A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
a lizard in a woman's skin | lucio fulci | roberto gianviti | jose luis martinez molla | andre tranche | florinda bolkan | jean sorel | stanley baker | giallo | mystery | thriller | italy | france | spain | silvia monti | alberto de mendoza | penny brown | mike kennedy
Film: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Una lucertola con la pelle di donna)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá and André Tranché
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Jean Sorel and Stanley Baker
This was a film that I heard about, mostly because I enjoy films from Lucio Fulci, but also because giallo films tend to have interesting titles. This one really does fall into that category for sure. I didn’t know a lot about it aside from that, as I’ve avoided films that did walkthrough reviews or spoilers. I do have to thank Duncan from the TPUTS Collective, as there was a selection of the Where to Begin With Series and made me watch ahead of my schedule. The synopsis is the potentially unhinged daughter of a British politician is accused of killing her hedonistic neighbor after she witnesses the murder in a dream.
Now this is an interesting film for sure. We start off with Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) trapped on what appears to be a train. It shifts over to a dark room with a bed and on it is Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg). She is not fully dressed and her breasts are exposed. It then shifts to both her and Carol naked. We’re then taken to Carol while she is in psychotherapy with Dr. Kerr (George Rigaud) who is analyzing this dream. I took this as Carol has having lesbian feelings toward Julia, but Dr. Kerr gives his views which have to do with repression and wanting to be more free like her. I do feel this applies as well.
Carol is married to Frank (Jean Sorel). I do believe he has a daughter Joan (Ely Galleani). What throws me off here is that Frank doesn’t look old enough to have a daughter this young, but I digress. Frank works with Carol’s father, Edmond Brighton (Leo Genn). Through a scene at dinner where Carol, Joan, Frank, his secretary Deborah (Silvia Monti) and Edmond, we hear that Julia is having a loud party. This really bothers Carol and her father. As Edmond goes to leave, he notices a car outside that is painted flashy.
In the office the next day, Edmond gets a phone call and as Frank is leaving, asks if he has been unfaithful to his daughter. He laughs off the accusation and leaves. It is storming that night and we see that he is in fact cheating on her with someone. That night, Carol has another vivid dream where she murders Julia. We also get an odd image of Jenny (Penny Brown) and Hubert (Mike Kennedy) who are watching from a balcony. Their eyes are white and it should be pointed out they’re hippies.
It then turns out that Julia has been murdered. Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker) is in charge of this investigation. Carol is freaked out by the news, as the evidence points to her dream and her being the prime suspect. There’s a lot more to this story that will draw everyone in as some people have things to hide and it begs the question, who did kill Julia?
Having now watched this film, I have to say, this doesn’t necessarily fit into what I expect from Fulci. I don’t mean that in a bad way by any stretch, because I could argue this is proof that he’s a great filmmaker for sure. My other thing is that when it comes to a giallo film, if I can’t guess the ending, I’m happy. That applies here.
This is an interesting film in the red herrings make sense and even though I know when they make something obvious, it isn’t the answer. This movie plays with that and still got me like I said. To start off with, I liked our lead in Carol. My immediate thoughts with her are that she is sexually repressed. She has lesbian urges toward Julia, but with society and her standing, she denies them which cause her dreams to be as they are. There’s a reveal with her later in the movie, which was quite interesting with the evidence we are given.
There’s also Frank, her husband. I don’t like him as he’s having an affair. I picked up the idea that Carol in her repression isn’t meeting his needs. It is hard to fully hate him, as I feel the time period it was a bit more socially acceptable to have a mistress, especially where it is taking place. Regardless, I’m not a fan. I do like that he kind of becomes the main character, as the heat turns to him as evidence gets revealed.
We also have the interesting cast of characters of Jenny, Hubert and Joan. I’ve already said that Joan looks to be a bit too old to be the daughter of Frank, plus there’s this odd interactions between them. It is possible though, as there’s a gap of 19 years. Joan actually knows these two hippies and there’s an interesting angle where Hubert admits to the crime, but it doesn’t turn out to be possible. He and Jenny though still know something. I also like that the title of the movie is stated by Hubert and it makes a lot of sense why as it involves drugs.
That will take me to the pacing of the movie, which I have to say was just fine. The movie runs 95 minutes and I don’t have a problem there. The movie never gets boring, despite there’s really only one death and that is Julia. Sorry if that is a spoiler, but that’s not to say that things do not happen. We get hallucinations from Carol as well as there is someone chasing after her to kill her. That really helps to the drive the tension when it is needed and the story keeps it from getting boring. Much like many giallo films, the ending is abrupt as we’re given the explanation, but it fits for how the story plays out.
I really should go to the acting next. I thought that Bolkan was really good as the lead here. She plays this character so well that without it being explained until the end, I was picking up different things about her character. I’m impressed if you can do that. Plus she’s easy on the eyes if I’m honest. Sorel is also really good. I like how the focus of the movie shifts from Carol to him as he becomes a suspect. I like that the police are doing their investigation, but Frank is doing his own as he is the suspect, falling into that troupe of non-cops doing investigation. Baker is good as the detective. I like that he’s not an idiot and is actually the one who solves the case if memory serves. I’d say that Monti, Brown, Kennedy, Galleani and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
Despite this not being as graphic as I’m used to from a Fulci film that is not to say there aren’t good effects. I liked the extreme close-up of Julia’s death as we see the knife go into something. The blood is a bit bright, but being from the 70’s, I have a soft spot there. I also think that the dream sequences feel like a dream, so credit there. There’s also this odd scene with dogs and them being cut open. I’m not entirely sure what is going on there, but it looks great and freaked me out. The cinematography is very well done, but I come to expect that.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack here. I think that we do a really good job with the music and again, I knew it would be when I saw Enio Morricone was listed in the beginning. There’s a jazz feel to the film if memory serves and it just fits for what they’re going to do. It has a dark feel, even though it isn’t as eerie as other music. It just fits and even though I’m a bit biased, I would probably add this to the music I listen to while writing.
So with that said, I really enjoyed this movie. It has a story that I didn’t see the ending coming as the curves and swerves we get give you the answer, but give red herrings as to who it could be as well. I think that is master filmmaking to be honest as the story isn’t the most complex. There is some subtext though that I thought fit. The acting is really good as well. It is paced in a way where I never get bored, despite not a lot necessarily going on. The soundtrack and the effects were solid as well. Overall I’d say this is really good movie and could go up with another viewing now that I know how things play out.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10