Rent Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)

3.2 of 5 from 51 ratings
1h 29min
Rent Death Smiles on a Murderer (aka La Morte ha sorriso all'assassino) Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
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Set in Austria in the early 1900's, 'Death Smiles on a Murderer' stars Ewa Aulin as Greta, a beautiful young woman abused by her brother Franz (Luciano Rossi) and left to die in childbirth by her illicit lover, the aristocrat Dr. von Ravensbruck (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). Grief-stricken, Franz reanimates his dead sister using a formula engraved on an ancient Incan medallion. Greta then returns as an undead avenging angel, reaping revenge on the Ravensbruck family and her manically possessive brother.
, , Angela Bo, , , , , , , , , , ,
Oscar Santaniello
Claudio Bernabei, Joe D'Amato, Romano Scandariato
La Morte ha sorriso all'assassino
Classics, Horror
Italy, Classics, Horror
Release Date:
Not released
Run Time:
92 minutes
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Release Date:
Run Time:
89 minutes
English, Italian
English, English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
BLU-RAY Regions:
  • 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, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
  • Original trailers
  • Stills and collections gallery

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Reviews (1) of Death Smiles on a Murderer

A love letter to Edgar Allan Poe - mild spoilers. - Death Smiles on a Murderer review by NP

Spoiler Alert

Through the rolling, autumnal, Hammer-esque woodlands, an accident with a horse and carriage throws Greta (Ewa Aulin) into the care of Eva (Angela Bo) and Walter (Sergio Doria). The couple are so good natured, it seems increasingly apparent something other than being cordial is on their agenda. Meanwhile, Klaus Kinski at his most urbane and creepiness, plays Dr. Sturges, who has dreams of bringing the dead back to life. In a move typical of the unpredictability of this film, his character seems set to be a main player, yet isn’t around as long as we expect. Luciano Rossi, a familiar face to giallo fans, here plays Franz, who we first see grimly lamenting the death of his sister.

This love-letter to Edgar Allan Poe is a restrained and well directed offering from exploitation guru Joe D'Amato (credited as Aristide Massaccesi). I say restrained not because it lacks in atmosphere – far from it – but is far more stylish and sophisticated than he is often given credit for.

There are some terrific performances here (Aulin is excellent throughout, striking a balance between cute-as-a-button and terrifying.) but for me, the standout contribution comes from Berto Pisano and his stunning incidental music. His score is by turns echoic, dreamlike, romantic and sinister and ultimately one of the best giallo soundtracks I have heard. Stunning. The balance between music and the sumptuous locations is irresistible.

The only problem I have with this is the way the story is told. It all seems to cohere, but is choppy in its set-pieces which makes the narrative somewhat murky: at times it is difficult to know quite what is going on. As Dr. von Ravensbrück (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) ruminates, “Something just doesn’t add up”. It might well be that this could be quite deliberate, adding to D’Amato’s richly filmed dreamy atmosphere.

There are echoes of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe, but the results are really quite unique. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It should be more widely known. 8 out of 10.

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