The Hell Before Death (1968)

  |  Crime, Thriller

The Hell Before Death (1968) Poster

A former gangster wants to avenge the murder of his sister and shed light on the disappearance of her husband, which occurred during the transport of a large cargo of gold.


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29 August 2020 | RonAltman
| Testosterone-filled actioner
Most cult movie fans will want to seek this out as Dario Argento co-wrote the screenplay. However, this potboiler has never received an English-language release. Two video versions are known to exist, a Greek one (in Italian with subs) and a German VHS from the early to mid-80s. Perhaps also a Yugoslav one.

Yesterday I finished a fansubbing project for Cinemageddon, which allows this rarity to be viewed and understood by an international audience.

The film itself is not very notable, if it wasn't for Ennio Morricone's score (average, by his standards) and Argento's involvement. It's not bad either. More than 50 years after its release it looks pretty dated, with men donning leather suits and toting machine guns. There's not a lot of action per se, some chases and some shoot-outs, but this comes dangerously close to being an action drama. 1968 produced some cutting-edge films, this is not one of them, it's rather old-fashioned.

The general topic is 'honor among thieves', the title translates as 'commandments for a gangster'. Top-billed Ljubic is quite charismatic as a former crook, who investigates the death of a married couple, who were obviously involved in the disappareance of some gold that a crime syndicate had transported from London to Canada, where this is set. The setting was chosen, perhaps, for its resemblance to Italy... after all, a movie set in the States requires some on-location shooting (cities, etc.) to be credible.

The characters in this are quite colorful, a crime boss and religious fanatic, who calls himself Saint, an assassin with hair that's dyed blonde. There's a mute gunman and his brother, a guy called Five-Cents (Caltabiano, who also directed) who's clad in leather. There are barely any female contributions, a dancer/singer with a see-through top is the only notable character.

The Morricone score ranges from bizarre to symphonic and is definitely worth listening to. The finale has traces of a western score.

Both Argento and Morricone also worked on C'ERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST that same year. That movie has gone on to become an immortal masterpiece of filmmaking. COMANDAMENTI... has disappeared into oblivion. Maybe my subtitles will change that... a little.

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Plot Summary


Crime | Thriller


Release Date:

22 May 1968


Serbo-Croatian, Italian

Country of Origin

Italy, Yugoslavia

Filming Locations


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