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Even though Lucio Fulci's name is usually uttered in the same breath as
those of Mario Bava and Dario Argento in "who's the best Italian horror
director?" discussions, he's just as likely to be dismissed as an
incompetent hack that couldn't direct traffic. "A Lizard in a Woman's
Skin", like the rest of his gialli efforts from the 70's is solid proof
of the opposite. Unlike other genre efforts that leave the viewer
baffled with ludicrous plot twists and impossible endings, "Lizard...",
convoluted as it may be, ranks among the most solid crime mysteries the
Italian scene produced.
Of course that doesn't mean the final 20 minutes aren't bound to give you a headache as the plot unfolds its myriad twists and turns. Every character is a suspect. In turns Carrol, her husband, two hippies, Carrol's step daughter and her father. Yet all the loose ends are tied very neatly in the end. Beautifully staged gore, great cinematography and hot European babes shedding their clothes are other genre staples and "Lizard.." doesn't dissappoint, even though it's gore-lite. It certainly doesn't live up to Fulci's rep (a rep not entirely representative of his vast work, spanning many different genres from westerns to crime action and comedies), but I have no problem when the overall quality is so good. Coupled with a languid jazzy score by the maestro, Ennio Morricone, solid performances, intriguing set pieces and delirious dream sequences, Fulci here weaves a beautiful tappestry that will leave no fan of bizarre Italo-horror disappointed. And if anything, it just goes to prove that Fulci was a great director, even if his post New York Ripper catalogue may suggest the opposite.
Apart from the final 20 minutes, where the labyrinthine plot unfolds through remarkable detective work, the first sequence is great. It's Carrol's dream. She's pushing her way through a narrow (train?) corridor full of people, in slo mo, with an anguished look on her face. Suddenly the corridor is full of naked people (also known as hippies). Then she's falling into the void with darkness surrounding her. She lands on a lavish velvet bed, dressed in a grey fur, and makes out with the gorgeous Annita Strindberg. I haven't been thrown off so much by an opening scene since Martino's "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" (another great sleazy psychedelic opening). The rest of the dream scenes, including the murder, are all dizzying and off-beat.
Overall, this is a must see for giallo fans, Fulci fans that want to discover his other side and all the nay sayers. If possible, try and find the uncut Italian version. It might be full-screen but you get 5 minutes of additional gore and nudity.
Yet another early 70's giallo with one of those cryptic zoophilic
titles. A Lizard in a Woman's Skin is a very fine example of this most
Italian of exploitation sub-genres and is possibly the best film that
Lucio Fulci ever made.
This is an atypical giallo in that it only has one on screen murder to speak of. However, this murder is, to say the least, a memorable affair. It takes place as part of a very trippy and psychedelic dream sequence that features a train populated entirely by naked people, a malevolent giant swan, and grotesque Francis Bacon style dead people in chairs with leaking guts. In the centre of the dream is a lesbian liaison between Florinda Bolkan and Anita Strindberg (who has never looked better than here). The lovers embrace on a king-size bed draped in sheets of a deep red colour. When suddenly Bolkan drives a knife into Strindberg's chest. Her death throws are caught in orgiastic operatic slow motion. This is all accompanied by a creepy Ennio Morricone soundtrack. To put it mildly, this is magnificent stuff. Aside from this opening murder there is a scene later in the film that is not recommended for dog lovers (although seeing that this is an Italian movie I feel I should point out that these aren't real dogs folks, thank God).
Lizard along with Don't Torture a Duckling - proves that given the right resources, Fulci was more than capable of producing stylish, suspenseful and highly polished films. Like a considerable number of gialli from the early 70's, Lizard benefits from the great pool of talent that was evidently working in the Italian film industry at the time; there seems to have been an abundance of great cinematographers, composers, set designers and wardrobe people, alongside some great directors and appealing actors (not too sure about the writers though!). This film displays a great deal of the aforementioned positives. There is great camera-work, including nice use of split-screen. Excellent photography of the interior shots of Alexandra Palace, that only serves to heighten the suspense of this sequence. The scene where Florinda Bolkan is trapped in a room full of bats by the killer and attempts escape via high window is replicated a few years later in Suspiria I suspect Dario Argento has seen this movie. We have a standout score from Ennio Morricone. The main theme is a beautiful piece of orchestral music with a laid-back groove featuring breathy vocal accompaniment by the incomparable Edda Del'Orso. If anything, this main theme is criminally underused in the movie, although the rest of the soundtrack is great too, featuring, as it does, some wild psychedelic work outs too Mondo Morricone! The interior décor and fashions are suitably, and agreeably, examples of early 70's Italian style that we know and love. Acting-wise Florinda Bolkan turns in a great central performance and she is ably supported by an ensemble that is a whose-who of Italian genre cinema of the time.
