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Lizard In A Woman's Skin [DVD]
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Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan, Una breve vacanza, The Damned, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) is a sophisticated politician’s daughter who experiences a series of vivid, psychedelic nightmares drenched in depraved sex orgies and LSD. The dreams turns into a nightmare featuring the death of her neighbour, Julia Dürer (Anita Strindberg, The Eroticist). The next day Julia is found brutally murdered in her own apartment.
The investigation, conducted by Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker, The Guns of Navarrone, Zulu), leads to Carol’s arrest, however she is released after a mysterious man confesses to Scotland Yard that he is the murderer. Not convinced of Carol’s innocence, Corvin continues to investigate the murder and unearths new disturbing clues … Did Carol really do it or is she being framed? Where do her dreams end and reality begin?
This thriller from Lucio Fulci (Perversion Story, The Eroticist) is acclaimed as a masterpiece of the Italian giallo thriller genre and its psychedelic Ennio Morricone score ranks among the best of Il Maestro’s work.
** In order to produce the most complete version of the film ever available on DVD, shots have had to be inserted from different sources. In some places only Italian audio is known to exist, in which case we have retained and subtitled the scenes. The restoration has been overseen by acclaimed film writer Marc Morris.”
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Familiar British face Stanley Baker here plays Inspector Corvin. Baker gives his usual exemplary performance (Corvin’s habit of – dubbed - whistling isn’t convincing, however), despite this being a period in his life when his own financial challenges required him to appear in films that diminished his star-billed status. His son Glyn later described ‘Lizard…’ as ‘a movie which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.’ Stanley himself declared that he enjoyed everything he worked on, ‘including the bad pictures’.
I love the look Director Lucio Fulci gives this. Trippy psychedelia contrasts with some very sombre, often rainy locations to great effect: the false sense of safety in the warmly lit indoors, fighting with the sinister frostiness outside. The comfort of sex against some truly disturbing, if not always convincing, special gore effects (a shocking sequence involving dismembered canines required the makers to prove no real animals were hurt at the time). These things conspire to transport the audience into a dangerous world that is rarely quite real, and all the more effectively unnerving for that. This dreamy, druggy atmosphere doesn’t serve to make the complex plot any clearer, however!
As is often the way, revelations come thick and fast during the latter moments, and whilst it is true to say that another viewing may well help me make total sense of developments, the finale is a visual tour-de-force and stays in the mind for a good while after the credits have rolled. A word too for Ennio Morricone’s score; whilst it is a given that he produces some incredible melodious soundtracks, this has certain similarities to my favourite of all his works, that of his music for ‘Maddalena (1971)’. Beautiful.
As a thriller it simply ambles with no urgency and not much interest in throwing in any twists until the last half hour, but it never manages to get much mileage out of the question of whether Bolkan is going mad or not in the meantime. The police investigation is woefully unconvincing: not only does it boast the screen’s least credible police station (it looks like the producers just rented a London apartment and put pictures of policemen on the wall) but Baker has no problem letting the neighbours in to the murder scene to gawp at the corpse. Some of the dialogue is atrocious, made all the worse by having some of the English cast members dubbed as well as the Italian ones. There’s a half decent chase in the last third where Fulci’s direction raises its game but surprisingly little gore for those looking for it, though the restored Blu-ray does include Carlo Rambaldi’s controversial but almost entirely gratuitous effects footage of living vivisected dogs that caused the films so many legal problems when it was mistaken for the real thing. For the most part it just plods along unenthusiastically and rather drearily making less of the elements than it should, making its growing cult reputation really something of a mystery. Fulci certainly made a lot worse, but this is definitely well below the standard of his better efforts like Don’t Torture a Duckling.
Disappointing as the film is, Mondo Macabro's region-free US Blu-ray offers a good transfer of the longest available version (also available on StudioCanal's UK DVD) and plenty of extras - a half hour making of featurette from 2003 with Bolkan, Sorel, Rambaldi and other members of the cast and crew (along with an audio commentary by its director), a half hour archive interview featurette with Fulci, a critical audio commentary and video appreciation of the film, three trailers, two radio spots and an amusing interview with Tony Adams recalling the difference between working with Richard Burton on Villain (who couldn't be nicer) and Baker on Lizard (who couldn't have made his contempt for the newcomer clearer).
An absolute must own for fans of Giallo, fans of Fulci, fans of fantastic film in general!
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