Smile Before Death, aka “Il sorriso della iena” Directed by Silvio Amadio, Starring Jenny Tamburi (1972).
Movie Review by Greg Goodsell
In this sleazy murder mystery, we see rich old bag Dorothy Emerson (Zora Gheorgieva) flail about on the floor of her parlor, her throat slit with a piece of jagged glass. Detectives note that ol’ Dorothy had been drinking heavily before her demise, and so they describe as an “apparent suicide.” As we learn much later, this ridiculous assumption was probably based on the fact that Dot was an overbearing old hose bag who the surrounding community exclaimed “Good riddance!” when they wheeled her lifeless body on the gurney. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves –
Dorothy’s daughter Nancy (Jenny Tamburi) arrives at the family manse, school cap, knee socks and all. In boarding school for the majority of her life, she says she only saw mom about seven to eight times in her entire life (This figures in to plot later on, takes note.) Nancy is greeted by lesbian lizard Gianna (Rosalba Nelbi), “her mother’s best friend” – HA! – and scumbag stepfather Marco (Silvano Tranquilli). Dorothy kept no pictures of daughter nancy anywhere in the house and both Gianna and Marco rarely heard of her … do we see where this is going?
|mirror mirror on the wall, do I look like a porn parody version Gina Gershon?|
In no time, shutterbug Gianna has Nancy posing for a series of pictures. Beginning with relatively innocuous fashion shots, the photos sessions become increasingly steamy and more explicit. Eventually, these modeling sessions include a third party, Connie Linglus. OOOOoh, you saw that one coming, didn’t you friends?
|I saw that one coming but am incapable of smiling|
To cut to the chase, it’s later revealed that Cougar Woman Dorothy was a happy lush who embraced life with her Bobby Sherman-lookalike boyfriend (Hirma Keller) who was fixing to tell both Gianna and Marco to hit the road. Natch, they both killed Dorothy, and tried to make it look like a suicide by locking her up in her bedroom from the inside by using a piece of twine. When faithful house servant Magda (Dana Ghia) gets hip to the Disgusting Duo’s plans – to eventually kill Nancy to get their hands on all the loot, she is brutally dispatched by Gianna with a glass ashtray.
Not surprisingly, Nancy isn’t who she’s supposed to be – a minor character makes a reappearance – and a throwaway bit at the beginning involving a traffic blind spot and a garden arbor likewise returns for a grisly surprise ending that will have you laughing for days!
They don’t make them like this anymore, and did they ever? Set in one location, crammed full of Seventies disco décor that fetches top dollar on Internet auction sites, Smile Before Death features a jazz soundtrack from vocalist Edda Dell'Orso, frequent Ennio Morricone collaborator. It’s a catchy tune that lasts under three minutes and is played over and over and over and over again, even when it’s not supposed to.
Director Silvio Amadio’s previous giallo feature Amuck (1972) remains highly sought after. In the meantime, slice off some smelly Italian cheese at the black-gloved buffet with Smile Before Death!