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Annie Carol Edel
Death Smiles on a Murderer is not your average Joe D'Amato film. The prolific Italian director made a name for himself by directing cheap, trashy productions; and while this film isn't exactly "high quality" (in the usual sense of the word), it's certainly a lot classier than your average D'Amato sleaze. The film mixes Gothic horror, zombies and Giallo elements into a cocktail of the popular genres of the early seventies. As you might expect considering the heavy fusing of multiple genres, the film isn't always coherent; and despite the fact that it could be considered a classy film, D'Amato has still seen fit to insert some trashy gore sequences. The result is a mixed bag. The somewhat confusing plot focuses on a young woman called Greta. She is involved in a coach accident which leaves the driver dead after he is impaled. Greta is then taken in by a couple who seem to become strangely fascinated by her. Around the same time, there's also a doctor working on a formula to bring the dead back to life, and this somehow connects through flashbacks...
The setting and atmosphere are the key element of the film. Death Smiles on a Murderer is very well photographed and every frame in the film is great to look at. This serves the film well as it ensures that it remains interesting even when the plot starts to dry up. The plot itself takes influence from a range of sources, but most recognisably the great Edgar Allen Poe with several themes from the highly influential "The Black Cat". The head of the cast list is Klaus Kinski
but unfortunately, he doesn't appear in the film for long at all and
he isn't given much to do with the screen time he does get, which is a shame. The leading ladies are Ewa Aulin and Angela Bo, and while neither of them stand out for their acting; they both look nice. The special effects don't really suit the film and Joe D'Amato probably would have been better advised to cut down on the bloodshed - but I can't complain too much because the gore does make the film more fun. Overall, I can't say I was overly impressed with Death Smiles on a Murderer - it looks nice and has its moments, but it's not put together well enough to be one of the great Italian horror films.
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