Debauchery, taboo, betrayals, nudity, and of course, beautiful Italians abound in this pseudo-Giallo packed with twists and turns.
A widower does his best to inherit his late wife’s fortune in spite of her daughter’s claim to the wealth. Let’s dig into 1972’s SMILE BEFORE DEATH, directed by Silvio Amadio!
As I See It
The seventies were a weird era. There was still a facade put in place to conceal the debauchery, which is odd, being that the sixties were all free love and drugs. The seventies had this ultra-conservative sheen that rested atop the true evil of society, in general. At least the eighties did their cocaine out in the open.
With a startling cold open, we see a woman with her throat slit die dramatically. We go on a tour of Italian landmarks and are presented with a Sophia Loren look-a-like (Rosalba Neri), taking old time photos in a garden.
A story of betrayal at its core, Marco is a widower who staged the death of his wealthy wife (our opening kill) and is now trying to kill his stepdaughter, along with his mistress Gianna, in order to inherit the estate.
We get a lot of nude photo shoots and some forbidden love between stepfather and stepdaughter. Imagine if, in Tommy Boy, after Tommy’s father passes away, Farley fucked Rob Lowe’s character. That’s how comfortable these exchanges feel.
There is tons of double-crossing, plenty of ruses, and inevitably a Scooby-Doo moment. It all ends with the mother of all ironies as the real stepdaughter’s cab kills the fake Nancy as she tries to escape with the fortune.
Rosalba Neri (Gianna) was in a ton of Italian genre films, most of which I’ve never personally seen. But she did feature in one I have, Towers of London Films’ The Castle of Fu Manchu which starred Sir Christopher Lee.
Silvano Tranquilli (Marco) also has a ton of Italian genre films to his credit, which I will be adding to my queue of films to hunt down.
Of Gratuitous Nature
There are all sorts of taboos here. Nancy seduces her Stepfather. A love triangle between Stepfather, Stepdaughter, and Mistress. That’s not to mention mariticide, filicide, patricide, all the ‘cides the characters try to carry out.
The conniving Gianna (Rosalba Neri) is easily believable as the mistress of a widower who is in line for a large inheritance. She’s got a bit of a Sophia Loren thing going on, too, which is the highest of compliments aesthetically.
Ripe for a Remake
With all its twists and backstabbing, I believe the Knives Out franchise has that domain covered.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Arrow Video released it as part of their Giallo Essentials collection along with The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive, and The Killer Reserved Nine Seats. You can also stream it on Arrow’s proprietary streaming service.