Death Smiles on a Murderer Blu-ray Review

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by Casimir Harlow May 22, 2018 at 2:29 PM

  • Movies review


    Death Smiles on a Murderer Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £14.99

    Death Smiles Film Review

    Italian director Joe D'Amato's gothic giallo Death Smiles on a Murderer plays part-fantasy, part-Frankenstein and part-rape/revenge horror.

    With the story happily enjoying a non-linear delivery, putting the pieces of the puzzle together in this period horror is almost impossible. The timeline is odd and the dreamlike visual style almost hallucinatory, leaving it more of a nightmarish horror experience than anything else.

    Initially introduced to the seemingly dead Greta (Ewa Aulin), a beautiful woman whose twisted - both physically and mentally - brother (Luciano Rossi), we see through flashbacks, has been abusing her, and who, in a flash-forward, is found, three years later, in a 1900s road traffic accident whereby her horse and cart crash and leave her in the hands of a strange Doctor Sturges (Klaus Kinski), who discovers that Greta is not only alive, but actually somewhat indestructible.

    A nightmarish horror experience.

    D'Amato's extremely gory Death Smiles on a Murderer plays loosely with morality about as much as any Peckinpah film (the seeming 'abuse' of Greta, which underpins her revenge, tends to be followed by a very contented post-coital laissez-faire on her part, which somewhat undoes all of her preceding resistance to the 'rape') and often feels, at times, like a series of randomly edited scenes put together into a US-friendly 85 minute feature where the logic stringing them together has been left on the cutting room floor.

    Even Kinski's Frankenstein has no logical reasoning behind his behaviour, worried that the 'formula' for reincarnation he discovers on Greta's necklace will be stolen from him, despite the fact that it couldn't have been his in the first place.

    Perhaps it was meant to be this way, as D'Amato trades in mood more than coherence, slowly transforming the transfixingly beautiful Aulin into a black-clad avenging angel, even if the reasoning behind this is non-existent, as, all the while, the wistful score portends mysticism, the cinematography reflects the drugs consumed by the crew, and the effects department dial the violence up to Verhoeven-levels of gore.

    Death Smiles Blu-ray Picture

    Death Smiles on a Murderer Death Smiles Blu-ray Picture
    Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Death Smiles on a Murderer affords the 1973 Italian horror an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.

    Arrow's brad new 2K restoration of the feature was done from the original camera negative, arguably delivering the film in the best condition it's ever been in, clean and clear but also richly textured and totally in keeping with the intended style of the piece.

    The film has been meticulously restored for its 45th Anniversary.

    Close-ups reveal fine lines on faces, creases, wrinkles and wisps of hair, and D'Amato's is just as interested in facial close-ups as he is on close-ups of other parts of the body, from eyes to lips to breasts, each afforded consummate detail.

    Despite this resounding improvement in clarity, the film isn't robbed of its stylistic softness, which lends the piece a dreamy quality perfectly in tune with its nightmare style. The veneer of perfectly filmic grain also permeates the piece, but its consistency reflects the quality of the restoration. Of course this was never going to look perfect - the budget and original shooting style simply don't allow for it - but it's a strong restoration.

    The colour scheme has also been lovingly rendered, with some nice primary hints in the period decor; skin tones healthy and green landscapes lush. Black levels, from the opening sequence, appear to show no signs of crush and the film has been meticulously restored for its 45th Anniversary.

    Death Smiles Blu-ray Sound

    Death Smiles on a Murderer Death Smiles Blu-ray Sound
    Arrow's audio options are twofold, with Uncompressed LPCM 1.0 Mono audio tracks in both the original Italian and dubbed English, the former accompanied by newly translated English subtitles.

    With dialogue remaining reasonably well delivered, and some of the more elaborate effects afforded some strong promotion, it's really the moody score that stands out on the aural front.

    A solid and faithful audio accompaniment.

    Slightly restrained by its mono presentation, Death Smiles on a Murderer undoubtedly enjoys the best audio presentation that it has ever received, but simply doesn't quite have the room to breathe across the array.

    As stated, it's the score that gets the best presentation, and remains the strongest element in the piece, rounding out a solid and faithful audio accompaniment.

    Death Smiles Blu-ray Extras

    Death Smiles on a Murderer Death Smiles Blu-ray Extras
    Arrow's new Blu-ray release of Death Smiles on a Murderer promotes the film with a solid selection of extra features headlined by a brand new Audio Commentary from writer and critic Tim Lucas.

    The Archival Interview with Director D'Amato provides some strong input into his works and this particular production.

    A solid selection of extra features.

    All About Ewa is a newly-filmed, career-spanning Interview with the beautiful Swedish star of the movie, Ewa Aulin, who talks about her career and the impact of Death Smiles on a Murderer upon it. There's also a new Video Essay Taboo: Sex, Death and Transgression, by critic Kat Ellinger, who talks about the horror films of D'Amato.

    The disc is rounded off by Trailers and Stills Galleries.

    Death Smiles on a Murderer Blu-ray Verdict

    Death Smiles on a Murderer Death Smiles on a Murderer Blu-ray Verdict
    Joe D'Amato's low budget 1973 Italian horror Death Smiles on a Murderer enjoy the gothic giallo style that D'Amato crafts, trading in some imaginative shots and impressive visuals, even if the story behind it is nonsensical and unnecessarily complicated.

    Fans should consider this a very good package.

    Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Death Smiles on a Murderer affords it impressive 2K-restored video and solid audio as well as a strong selection of extra features. Fans should consider this a very good package.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99

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