A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971)

Directed By: Lucio Fulci
Written By: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Florinda Bolkan
  Jean Sorel
  Silvia Monti
  Stanley Baker
A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin

Beginning with a trippy, visually arresting, mind-fuck of a scene involving an anguished woman running through a train carriage, subsequently faced with a corridor full of naked people, then taking part in a lesbian tryst, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin is a triumph of startling imagery from start to finish and is arguably master filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s best ever film.

Carol Hammond has been having strange, erotic dreams about her neighbour Julia, that she writes down and relates to her psycho-analyst. She becomes particularly perturbed when, after a particularly troubling dream in which she stabs and kills her neighbour, Julia turns up dead in her apartment, having been killed in the same manner and with the same weapon as in the dream. Carol begins to question her own sanity when events take increasingly bizarre turns, her ability to distinguish between fact and fiction becomes questionable and nobody is sure whether or not she committed the crime, least of all herself.

Typically of Italian made horror movies, the dialogue is almost exclusively dubbed. Occasionally this can ruin enjoyment of a film and prove irritatingly distracting but in this case, it’s done fairly well. For a film that’s fast approaching it’s fortieth birthday, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin also looks fantastic. Fulci had a history of making films with rich, bordering on decadent cinematography and this is certainly no exception. The visuals are crisp, clear, and colourful and help to create a wonderfully tense, sometimes surreal atmosphere.

While it shares many of the hallmarks of the giallo greats of the same period and while often mentioned in the same breath as the films of Argento and Bava, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin isn’t strictly speaking, a giallo film. In truth, it’s actually much more than that. As well as being a visually stunning movie, it’s also a twisting, turning, competent thriller that kept me guessing until the final act. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of grotesque horror though, coming from such a pioneer of gore it would be strange if there hadn’t been any present. There are stabbings, slashings, a shooting and the most infamous scene of all; a series of semi-dissected, still breathing dogs, for which Fulci was taken to court over accusations of animal cruelty, so realistic were the effects.

The performances from the international cast are hit and miss for the most part but Florinda Bolkan (Flavia; The Heretic) manages to convince as the confused, emotionally fragile lead.

Although paced quite slowly, the editing here is superb. The story is a slow-burn one and so, while it doesn’t zip along at a rollercoaster pace, there is plenty to keep most viewers interested, particularly the mystery at the heart of it all. Add to all that Ennio Morricone’s excellent, jazzy, and suitably sleazy score and A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin is an admirable, well-rounded flick. Reportedly now released in its most uncut form to date, it will not be to everyone’s tastes but if you’re a fan of Italian genre cinema and lost horror classics, this is well worth your time and attention.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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