained pretty obscure until the digital age.

Despite a baffling plot, the Gothic ambiance and stylistic presentation are nonetheless engaging. At least the cast seem to believe in the confused nightmare scenario, especially Klaus Kinski, on typically manic form.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA


Other reviews:

“The plot cuts back and forth and twists and turns in upon itself as if to mimic the many bulging veins in Klaus Kinski’s forehead. Despite its nonsensical story, the film itself is surprisingly inviting. D’Amato pulls off a number of impressive scenes, in particular, a montage of flirtation and fornication…” Jason McElreath, DVD Drive-In


” … benefits greatly from high quality cinematography (helmed by D’Amato), terrific locations, and a perfect soundtrack by the great and under-appreciated Berto Pisano (Burial Ground, Interrabang), all of which are integrated together to create one of the best looking and sounding gothic horror era pieces that’s the stuff of dreams and nightmares.” At the Mansion of Madness


“Just when you think you’re beginning to figure things out, random stuff happens that leaves you scratching your head, like the maid’s hallucinations, the unexplained revival of Eva in her tomb or the flowers that turn into a cat. Despite its drawbacks, though, it’s a highly entertaining, sumptuously made piece of trash cinema that holds up to repeated viewings.” Filmiarity


” … achieves a hallucinatory ambience reminiscent of Mario Bava or Antonio Margheriti. At its worst it is as crude and banal as could be expected from a filmmaker who later went on to specialise in sex / horror hybrids…” Giallo Fever


” …a beguiling Italian Gothic horror that owes as much to its mesmerising musical score as it does to its surreal, dreamlike imagery. But its also a twisted supernatural puzzle that will leave most viewers (including myself) scratching their heads.” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep

Cast and characters:

  • Ewa Aulin – Greta von Holstein
  • Klaus Kinski – Doctor Sturges
  • Angela Bo – Eva von Ravensbrück
  • Sergio Doria – Walter von Ravensbrück
  • Attilio Dottesio – Inspector Dannick
  • Marco Mariani – Simeon, the butler
  • Luciano Rossi – Franz, Greta’s Brother
  • Giacomo Rossi-Stuart – Doctor von Ravensbrück, Walter’s Father
  • Fernando Cerulli – Professor Kempte (as Franco Cerulli)
  • Carla Mancini
  • Giorgio Dolfin – Maier – Ballet dancer
  • Pietro Torrisi – Doctor Sturges’ Mute Assistant [uncredited]

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