Smile Before Death* was a revelation to me. I came in expecting nothing and was rewarded with a film that has multiple antagonists and a continually twisting close, a near race to the finish to see who will end up on top.
Marco (Silvano Tranquilli, Black Belly of the Tarantula; So Sweet, So Dead) and Dorothy are trapped in an open marriage that feels incredibly confining. To make things worse, her best friend Gianna (Rosalba Neri, Lady Frankenstein, The French Sex Murders) is his mistress.
Is it any surprise that Dorothy gets killed and it looks like a suicide and that Marco did it? Soon, he’s in charge of her estate until her daughter Nancy (Jenny Tamburi**, The Psychic, The Suspicious Death of a Minor) turns twenty. So Marco retires and lives a life of leisure with his mistress until Nancy returns home.
That’s when everyone starts playing each other, with Gianna trying to get Marco to kill his stepdaughter, Nancy seducing him and — spoiler warning — Gianna falling for her as well.
Silvio Amadio only made one other giallo and that would be Amuck! Much like that film, this one also proves that Silvio was perhaps more interested in filming gorgeous women misbehaving as he was showing the kills when it came to giallo. No matter. This movie has plenty of plot to go around and I was genuinely surprised by the conclusion of this caper.
Roberto Predagio’s theme song — with plenty of scat singing by Edda Dell’Orso — will be burned into your mind by the end of this.
I’d be shocked if this didn’t end up on Forgotten Gialli Volume 3.
*The translation for the Italian title is The Smile of the Hyena. I have no idea what that means in relation to the film’s story and blame the animal-themed demand for post-The Bird with the Crystal Plumage giallo titles.
**Tamburi won the femme fatale role of Graziella in La Seduzione because Ornella Muti, the original actress, was considered too attractive.
You can watch this on YouTube.