Director – Lucio Fulci
Cast – Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel, Silvia Monti, Alberto de Mendoza, Penny Brown, Mike Kennedy, Ely Galleani, George Rigaud, Ezio Marano
Release Year – 1971
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Most horror fans who first learn/hear of famed Italian director Lucio Fulci come across this “Godfather of Gore” thanks to his 1979 classic, Zombie. From then on out Fulci delivered his fantastic “Death” Trilogy(City of the Living Dead/The Beyond/House By The Cemetery) and etched himself forever in horror lore. Because of this, I have personally noticed that few of those who come across Fulci through such means have given attention to his post-Zombie flicks and have neglected the films that set him up for Zombie’s greatness. One pre-Zombie film that I had heard many great things, aside from Don’t Torture A Duckling, was this film, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin. Coming with great direction in the form of fantastic camerawork and stunning visuals, as well as a nice mystery giallo-esque storyline, this is a film that despite a lack of insane gore is sure to please fans wanting to see some pre-1979 Fulci action.
The film follows Carol Hammond(Florinda Bolkan; Don’t Torture A Duckling), a young woman suffering from traumatic and sexually intense dream sequences. When she has a dream in which she kills her neighbor after a lesbian tryst, she seeks an explanation to such an odd experience, but finds something much worse when the body of her neighbor is found. Killed in the same exact fashion as in Carol’s dream, her neighbor’s death leaves her in the eye of a stern and intelligent detective, and a race to clear her name forces Carol to consider everyone around her a suspect…including herself.
I admit this was a bit of a weird experience for me given I am used to Fulci delivering the undead and buckets of gore, not mystery films. Thankfully, Fulci shows that he is not one-dimensional and has the utmost ability to deliver horror in many forms.
His direction in this watch is fantastic, and as I mentioned earlier…he delivers heavily on amazing camerawork and stunning visuals and imagery. The sexual element is high, and his execution during the lesbian scenes is amazing, and I am not speaking in regards to perversion. He shows us the intensity of Carol’s desires, as well as the taboos of mixing sex and other illicit activities into one engagement. The rest of the elements involved are also well executed, with the deaths coming in satisfying fashion as long as you don’t expect the insane amounts of gore like we get in his other films. The mystery feel is dead-on, although I did not feel the excitement I wished to feel from this flick. You know that exciting nervous feeling you get from Argento’s giallo flicks? Well I never got that from this film, and that is what kept it at a still positive 7-rating, although it could have been higher.
Story-wise we get a cool mystery thriller that as I mentioned earlier, involves a fair amount of sexual content. If you know Fulci then you know he is no stranger to sleaze, and I love it. Aside from the sex, which has more to do with his great direction than writing, the mystery element is employed well and comes with numerous twists and turns. For a 98 minute film I do feel that the pacing could have been better, but honestly, I find that fault with the majority of Fulci’s films. It seems to be his way of writing that comes with some slow scenes, but he usually makes up for it with his direction. Much like earlier when I mentioned that I never felt “excited” during the film’s “tense” scenes, I also did not feel much shock or excitement with the story’s twists and turns, which are times that I as the viewer am supposed to feel shocked/excited. I still commend Fulci and his three other screenplay contributors for coming up with a sweet story that keeps you guessing until the very end, although more shock-value would have increased the film’s end result.
Overall, this is one of Fulci’s greater yet lesser-known films that despite a lack of intense gore still comes with his ever-awesome direction and a great mystery storyline that will keep you guessing until the very end. I definitely recommend this to Fulci fans and those wishing to see some good old Italian giallo-esque horror.