Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
June 1, 2010
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel, Silvia Monti, Alberto de Mendoza, Penny Brown, Mike Kennedy, Ely Galleani, George Rigaud, Ezio Marano, Franco Balducci, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Erzsi Paál, Gaetano Imbró, Leo Genn,
Biting, Gnawing TERROR Claws At Your Brain! Well, so says the tagline from Lucio Fulci’s 1971 horror mystery pervfest A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.
Italian director and screenwriter Fulci had a diverse career, and was responsible for films in lots of genres including comedies, westerns and crime thrillers, but it’s his horror films that will make sure he has a place in the hearts of cult film fans everywhere. Revered by gorehounds, his high point is generally accepted as the Lovecraftian, insane, ‘The Beyond’ which features satanic crucifixions, tarantula attacks and a spiffing head-dissolved-by-acid death.
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is not quite as graphic, however. Carol Hammond (played by Brazilian hottie Florinda Bolkan) is the daughter of a successful English politician, and is not quite right in the old coconut. She’s beset by mind-bending dreams involving hard partying, dissolute neighbour Julia (Anita Strindberg), where they indulge in some arty lesbionic hanky-panky in what appears to be a wind tunnel. Unable to rid herself of her nightmares with the help of a psychiatrist, they culminate with her stabbing Julia to death in a grisly sequence. Sure enough, she finds out the next day that Julia has been offed in a manner exactly the same as her dream. What follows is a tale of red herrings, chicanery and murderous hippies as Carol and her father set out to unravel the mystery surrounding the murder and prove Carol’s innocence. Did she do it? Who knows? Who cares? Who dares to dream?
Special mention must be made about the scene where Carol stumbles upon a bunch of disembowelled dogs whilst in a clinic. The effects were so realistic that Lucio Fulci was accused of animal cruelty and nearly copped two years in jail. He only managed to get off the hook when special effects savant Carlo Rimbaldi turned up at court bearing a latex hound, proving that it was cinema trickery.
Fulci has crafted an effective thriller, and it’s helped along by a queasy Ennio Morricone score. Not having lived through the decade I can’t say if it was all free love, beads and headbands but he evokes an effective, albeit sinister, sixties vibe here. Within the first five minutes, you’re subjected to more claustrophobia, crash-zooms, razor sharp cheekbones and the type of coiffured manes you see on faded old posters in hairdressers than most other films of this genre. The acting is a bit stiff, but this is to be expected from a cheap seventies giallo and this reviewer would argue that a cult film such as this is all the better for it. This is essential viewing for any Fulci aficionado, but anyone who is a fan of horror or thrillers will enjoy it. It’s a stylish and will keep you guessing right up until the very last frame.