Saturday, February 25, 2012

Death Smiles at Murder (1973)

I'm not really sure what's going in Death Smiles at Murder, but what I can figure out it's a complex mess of reanimation and a romantic threesome. That's the short version of the story and I think I'll keep it that way. Like the good Alex Bakshaev once said (today on Facebook, that is), this is one of those movies together with Fulci's City of the Living Dead where the narrative is forced to step down to the superior visual extravaganza that unveils in front of your eyes. 

Death Smiles at Murder is just something so pure as cinematic poetry. A macabre, Poe-esque poem about love, death and reanimation. The story is very abstract, almost in fragments and it's rarely that I can see how the story comes together in a logical way. If you focus on the details you will miss the most important part of this movie: the big picture. Yeah, it's in front of you the whole time and to be able to fully appreciate this work of art you have to take a step back and watch it from a distance. It's not until then you will understand it.

There's not secret that Joe D'Amato, or Aristide Massaccesi, was an expert cinematographer. He might have directed a lot of trash, some really lousy crap to, but most of it looked like a million bucks. Death Smiles at Murder looks so good that I can't even imagine why this movie isn't more popular. It's up there with the best cinematography I EVER seen! This is combination with a very poetic and beautiful story makes this something very special, a masterpiece. Maybe I'm alone comparing it to Picnic at Hanging Rock - both regarding style and visuals, but also the almost dreamlike fairy tale atmosphere.

As a pure genre movie I guess is a frustrating experience for the causal ordinary German gorehound with an Emo girlfriend. D'Amato uses his talent to film boobs more than once, in very tasteful ways I should notice, and it's a violent movie with some gory/bloody scenes - cheap effects, but works fine within the frameworks of the rest of the story. There's reanimated dead people, but to call this a zombie movie is going too far. Joe tries a little bit harder, and together with Zeder this is probably the most unique living dead-movie made in Europe (I could include The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue there to).

It also have a very fine cast with Ewa Aulin being excellent in the lead. Kinski has a small part (and I'm sure he got a really good salary!) but makes his performance edgy and intelligent. Even the traditional bore, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, is good enough to entertain me. Which might be the first time he succeeded with that mission.

Death Smiles at Murder is up there with the best of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin. I wonder what would have happen if D'Amato had gone this route instead of the road he chose in the end? Well, we wouldn't have enjoyed Anthropophagus, Absurd, Endgame, Beyond the Darkness and... eh, Porno Holocaust. Not to forget the Ator-films!


Brian said...

Great review, Fred!

Anonymous said...

Have you seen anymore films with Ewa Aulin..?

It seems that she made some giallos...

Ninja Dixon said...

Thank you Brian!

No, I've only seen Death Laid an Egg - and that's an excellent movie.

Anonymous said...

Ninja: Why thank you...sounds interesting.

Jesper said...

Great review, as always! I've been meaning to see this for a long time and I really don't have a good reason for letting it collect dust on my dvdshelf all these years. After your review it might be the perfect time to watch it!