15 December 2008 | Red-Barracuda
Premium early 70's giallo
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.