A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (1971)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: André Tranché, José Luis Martínez Mollá, Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Jean Sorel, Stanley Baker
Carol is the daughter of a wealthy politician and is married to a rich lawyer-she would seem to have it made,but she keeps having disturbing hallucinations and wierd dreams involving her neighbour Julia,whose swinging parties and decadent lifestyle both infuriate and excite her. During one of these Carol has a lesbian encounter with Julia which is witnessed by two hippies and then stabs her to death. The folllowing day Julia is found murdered. Did Carol do it,or did someone frame her? As one of the hippies starts to stalk Carol,Inspector Corving tries to piece together what really happened……
The huge success of Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage led to a great number of Giallos with similar titles, and this fairly early effort by Lucio Fulci, which was his first film to recieve fairly wide international distribution [in the US it was retitled Schizoid and heavily cut, with dialogue and extreme material alike being haphazardly removed], is one of the best. It actually isn’t much like Argento’s film at all, and Fulci would often get rightfully annoyed when people claimed he was copying the other director. For a start there’s only one killing and far more emphasis is placed on the actual detection, plus the script, which Fulci co-wrote with two others, does end up making total sense!
Perhape more than anything else a police mystery, it has a rather dark but slightly satirical view of early 70s Swinging London which is very interesting. There are several dream sequences and hallucinations featuring some very erotic and disturbing images-one memorable bit features members of Carol’s family sitting at a table all distorted looking like a Francis Bacon painting,with one guy’s guts spilling out onto his lap! Another sequence featuring dogs cut open was so realistic for the time that Fulci and his special effects man Carlo Rambaldi [a far cry from E.T. for him!]were taken to court in Italy as it was thought they had cut open real dogs! There’s also a terrific stalking sequence and chase which approaches Alfred Hitchcock in quality, with the tension superbly maintained, while some dialogue scenes happen to have really odd camera setups. Fulci’s style is generally less flashy than Argento’s, but he still does very interesting things with stuff like angles, editing etc.
Some of the police procedural scenes are rather dull-obviously these were thought essential to the plot and maybe they are, but they do slow things down rather a lot. Also considered a flaw might be the way the film doesn’t end with a climax but a low key finale,as Stanley Baker’s detective works everything out. I rather like it, it’s different and unusual, but it may disappoint some. The performances though are all fine with a particularly good one from Florinda Bolkan as Carol,and Ennio Morricone contributes a typically wierd, inventice and sometimes downright trippy score which really adds to the film.
The current R1 DVD varies in picture quality as they’ve had to piece together a complete version from various sources, and supposedly twenty seconds are still missing. Nevertheless,A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin is an interesting thriller and shows Fulci wasn’t just good at Zombie and Slasher movies. Until he became typecast as a master of gory horror, he was actually a jack of all trades but was usually able to apply his personality into his movies. Although there had been violence before in a few films like Beatrice Cenci, this film was actually the first of his films to have horrific elements. I also think Argento’s The Stendahl Syndrome was influenced by this movie,and therefore it can be recommended just for that!