This is essential stuff for giallo completists. This compares very favourably with the best the genre has to offer. Fulci is most commonly associated with his later zombie splatter flicks but this film alongside it's companion piece Don't Torture a Duckling prove that he was a master of the giallo.
A troubled rich woman Carol Hammond played by Florinda Bolkan is suffering from a series of bizarre sexual dreams where she indulges in lesbian activities with her neighbor Julia Durer(Anita Strindberg).Unfortunately one morning after another perverse sex dream culminating in a gory knifing of Julia,Carol is shocked to find that Julia was murdered in her apartment the stormy night before.When all evidence points to Carol being the culprit she must not only investigate the crime but determine what is dream and what is reality."Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is perhaps the most bizarre and puzzling Fulci's giallo.The cinematography by Luigi Kuvellier is splendid with some gorgeous visuals and the dream scenes are appropriately psychedelic.The eviscerated dogs sequence still shocks unprepared viewers drawn into the murder mystery aspect of the film.8 out of 10.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Lucio Fulci made better
giallos than Dario Argento. I'm sorry, but this early classic is truly
stunning. From the opening scene in the train, to the final twist at
the end, it will leave your arm hairs standing at attention.
It's gory, it's thrilling, it's creepy and it's moody. It absolutely captures the early 70's psychedelic 'thing' without being cheesy. It's basically a psychological study of a woman who seems deeply troubled but, then again, may just be delusional. Until the end, we really have no idea which is the case, but when we find out, we're surprised. The plot is genius.
"A Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is a true must-see for giallo fans. It's a recommended-see for horror fans. It's a probably-should-see for gore fans. And it's a better-be-on-your-shelf for Fulci fans. Classic movie fans and critics? Stay away. This is a film that you were not born to GET and you shouldn't attempt to.
By the way, my favorite Ennio Morricone soundtrack second only to "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." 9 out of 10, kids.
Although Lucio Fulci is most famous for the atmospheric and very gory
series of zombie movies he made in the late 70's and early 80's, this
early 70's giallo might very well be his best film. It has all the
strengths of Fulci's best work--great cinematography, brilliant
editing, and a powerful sense of atmosphere (although the decadent,
garish portrait he creates here of "Swinging London" is quite distinct
from oozing sense of dread he conjures up in the rural American
settings of his zombie films). This movie, however, has two things his
zombie films do not have: first, a script that is both genuinely
suspenseful and that actually makes sense (rather than merely
functioning as a means to tie various interesting scenes together),
and, second, Florinda Balkan. It is hard to describe how good Balkan is
here, but if you've seen her in "Flavia, the Heretic" or in the
supporting role she plays in another excellent Fulci giallo "Don't
Torture a Duckling" you'll know what I mean. There is some decent
acting in many of the later Fulci movies, but nothing like Balkan's
performance in this and in "Duckling".
And if you're the typical Fulci fan seeking a heavy dosage of blood and gore, you won't be disappointed. This movie offers a bat attack similar to the one he later did in "House by the Cemetery" which is less bloody, but much more realistic as it accomplished through clever editing rather than phony prosthetics. Then there is the scene with a half-dissected (but still living)dog which actually landed Fulci in court for animal cruelty! (Don't worry--it wasn't a real dog). Hopefully, when this movie comes out on (legitimate) DVD that scene will be restored to its full power, and this excellent movie will be appreciated for what it truly is--Fulci's best movie.
When people think of Lucio Fulci, it's always his gorier and largely
incoherent efforts that spring to mind. Films like Zombie Flesh-Eaters
and The Beyond, which are most definitely good films if you like that
sort of thing (as I certainly do!); but they don't adequately portray
the man's talent. If you want to see the 'great' Fulci films, you need
to go back to his Giallo days with films like Don't Torture a Duckling
and indeed this film; A Lizard in Woman's Skin. Fulci's first Giallo is
a trippy thriller that excellently captures the laid back style of the
swinging sixties and blends it magnificently with the thrilling pace
that has gone on to epitomise the Italian thriller. The film follows a
young woman (Florinda Bolkan) who dreams that she is having orgies with
a hippy woman that lives downstairs. Events take a turn for the worse
when the young woman dreams that she's killed the hippy, who then turns
up dead; brutally murdered in her apartment, in exactly the way that
the woman dreamt...
