Death Smiles at a Murderer

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Death Smiles at a Murderer
Morteassassino.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Produced by Oscar Santaniello
Written by Claudio Bernabei
Joe D'Amato
Romano Scandariato
Starring Ewa Aulin
Klaus Kinski
Music by Berto Pisano
Cinematography Joe D'Amato
Edited by Piera Bruni
Gianfranco Simoncelli
Release date
  • 11 July 1973 (1973-07-11)
Running time
92 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

Death Smiles at a Murderer (Italian: La morte ha sorriso all'assassino), aka Death Smiles at Murder, is a 1973 Italian horror film directed and co-written by Joe D'Amato, starring Klaus Kinski, Luciano Rossi and Ewa Aulin.[1] D'Amato's original working title for the film was Sette strani cadaveri (which translates as Seven Strange Corpses), a nod to the film's high body count. The film was also released as Die Mörderbestien (Killer Beast) in Germany.[2]

Cast[edit]

Plot[edit]

In 1906 Austria, a beautiful young girl named Greta von Holstein (Ewa Aulin) is taken advantage of and betrayed by the men in her life. Her hunchbacked brother Franz has been molesting her for years, and later when she falls in love with a rich man, Dr. von Ravensbrück, he impregnates her and then deserts her, leaving her to die painfully in childbirth.

In 1909, her perverted brother brings her back to life in her tomb, using a magical medallion which she must wear around her neck. When he attempts to restart their incestuous relationship, Greta kills Franz with black magic, throwing a vicious house cat into his face which claws out both of his eyes as he dies. Greta leaves him to rot in her tomb as she goes out into the world, a beautiful ghost seeking revenge on Dr. von Ravensbrück's entire family.

Soon after, she appears at the estate of Dr. von Ravensbrück's wealthy son Walter, and after rescuing her from a violent coach accident near his home, Walter and his young wife Eva take Greta in and allow her to live with them for a time. They both fall in love with the beautiful young girl, and eventually Eva becomes insanely jealous of Greta. Unbeknowst to her hosts, Greta does away with some of their friends and employees just for kicks. She kills their maid in the woods with a shotgun blast to the face, and murders their butler Simeon by slashing him to shreds with a straight razor in the family granary. Later when their family doctor (Klaus Kinski) learns that the symbols on Greta's amulet contain a secret formula to reanimate the dead, she strangles him in his workshop just as he succeeds in bringing back one of the corpses he was experimenting on. (She also kills his deaf mute lab assistant by bashing his head in with a metal club).

One day when Walter is away on a trip, Eva kills Greta by walling her up alive in a room in the catacombs beneath the castle. She tells Walter that Greta decided to move out, and Walter never realizes that Greta was entombed alive in his basement.

Later, at a masquerade ball held at the castle, Greta appears to Eva as an apparition, and leads her up onto the roof of the castle. Poor Eva winds up plummeting to her death, after which Greta causes Walter to suffer a fatal heart attack when she appears as a succubbus in his bed that night, turning into a rotting zombie as he attempts to make love to her. Dr. von Ravensbrück shows up at his son Walter's funeral, and Greta appears to him an as apparition, leading him into an underground burial vault and then locking him in to suffocate.

The police inspector investigating the murders pieces together the story and begins to believe it was all the work of an avenging spirit named Greta von Holstein. When he enters her tomb, he finds the corpse of her bother on the floor next to her empty coffin, and starts to believe that Greta was actually reanimated. He wonders what ever became of her. When he returns home that night, however, the audience is in for a surprise.

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