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This film is rather unusual for a giallo. It's well-filmed but not
particularly stylized. The plot is rather strange, but generally makes
sense. It has no graphic violence, and although it has plenty of
perverse sexual situations, it barely has even the circumspect nudity
of the earliest Caroll Baker gialli ("Sweet Body of Deborah",
"Orgasmo", etc.). A society woman (played by Dagmar Lassender) is
nearly raped on the beach by a sinister man who tells her that her
industrialist husband has murdered one of his colleagues. The man
blackmails her into sleeping with him by threatening to expose her
husband, and then blackmails her again with graphic photos of their
affair. The husband meanwhile is himself involved with her sexually
voracious best friend (played by Nieves Navarro aka Susan Scott), and
the whole thing might be some kind of plot to drive her mad.
This movie works mainly because of the acting. Dagmar Lassander was one of the better actresses to appear in gialli, second only to Edwige Fenech and the aforementioned Carroll Baker at playing these hysterical, beleaguered victim roles. Even better is Nieves Navarro as her sex-hungry best friend who has pornographic pictures taken of herself and says at one point, after Lassender's character confides about her near rape, that she would have "adored being violated" (there's a kind of refreshingly politically incorrectness to the ridiculous dubbed dialogue of these movies). She is such a dubious and ambiguous character that even at the end it is not clear whether she is a loyal friend to the protagonist or an unexposed villain.
The director, Luciano Ercoli, is the Italian husband of former Spanish model Navarro. He made several other gialli, all featuring his wife, but this is probably the one where he made the best use of her. He is no Dario Argento or even Sergio Martino, but his direction is certainly adequate. The screenwriter, Ernesto Gastaldi, contributed scripts for any number of these pictures and he puts forth a pretty decent and suspenseful one here. This movie is kind of hard to find right now, but it is worth seeing if you like these kind of movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (let's shorten that to
Forbidden Photos for the rest of this write-up) is a stylish Italian
thriller full of blackmail and perversity. Forbidden Photos would
easily be among the best Gialli I've seen if it weren't for the lack of
actual murders and other on-screen mayhem. To be so titillating,
Forbidden Photos is in reality restrained, something you don't normally
see in this genre. To be so restrained, it's amazing how the story held
my attention throughout. And in the end, the convoluted plot and
mystery all fit together quite nicely and it all makes sense. The cast
is solid with good performances from Dagmar Lassander and Simon Andreu.
But, as expected, Susan Scott steals every scene in which she appears.
She never looked better or was she more mysterious than in Forbidden
Photos. Finally, Forbidden Photos features an interesting score from
Ennio Morricone. I went to bed last night with the main theme playing
in my head.
Other than the minimal extras, Blue Underground's new DVD is very nice. You just don't expect something so obscure (I don't believe that Forbidden Photos was ever released in the U.S. in any form until now) to look this good. From what my untrained eyes could see, the transfer looked flawless. Nice job!
'Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Of A Lady Above Suspicion' is an above average giallo that fans of the genre should seek out. The beautiful Dagmar Lassander (Fulci's so-so 'House By The Cemetary') plays a woman who is attacked by a stranger who almost rapes her then retreats telling her that her husband is a cheat and a murderer. She is devoted to her husband, a businessman who unbeknown to her is having an affair with her best friend, the cynical Dominique (Susan Scott). The mysterious stranger continues to haunt her and plants doubts in her mind about her husband. A business associate of his died under unusual circumstances and she becomes convinced that he was involved in his death. Her would be rapist becomes a blackmailer threatening to unmask her husband unless she allows him to take pornographic photos of her. Still loving her husband she is forced to comply. This is just the beginning of this entertaining thriller which has several surprises in store. While nowhere near the best giallo I have watched it is still to be recommended. I was entertained, and the story had me involved up to the very end.
THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION (Luciano Ercoli -
Luciano Ercoli can be called many things. He might not be the most innovative director, but he definitely is the king of fashion, with all the women dressed up in some truly outrageous '70s outfits. His muse Nieves Navarro in particular parades through the film in some truly skimpy outfits, resulting in unintentional campyness. When talking camp, watch the dancing scene in the club in the beginning of the film with Dagmar Lassander. In God's heaven, this is one tacky dancing scene we're watching. All the men are in suits, the women are outrageously dressed, the music is a hallucinate boggle of easy-listening tunes James Last wouldn't even dare to come up with and the way they dance (how do you even dance to this kind of music?) is truly a perfect showcase of tacky '70s euro-nonsense. Guilty. Case closed. Still, it's a complete riot when watching it now and that's probably why I enjoy these films so much.
In all his three Gialli, FORBIDDEN PHOTOS, DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS and DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT, Ercoli presents his story from a female perspective, but they are presented as utterly helpless when dealing with the various male perpetrators and chauvinist male detectives surrounding them. Even husbands or boyfriends, or any male capable of help turns out to be just as malevolent as all the blackmailers, wife-beaters and murderers. Nudity level and body count are low, but as a mystery it's actually much more effective than most Gialli, stylishly filmed, well acted and permeated with intrigue, blackmail and fetishistic violence, supported by a groovy Ennio Morricone score. Although graphic violence is restricted to a minimum, Dagmar Lassander has to undergo quite the ordeal with a mire of sedatives, alcohol and sleazy sex and strange conversations with the assertive bisexual figure of Nieves Navarro. She repeatedly keeps hearing from all male characters: "Get undressed!"
Just imagine this film, which was extremely obscure and hardly ever seen until its DVD-release in June 2006, sold almost 638,000 tickets in Spain alone according to the IMDb, probably largely due to the appeal of Spanish-born Nieves Navarro (over 2 million admissions in Europe is my guess). Blue Underground presents the film without an Italian audiotrack, but - surprise, surprise - the English dubbing is actually quite good now, which is always a major bonus.
Camera Obscura --- 7/10
My old buddy Rob, who knows more about psychotronic movies than anybody I know, was the one who turned me on to one of my favorite film experiences of 2006, "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" (1970), so when he recently raved about another giallo thriller from 1970 that he'd just seen, "The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion," I made a mental note to check it out as quickly as possible. And boy, am I glad I did! In "Forbidden Photos," Dagmar Lassander plays the part of Minou, a woman who is being sexually blackmailed by a man who has incriminating evidence of a murder her hunky businessman husband supposedly committed. Lassander looks a bit like a redheaded Debra Messing here, and her character is indeed quite the mess even when we first meet her, smoking and drinking too much and popping tranquilizers the way I'd pop Pretzel Nuggets. Needless to say, the events she must go through in this sexy, stylized thriller push her ever closer to the cracking point. Anyway, while gorehounds may be a tad disappointed by the lack of extreme violence in this picture, there are abundant joys to be found. Luciano Ercoli's direction is impeccable; the script by Ernesto Gastaldi (who seems to have written every other giallo that I see!) is one made to keep you guessing (although, plotwise, the film is much more straightforward than many other gialli); and Susan Scott, playing Minou's best friend, is remarkably sexy. But the single best element of this picture, for me, is yet another superb score by the maestro, Ennio Morricone. Isn't it remarkable how many hundreds of outstanding film scores this man is responsible for? I'm just in awe of this friggin' dude! I promise that you'll have this film's catchy theme song bouncing around in your head for days...and won't be forgetting this little giallo picture too quickly, either. Thanks, Blue Underground, and thanks again, Rob!
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion is a Giallo that is
different to what most fans will be used to, as the graphic, over the
top murder scenes have been scrapped in favour of a sexually charged
plot line. I was worried that this might not work out, as murders are a
key element of this sort of film for me - but to my surprise, Luciano
Ercoli has turned out another first rate Giallo that makes up for it's
lack of blood with a constant stream of intrigue. The film works from a
script by Giallo luminary Ernesto Gastaldi, who manages to keep every
other Giallo trademark besides murder in the film. The atmosphere is
charged with desire and frustration, and the central plot; which
features blackmail, sex and mystery makes best use of its array of
amoral and perverse characters. The film focuses on Minou; the
attractive wife of a businessman named Peter. The story picks up when
Minou is attacked by a stranger on a beach who informs her that her
husband has committed murder and blackmails her into sleeping with him.
