Lizard In A Woman's Skin

Lizard In A Woman's Skin

****

Reviewed by: James Gracey

Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) has been having bizarrely erotic and devastatingly violent dreams about her alluring neighbour Julia. When Julia is found stabbed to death, Carol becomes a suspect. She tries to solve the mystery while evading attempts on her own life by a sinister stalker, seemingly intent on keeping her in the dark…

Lucio Fulci is famed for his grisly, grimy and queasily violent zombie movies. He is usually disregarded as a lesser Dario Argento. Lizard In A Woman’s Skin, however, stands out from his eclectic and uneven body of work as a provocative and visually arresting giallo - its eerily sensual atmosphere bubbling with sexual deviancy and decadence. Fulci showcases his obvious talent for creating astounding imagery and striking shots in the opening sequences – as well as exploiting some Sapphic desire.

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Fulci does what he can to keep viewers guessing the killer’s identity and, indeed, Carol’s sanity as the narrative becomes increasingly twisted, convoluted and full of strange and eccentric red herrings. Interestingly, the character presented to us as the heroine, Carol, is an unreliable narrator as her innocence is called into question a number of times.

Did Carol kill Julia and then block out the memory? Or is she having psychic visions of someone else’s crime? Fulci chooses not to explore such concepts and makes it clear that this is really a film about atmosphere and intrigue, as he effortlessly creates a creepy and sexually charged malaise that swirls throughout proceedings. Suspense soon dips beneath the radar, however, as scene after scene of badly dubbed exposition renders much of the film strangely detached and uninvolving, though never dull. Fans of gialli have never let such inconveniences deter them from enjoying the sub-genre though. Fulci even tosses in some familial melodramatics and ‘whacked out’ hippies to keep things ticking over.

Aside from the opening dream scene, the film’s other standout moment occurs when Fulci obviously remembers he needs to give his film a thrilling conclusion. Carol is pursued by a mysterious figure through an impossibly labyrinthine building; through murky catacombs, windowless chambers full of flitting bats, a lab full of still-alive vivisected dogs - complete with pulsating insides-on-the-outside (for those Fulci gore-hounds) – and along a rooftop. The tension produced in this scene is never replicated anywhere else in the film.

Lizard In A Woman’s Skin also boasts a shimmering and lushly seductive score by Ennio Morricone that perfectly enhances the breathily decadent proceedings. This is a fascinating and visually stunning addition to the Italian gialli of the Seventies and certainly one of Fulci’s best.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2010
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A rich socialite is accused of the violent sexual murder of her nymphomaniac neighbour, but has she been framed by her scheming husband?
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Director: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel

Year: 1971

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy

Festivals:

Glasgow 2010

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