Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 103 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Music by Ennio Morricone. Starring Silvia Monti (FRAULEIN DOCTOR, LE CERVEAU), Stanley Baker (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, ZULU), Jean Sorel (THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, BELLE DU JOUR), Florinda Bolkan (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, THE DAMNED), and Anita Strindberg (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY).
Best one-liner: "What on earth are those neighbors up to? It sounds like a football match!"
Within the first 5 minutes of LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN, we have screaming, gratuitous nudity, a lesbian dream sequence with fan-blown hair, an orgy on public transportation, and some jazzy upright bass riffs courtesy of Ennio Morricone.
Now there's no way the rest of the movie can live up to that, but it's still a solid giallo from the era before Fulci went TOTALLY whacky. (The film as a whole is similar in tone to THE BIG CUBE, SPASMO, or Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND.)
Now people always want to pin Fulci down with his gore (eye-gouging, flesh-eating, etc.), and they'll frequently point out films (this, MURDER ROCK, NEW GLADIATORS, etc.) as being atypical when they merely lack the over-the-top viscera. (Though the uncut Italian version features a brief scene with disemboweled canines at a clinic that was so realistic, Fulci's FX men had to show how they did it in court- but by no means does this typify the film.)
But this allows us to look deeper at what indeed typifies Fulci's films- and we find recurrent motifs like dream sequences with fan-blown hair,
nonsensical psychiatrists (who have never heard of doctor-patient confidentiality),
and really bad dubbing.
The visual style here is sort of like Dario Argento meets Tony Scott: there's brilliant framing and painterly use of color combined with absurd jump cuts and frenetic zooms.
There's still a lot of fun to be had here. There's an abundance of hippies in cloaks and furry vests. There's awesome, vaguely LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD-style dream sequences with cartoon hawk shadows
and Francis Bacon-esque imagery of forms trapped in thrones (also compare with the shot of hanging dogs),
There's a pre-SUSPIRIA bat attack, and a bright orange wig slapped on someone who is Italian beyond question... and *voila* -it's an Irishman!
"Have-a some-a more-a s'getts, Mario– I mean, pass the potatoes, Seamus."
One of my favorite scenes shows a wild orgy at a psychedelic sex club. We then cut to an upscale dinner party. One of the guests remarks "What on earth are those neighbors up to? It sounds like a football match!" Yep, that's right. What we assumed was a hippie nightclub is indeed just the apartment next door.
In all, it's early Fulci that's visually impressive (to the point where I feel it almost deserves a place in the Euro-art film canon), terrifically psychedelic, surprisingly well-constructed, and continually entertaining. Plus, it's got yet another totally kickass Morricone score. Four stars.
Side note: I'm guessing David Lynch saw this film in his formative years, as it sometimes features imagery reminiscent of TWIN PEAKS (see: the clay masks in FIRE WALK WITH ME), and unquestionably was an influence on LOST HIGHWAY.
2009 Halloween Countdown
31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)