Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Death Applies the Cut Up Technique

Murder is one way to please Death, I suppose. Thus the title of 1973's Death Smiles on a Murderer (La morte ha sorriso all'assassino). But there was certainly a lot in it for me to smile about, too. It's like a dream after a night binging on 19th century gothic horror; the film's plot seems composed completely of improvised alternate scenes required by sudden losses of funding and actors, requiring director Joe D'Amato (credited as Aristide Massaccesi) to toss in the concepts from several Edgar Allan Poe stories, Carmilla, and Frankenstein. None of the characters take solid hold, there's too much concept being introduced, but it's even more dreamlike for that and some anchor is provided by leading actress Ewa Aulin.

I'd only seen the beautiful Swedish star as the dopey title character of the amusing 60s satire Candy so it was fun seeing her play someone so sharp here. Someone with amnesia who might be undead who has an affair with the master of the manor where she's staying and also his wife and her own brother.

Enter Klaus Kinski who receives top billing despite having a small role. It is refreshing to see him playing a basically nice guy, aside from the fact that he's basically Victor Frankenstein.

There's an intriguing three level voyeur scene at the beginning where, as Greta's doctor, he asks her to undress, at which point he surreptitiously watches her through a mirror. He doesn't know a serving maid is watching him through the half open door. No-one knows about the butler who's revealed to have secretly been watching everything that happens in the film at the end, a revelation that comes for no apparent reason.

"I don't understand," a police inspector says at one point while examining another body. "It doesn't make any sense." That's an understatement.

A lesbian romance ends in an amalgamation of "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Black Cat"; an abruptly introduced masked ball abruptly turns into "The Masque of the Red Death"; there's a carriage accident and an omnipresent cat. A sly look from Greta now and then assures us it's all according to some devious plan from Hell. But I'm pretty sure she's making up her rambling phantasmagoria as she goes.

If you want a bleary, drunken tour of Edgar Allan Poe, you might enjoy this film. I did. It's on Amazon Prime.

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