"La morte ha sorriso all'assassino" (1973) d/ Aristide Massaccesi
Let's kick it off properly with what is arguably Italian sleazemeister Joe D'Amato's best genre work, in a Poe-inspired gothic 1973 giallo that stars Euro staple-creep Klaus Kinski and Swede-born confectionery item, Ewa "Candy" Aulin. Insert: lip smack here. In fact, those only familiar with the director's later, more crass efforts might be pleasantly surprised at the attention he dedicates to the film's dreamy look, a juxtaposition of horrible images against beautiful ones that I'm unsure he was ever able to purvey to an audience as effectively as he does here. As far as I know (a range that encompasses "just about everything" to "next to nothing" on any given day), it stands as the only other film in his two hundred (besides 1977's Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals), in which he uses his real name on a directorial credit, from a period when he clearly cared more about the artistic aspects of his movies than the financial success, as was visibly the case later in his career. Some might even go so far as to call it his "masterpiece"... Don't get the wrong idea, folks, this is still a D'Amato movie, and there's plenty of gory splatter and nudity abound here, and you might have difficulty tracking the incoherent plot line even with the help of microchip implants, but such is the cinema, no?
More style and profile here than a Ric Flair wrasslin' promo. Woooo!
At the turn of the twentieth century, after a handsome doctor (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) impregnates the female half of an incestuous pair of siblings, resulting in the death of mother and child, her jilted, hunchbacked brother Franz (Luciano Rossi) sets out to restore her life. Three years later, on the doorstep of the estate of Walter Von Ravensbruck (Sergio Doria), son of the aforementioned doctor, a gruesome carriage accident finds beautiful passenger, Greta (Aulin) injured and the carriage driver skewered through the heart on the vehicle shaft.Walter calls in Dr. Sturges (Kinski) first to examine the driver's corpse for the authorities, then to diagnose the young, unresponsive woman. Sturges unflinchingly sinks a needle clear into her wide-open eye(!), then recognizes an inscription on the amulet around her neck as just the Incan formula for resurrection he's been looking for, for years! He scurries down to his sub-basement lab and laboriously fiddles with beakers and test tubes, before getting C.T.F.O.ed by mysterious hands just as his latest concoction brings a male corpse back to life. Thorough as a shadowy killer usually is, he re-snuffs Sturges' mute assistant and the reanimated corpse, for good measure. Upstairs, both Von Ravensbruck and his wife are mesmerized by their lovely new guest and play nudie prod games together while a maid that's haunted by visions of Franz gets her facepiece blown the eff off by the shadowy killer, who proves he's not against using a gun once in a while.
"Hold ztill. I'm goink to inzert zis pin into your eyeball..."
Walter's wife Eva (Angela Bo) walls up Greta in the musty cellar, after failing to drown her while giving her a bath, but ultimately fails in stopping the inevitable spectral haunting/ violent death in store for both she and her husband. The Von Ravensbruck's trusty manservant, Semian, reveals himself to be Greta's murderous accomplice, but she inexplicably rewards his loyalty by sending him off to join the choir invisible. After her objet du vengeance, Walter's father, is trapped in his daughter-in-law's crypt as her eyes ominously snap open, we flashback to Greta's resurrection at Franz's hands three years earlier, his success garnering him a nasty end from an ornery black feline that has issues with eyes. The grisly aftermath is discovered by a police inspector, who rehashes the strange details of the case to his elderly, invalid wife, who's been turned away from him in her wheelchair the whole time. When she turns to face him, he realizes that she is in reality, Greta, a harbinger of his own horrible fate, perhaps? Roll credits.
"...and the big dance is tonight! I'm ruined!!!"
What manner of insanity is this? A D'Amato movie that's not hardcore porn, and it merits a Wop, doubled, on the mostly infallible and oft-imitated ratings scale?? Believe it or not, despite his under-use of Kinski here, the convoluted story line, and some signature jerky handheld P.O.V. shots that he'd revisit again and again, in things like Porno Holocaust(1979) and Antropophagus(1980), this just might be my favorite of all of the director's genre work, with mostly solid performances from the cast, palatable cinematography, and an aptly phantasmagorical score from Berto Pisano. D'Amato would follow this one up with several over the next few years under the name Michael Wotruba, including 1974's Eroi all'inferno, a war movie that also starred Rossi and Kinski. The adorable Aulin would next appear in Jorge Grau's Ceremonia Sangrienta (1973).
"Ho bisogno di aiuto! I've got a sheep's eye glued to my face!"