This is yet another fine unsung (because obscure) gem from Chabrol, which shows him once again in rather experimental vein (particularly the elliptical editing) though sticking close in this case to his fortuitous genre i.e. the thriller.
Death Rite really shows off the director's affinity with the cinema of Fritz Lang: not only are balloons a key motif here à la M (1931), but he even utilizes for one of the various protagonists in the film an actor (Gert Frobe) from Lang's swan-song – The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960; actually one of a long-running series to which Chabrol himself would contribute an entry in 1990), with which this also shares a narrative concern in parapsychology!
As ever, the French master does very well by his actors – particularly the afore-mentioned Frobe as a magician/clairvoyant (the original French title of this one was in fact Les Magiciens) and Jean Rochefort as a self-confessed member of the idle rich who becomes involved with his stage act (which includes a sawing-in-half routine the director would re-use 30 years later in the aptly-named A Girl Cut Into Two ) and even 'helps', albeit behind Frobe's back, in the realization of a vision that is obsessing the latter! With this in mind, as indeed it is stated in the brief didactic prologue, the film attempts (via a fiendishly clever script) to rationalize the gift of second sight: could the alleged perception of future events somehow make one predisposed towards their ultimate accomplishment? The role-reversal twist at the end, then, recalls the shocking climax of Don't Look Now (1973); similarly, the Tunisian setting draws parallels with the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet (though largely eschewing its trademark obliqueness).
Anyway, the rest of the principal cast features a typically intense Franco Nero, married to luscious Stefania Sandrelli (whose character began as atypically ditsy but gradually acquired maturity and scope), as well as Gila von Weitershausen (a former companion of French director Louis Malle here playing an ex-lover of Nero, a relationship that is eventually rekindled – following his estrangement from the belligerent Sandrelli who, in turn, is herself seduced by the Macchiavellian Rochefort!). Incidentally, in what appears to be a deliberate decision on the film-makers' part (though no allusion is ever made to this end), the latter quartet of actors bear strikingly similar physical features – with Nero and Rochefort both sporting a moustache, while Sandrelli and von Weitershausen are each given a frizzy hair-do!
Source : IMDb