While this film isn't as brutal as some of the later Giallo efforts, Fulci succeeds in creating a foreboding atmosphere and manages to keep his audience on the edge of their seats. The plot line is rather strange, and Fulci makes best use of this through an excellent Ennio Morricone score, which firmly instills the trippy atmosphere in the viewers mind. The Giallo has come to be synonymous with brutal murders and lots of gore but, ironically, Fulci keeps his murders down a minimum and some of them even happen off screen. This is both a good and a bad thing as I, personally, like seeing brutal murders in Giallo's; but on the other hand it allows Fulci to keep the focus firmly on the central murder and he doesn't get sidetracked with lots of blood and gore, which does the film itself lots of favours. The mystery boils down to an excellent ending, in which the film is tied up nicely and we are treated to a great twist and some first rate detective work from the detective on the case. Highly recommended viewing and a must for Giallo fans!
The 'godfather of gore' Lucio Fulci is certainly most famous for his
gory Zombie flicks, such as "Zombi 2" (1979), "City of the Living Dead"
(1980), or "The Beyond" (1980). Great films, of course, but, as far as
I am concerned, his less widely known 70s Gialli are at least as
memorable. Especially his 1972 masterpiece "Non Si Sevizia Un Paperino"
aka. "Don't Torture a Duckling", easily Fulci's greatest film, ranges
among the greatest Italian Horror films ever made, and outshines all
his Zombie flicks in a heartbeat. This earlier Giallo-outing by Fulci,
"Una Lucertola Con La Pelle Di Donna" aka. "Lizard In A Woman's Skin"
(1971) is doubtlessly also a very intense, beautiful and creepy Giallo
that impresses with a wonderfully uncanny, fever-dream-like atmosphere
and a wonderful Florinda Bolkan in the lead. Yet I do not fully share
the enthusiasm of some of my fellow Giallo-lovers, many of whom even
seem to regard this as Fulci's best. While "Lizard in a Woman's Skin"
is doubtlessly highly atmospheric and furthermore has an ingeniously
convoluted plot, it does have its lengths, and, even in regards of
atmosphere, it cannot possibly compete with "Don't Torture a Duckling",
in my opinion.
Tormented by bizarre lesbian dreams about her seductive neighbor (Anita Strindberg), the respectable lawyer's wife Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) regularly visits a psychotherapist. One day, Carol tells the psychotherapist about a dream in which she murders the neighbor. Shortly thereafter, the neighbor is actually murdered, in the exact same manner that Carol has dreamt of... "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is a Giallo that delivers in almost all regards. It has a convoluted plot and certainly isn't easy to predict. The cinematography is great, and the generally creepy, dream-like atmosphere is intensified by another ingenious score composed by maestro Ennio Morricone (the orchestra is conducted by another maestro, Bruno Nicolai). The film has a great ensemble-cast, especially Florinda Bolkan is brilliant in the lead. Bolkan is very beautiful and a great actress, and her performance here is just great. Anita Strindberg is mysterious and seductive in her role. The rest of the cast includes prolific characters such as Jean Sorel (as Carol's husband), Leo Genn (as her father), and Alberto De Mendoza (as one of the investigating police inspectors). Even though there are only few killings for Giallo-standards, the film has some very gory scenes and genuine shock-sequences. The film is very suspenseful, but, as mentioned above, it is partly a bit confused and has its lengths in-between. All in all, this is a very good film, but I personally wouldn't call it Fulci's best. That title doubtlessly goes to the masterpiece "Don't Torture A Duckling", but the two films can hardly be compared due to the very different theme, style and setting. If there is one film I would compare "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" with, it is probably Sergio Martino's underrated "Tutti I Colori Del Buio" (aka. "All Colors of the Dark", 1972), due to the psychedelic atmosphere and the confused female protagonist (though I personally preferred Martino's film). "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" provides a wonderful 70s feeling, with hippie-characters, orgies etc. Overall, "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is highly recommended to all Giallo-lovers, particularly those who appreciate a psychedelic atmosphere. My rating: 7.5/10
I'm not really a big fan of Lucio Fulci, but this wasn't a bad little
murder mystery. For once, the film concentrates on the actual mystery
as opposed to the murders. There is a minimum of gore which may
disappoint fans of European schlock, but adds to the credibility of the
film. The mystery itself is cleverly setup and the use of red herrings
was quite good. It contains one of those endings which is unpredictable
but makes us feel we should have known all along. Also, Fulci proves to
be a stylish and atmospheric director. The love scenes towards the
beginning are surprisingly erotic. He is particularly good in the
surreal scenes involving the hippie orgies. Its odd how a film could
seem to be so against the Hallucination Generation yet carry such a
psychedelic style. This dates the film poorly but also adds to the
appeal for cult fans. Special mention also goes to a typically
atmospheric score by Ennio Morrecone.