The plot then takes another turn when the assailant furthers the
blackmail with pictures of their rendezvous...
Luciano Ercoli is never going to get huge respect from Giallo fans simply for the fact that he hasn't made a great deal of films; but it seems that the ones he has made get rated down too often, and just like Death Walks at Midnight - Forbidden Photos is an underrated Giallo. The director does an excellent job of ensuring that Forbidden Photos fits the plot in terms of look and style. The lighting and scene setting is excellent, and the upper class locations bode well with the central cast of characters. The acting is also surprisingly high quality with Dagmar Lassander impressing in the lead role. She is joined by Pier Paolo Capponi who takes the sinister role of her husband, while the cast is rounded off by the talented Susan Scott, whose husband and director Luciano Ercoli allows her to steal every scene she's in. The bisexual element of Scott's character fits the film well, and provides more perversion to the already sleazy atmosphere. The plot is significantly less convoluted than most Giallo's, but if you ask me; this is a good thing as it allows the director to put all the implications of the story across without being bogged down by plot details. Overall, this is a great Giallo film and while I know that it's high praise - I really wouldn't hesitate to list it alongside Gastaldi's collaborations with Sergio Martino in a list of premium Giallo films. Highly recommended!
Ever after giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi teams up with producer-director
Luciano Ercoli for this Forbidden Photos...
Set in 1970, this early giallo is nicely shot in Techniscope. No murders,
just plain old blackmail story and some shy eroticism. Sultry Dagmar
Lassander is at her best and Susan Scott is also fab as the devious
The plot is totally implausible but the suspense works til the end...
It's always surprising to see in these 70's gialli how the women look incredibly sexy and how the men are all ugly...projections of the writers/directors fantasies, maybe? Anyhoo... not boring at all, funny at some point -check out the dresses and the hats, it's a blast!-, not necessary but worth a look.
"The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion" is a good entry into
the Giallo genre, with a plot (concocted by Ernesto Gastaldi and
Mahnahen Velasco) that's actually pretty easy to follow. It does have
some twists along the way, but never gets overly convoluted. Director
Luciano Ercoli takes full advantage of the Techniscope aspect ratio
(2.35:1) to fill the screen with colour and detail. Some devotees of
the Giallo may not find it to be completely satisfying as it really
isn't all that sleazy, and it certainly isn't ever gory. Mostly, Ercoli
uses the film as a means of showcasing the charms of his dynamic and
luscious actresses, Dagmar Lassander and Nieves Navarro (Ms. Navarro
would become Ms. Ercoli two years later).
Lassander plays Minou, the bored wife of businessman Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi), who is accosted by a stranger (Simon Andreu) on a beach one night. It seems as if he intends to rape her (and indeed, this depraved man does have sex on the brain), but what he does is he warns Minou that her husband is a killer and is not to be trusted. Minou ends up caught in his blackmailing scheme, and when she tries later to convince people of what has been happening to her, there's no evidence to back up her claims.
Lassander is a pleasure to look at, and delivers a sympathetic performance as well; Navarro is a saucy delight as her friend Dominique. Capponi is engaging as Peter, and Andreu does look like he is having a good time playing the creepy blackmailer. Osvaldo Genazzani as the police inspector and Salvador Huguet as Peters' associate George round out the principal cast. These performers and filmmakers do a creditable job of holding your attention and interested in how things will develop, although some viewers might predict where it's going on prior to its resolution.
With outfits and music that strongly evoke this era (Ennio Morricone composes a nicely mellow score), this is worthy of viewing for lovers of the more exploitative side of Italian cinema.
Seven out of 10.
"Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene" aka. "The Forbidden Photos
of a Lady Above Suspicion" (1970) is the first of three Gialli by
Luciano Ercoli, the others being the fantastic "La Morte Cammina Con I
Tacchi Alti" ("Death Walks With High Heels", 1971) and the decent "La
Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte" ("Death Walks At Midnight", 1972). This
is actually a highly unusual Giallo as it lacks the usual violent and
stylish murders almost entirely; however, it makes up for the lack of
bloodshed with a hugely compelling plot that will tantalize the viewer
from start to finish.
When walking alone at night Minou (Dagmar Lassander) is attacked by an assailant (Simón Andreu). He does not rape her, but blackmails her with supposed proof of her husband Peter's (Pier Paolo Capponi) role in a murder. And it isn't money that the blackmailer is keen on.... Scripted by the great Ernesto Gastaldi, whose impressive filmography as a screenwriter includes Ercoli's other two Gialli and numerous others as well as several of the works of master directors like Mario Bava, Antonio Margheriti and Sergio Martino, "Forbidden Photos..." has a fascinating and constantly tense plot full of intrigue, red herrings and sexual perversions. The film is often referred to as a very 'sexy' Giallo; while the film has a plot filled with sex, it isn't explicit though, and actually quite tame for Giallo standards (there is no explicit filmed nudity, just some nude photos of sexy Nieves Navarro are shown). The film is almost blood-less and doubtlessly one of the least goriest Gialli ever made.
The cast is entirely great. All three of Ercoli's Gialli star Spanish actress Nieves Navarro and her countryman Simón Andreu. Andreu is great in the role of the sex-crazed blackmailer and the ravishing Miss Navarro is once again fantastic in her role of Minou's nymphomaniac friend. Dagmar Lassander ("Hatchet for the Honeymoon") fits perfectly in the leading role of the victim, she seems incredibly vulnerable and innocent. Pier Paolo Capponi ("Il Boss", "Cat O'Nine Tails", "Seven Blood-Stained Orchids") is once again great in his role. The film has a wonderfully elegant, typical early 70s look and the cinematography is fantastic, even by high Giallo Standards. The score was composed by none other than Ennio Morricone, needless to say that it is brilliant and perfectly increases the tension and atmosphere. In spite of a very low violence-level, "Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion" manages to be an incredibly suspenseful Giallo-experience from start to finish. My personal favorite film by Ercoli is still "Death Walks with High Heels", but this one comes very close and is an undeniable must-see for any Giallo fan. Highly Recommended! My rating: 8.5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautiful, but sexually repressed young housewife Minou (a marvelously luminous performance by luscious redhead stunner Dagmar Lassander) gets assaulted on the beach by a cunning blackmailer (a compelling portrayal by Simon Andreu) who tells Minou that her struggling businessman husband Peter (smoothly played by the handsome Pier Paolo Copponi) is a fraud and a killer. Minou's world becomes topsy-turvy as the blackmailer plots to seduce her and she gives in to her previously neglected carnal desires. Director Luciano Ercoli, working from a sharp script by Ernesto Gastaldi and May Velasco, relates the engrossing story at a snappy pace and does an expert job of creating and sustaining a captivating sensuous and mysterious atmosphere. Although the sexuality featured in this film is pretty hot and kinky, it's nonetheless handled with surprising taste and restraint; the sex never becomes too graphic or sleazy, which in turn actually heightens rather than diminishes the overall deliriously erotic tone. Moreover, there's also an infectiously sly and bouncy sense of playful humor evident throughout which further enhances the movie's considerable entertainment value. The acting is uniformly sound, with a delightfully sassy turn by the lovely Nieves Navarro as Minou's racy and uninhibited best gal pal Dominique rating as a particular stand-out. Alejandro Ulloa's crisp, sparkling cinematography gives the picture an attractive glossy look. Ennio Morricone's lush, bubbly, harmonic score likewise hits the saucy spot, with Edda Dell'Orso's exquisite soaring soprano singing dreamy wordless vocals like some kind of naughty fallen angel. The nice surprise ending neatly wraps things up in a solid and satisfying way. Good, crafty and spicy fun.
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