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Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)

La morte ha sorriso all'assassino (original title)
Not Rated | | Horror, Mystery, Romance | 11 July 1973 (Italy)
A man discovers an ancient Incan formula for raising the dead, and uses it for a series of revenge murders.


Joe D'Amato (as Aristide Massaccesi)


Claudio Bernabei (screenplay) (as C. Bernabei), Joe D'Amato (screenplay) (as A. Massaccesi) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Klaus Kinski ... Dr. Sturges
Ewa Aulin ... Greta
Angela Bo Angela Bo ... Eva
Sergio Doria ... Walter
Attilio Dottesio ... Inspector Dannick
Marco Mariani Marco Mariani ... Simeon
Luciano Rossi ... Franz
Giacomo Rossi Stuart ... Dr. von Ravensbrück
Fernando Cerulli ... Professor Kempte (as Franco Cerulli)
Carla Mancini Carla Mancini ... Gertrude
Giorgio Dolfin Giorgio Dolfin ... Maier


A young woman, Greta, loses her memory following an accident with a carriage and finds hospitality at the villa of two wealthy landowners Eva and Walter. The two welcome the girl with great hospitality, far too much - since she is forgetful she ends up in bed with the husband first and then with the wife. But even Dr. Sturges who pays her first visit is interested in her, and above all he is interested in the amulet that she wears around her neck. In fact, he is carrying out mysterious experiments to bring the dead back to life through ancient formulas attributed to the Incas and that amulet is very familiar to him. Things get complicated when Ewa discovers her affair with her husband and, in a raptus of jealousy, she kills her by walling her alive. But a few days later, during a masquerade party, Greta mysteriously reappears with a skeletal face and begins to persecute Ewa pushing her to suicide - and the dead will not end here . Written by lament

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

11 July 1973 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Death Smiles on a Murderer See more »

Filming Locations:

Elios Film, Rome, Lazio, Italy

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dany Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Telecolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Contains several references to the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Examples include a person being buried alive by a brick wall (as in The Cask of Amontillado) and the presence of a black cat (as in The Black Cat). Also the main character, Walter, with his moustache and haircut, bears a striking resemblance to Poe. See more »


Referenced in Synergia (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Creepy though Confused Gothic Tale from the Sleaze-Master

Joe D'Amato is often said to have directed nothing but worthless sleaze, but this reputation is certainly not (completely) justified. I have personally been a fan of the prolific Exploitation filmmaker for years, and though it is true that his repertoire includes a wide range of crap, he is also responsible for several downright great films, and for many vastly entertaining ones. Such as the ultra-gruesome video nasties "Antropophagus" (1980) and "Buio Omega" (1979). Or this stylish little film, in which D'Amato dabbles in the great sub-genre of Gothic Horror. "La Morte Ha Sorisso All Assasino" aka. "Death Smiled At Murder" of 1973 is a stylish, obscure and incredibly atmospheric Gothic tale that is incredibly creepy at times. Even though this is not as nauseating as "Antropophagus" or "Buio Omega", the film is genuinely nasty at times, with a wide range sexual intrigue and perversions as well as a bunch of very gory scenes. The film's arguably greatest aspect is the mesmerizing score by Berto Bisano, which contributes a lot to the film's uncanny atmosphere. The casting of the always-sinister Klaus Kinski in the (sadly small) role of a mad scientist is another highlight that makes this a must for my fellow Italian Horror lovers.

The one weak point of the film is that the story is a bit too confused for its own good. I love convoluted plots, but this one has several huge holes. A proper description would be difficult, as the film handles several topics that are interlaced, and the structure is not always 100 per cent comprehensible. Set in early 20th century Europe, the film is basically is about an ancient Incan formula, which is capable of awakening the dead. A beautiful young woman (Ewa Aulin) is injured in a coach accident near a castle that leaves the driver dead. The castle is owned by a kinky aristocratic couple, Walter Von Ravensbrück (Sergio Doria) and his wife Eva (Angela Bo). The mysterious beauty who cannot remember anything after her accident is first checked by the (equally mysterious) local Doctor Sturges (Klaus Kinski)... A macabre Gothic tale, the film also bears some elements of the Giallo and Zombie genres but it is mainly in the style of 60s Gothic Horror, transformed into a nastier and sleazier 70s style. The great Klaus Kinski (one of the greatest actors ever, in my opinion) gets top billing, but, sadly, little screen time. The man gets the best out of the screen time he has though, he simply was one of the most brilliant actors ever to play madmen. Although not as constantly sleazy as many other D'Amato outings, the film provides female eye-candy. The female cast includes beautiful Ewa Aulin in the lead and the equally sexy Angela Bo. The performances are generally quite good, other than the Kinski and the two leading ladies, the cast also includes two other cult-actors that any fan of Italian genre-cinema will recognize: the hunchbacked Luciano Rossi, who, due to his ugly looks, would mostly play crooks and psychos, who plays another demented role here, and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, who is probably best known for his role in Mario Bava's Gothic masterpiece "Operazione Paura" (aka, "Kill Baby Kill") of 1966. Overall, "Death Smiled at Murder" has only one major flaw, which is that the storyline is too co fused. Otherwise, this is a creepy, atmospheric and vastly enjoyable Gothic tale from D'Amato that lovers of Italian Horror should not miss! My rating: 7.5/10

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