Still, this is no masterpiece. While the setup and mystery itself is reasonably clever, the dialog is dumb as all hell. Lucio Fulci is a director often accused of showing more interest in set pieces than in character development and script writing, and that is all too apparent here. Also, I was confused by Stanley Baker's character. I get the feeling that Baker, who could be a good actor (just see "Zulu"), was supposed to be a quirky scene-stealing inspector stock character (Jess Franco did this very well in "Diabolical Dr. Z"). He just came across as alternatively annoying and puzzling. Also, the film is too leisurely paced for my liking. I can deal with a slow pace if something interesting is taking place on screen, but there's too much talk and filler in this one. An enjoyable film, but not one I see myself watching more than once. (6/10)
Carol Hammond(Florinda Balkan)lives in London and is the daughter of a very important Lawyer(Leo Genn), she is haunted by some very strange psychedelic dreams about her noisy and party loving neighbour, Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg),these dreams always contain drug fuelled sexual depravity ,and while she is seeing her Psychiatrist, she tells him of her latest dream in which she has Lesbian sex and then brutally murders Durer. Carol is reassured by her shrink that this is all quite normal, but when Durer is found murdered in exactly the same way as she described, Carol soon becomes the No1 suspect for Inspector Corvin(Stanley Baker),and when her fingerprints are found on the murder weapon and her fur coat found beside the body .well its cased closed?...or is it?....is Carol going mad or is she being set up?...Soon after being released on Police bail, Carol is hunted by some drugged up Hippies that she saw in her dream and soon people begin to die. Lizard is full of red herrings and endless plot possibilities, that adds to the mystery, its trippy psychedelic dream sequences fully capture the feel of the swinging sixties,add to that some gore as only Fulci can do and you have a fine Giallo .incidentally one particular gory scene involving dogs caused controversy at the time and Fulci had to prove in court on four occasions that the effects were fake. Lizard boasts an excellent cast, that also includes Jean Sorel as Carols husband but the film is Balkan's whose portrayal of a disturbed woman is excellent. Another Morricone score adds to the quality of the film .all in all a very interesting Giallo entry, that is very stylized and mystery driven.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- A mentally unbalanced woman tells her therapist about a recent dream
involving her neighbor. In the dream, Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan)
violently murders her neighbor. A few days later, the neighbors body is
found. Suspicion immediately falls on Carol - her fingerprints are on
the knife, her scarf is on the body, and her fur coat is on the floor.
Was it a dream or did Carol really commit murder?
- I cannot begin to express how long I've been waiting for this movie to be released. The street date was pushed back several times over the course of about two years. And, this my be the reason I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. My expectations were ridiculously high. It would have been difficult for any movie to live up to the lofty expectations I had placed on A Lizard in a Woman's Skin.
- Several things in the movie really worked for me. Chief among them is the ending. The last 20 or so minutes of the movie are a mystery lovers dream. Every single character comes under suspicion of having committed the murder. And there are plenty of suspects - Carol, her husband, her daughter, her father, the hippie, and anyone else who has more than 5 minutes of screen time. It wouldn't have surprised me had the police detective arrested himself. Just when you believe you've got it all figured out, the spotlight shifts to someone else. It's not until the very last moments of the movie that everything becomes clear.
- Some things, however, did not work for me. The first third of the movie is incredibly slow. Other than the murder, nothing much happens. The time is spent on developing the idea that Carol is crazy. It's not very thrilling.
- The new Region 1 DVD comes with two different versions of the movie. The cleaned-up widescreen transfer is actually the cut American version known as Schizoid. The second disc has the uncut version, only it's not as good of a print and it's foolscreen. The difference between the two versions appears to be about 5 or so minutes of added gore and nudity. So, beware before you buy.
- While I enjoyed the movie, I didn't find it nearly as enjoyable as Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling. But, it's going to take more than this viewing to make me a real fan. My expectations got in the way this time.
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