Silvio Amadio’s Smile Before Death, of which he both wrote with Francesco Villa and directed, is perhaps not the most exciting giallo to come along, but it is an interesting one. It begins with a suicide after which it is learned that the daughter Nancy as played by Lucia Della Robbins has become a target of her stepfather, portrayed by Hiram Keller and the woman he has been having an affair with starring Rosalba Neri. It seems as if the suicide was a little suspicious and while the pair has a plan for Robbins, she too has a plan for them.
For the first half of the film or so, it is slowly paced with very little happening, but one can see the threads that Amadio is weaving and the intrigue and the mystery become deeper as it moves onwards. At first, it seems like a simple murder-mystery, but when it comes to the genre, one has to know that things are not always as they appear. It might be hard to pinpoint exactly when it is that things turn around in the film, perhaps that first moment when Nancy decides to do nude modelling for Neri’s character Gianna or when she seduces Marco, her stepfather. All one knows is that those who seem the predators have actually become the prey, whether they realize it or not. It is because of this that Smile Before Death turns out to be far more exceptional than originally thought, that gradual, almost lethargic opening ultimately serving a definite purpose and with each twist, becoming better and better.
Neri is as fantastic as always, her presence a boon to any picture though Robbins almost steals the show as the scheming daughter. While both women plan and plot throughout the movie, one can almost tell right from the start that Neri’s downfall will be Robbins, the attraction she feels towards the younger woman visibly apparent, the pull of that which one cannot have being nearly irresistible. While Keller was an integral part of the film, he was easily forgotten as more often than not, Amadio focused either upon Neri or Robbins. That was not a bad thing per se, the man obviously knowing his audience, but a little more depth to Keller’s character would not have been a bad thing.
Smile Before Death may not be the first giallo that comes to mind when talking or thinking about the genre, but it does manage to be a good one. Amadio does a great job at telling a story so full of twists and turns that it is hard not to get invested in it and when it comes down to it, a movie that can do that to the audience has definitely done its job.
3.5 out of 5