Blu-ray Review: Lucio Fulci’s A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN

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A review of Lucio Fulci’s early masterpiece A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, now on Blu-ray.

Lucio Fulci is long revered as the Italian godfather of gore (Herschell Gordon Lewis owns the global title) and has proven himself again and again with classics like ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND and the rather infamous NEW YORK RIPPER. In the brilliant A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, the gore is toned way down in favor of fantastic psychedelic visuals and psychological dream sequences, replete with ultra-sexy scenarios and the genius women that make them so. And in Mondo Macabro’s care-laden release, the longest version ever of this 1971 masterwork is available for discerning film aficionados to most properly appreciate Fulci’s vision, Ennio Morricone’s most excellent score, and the percolating genius of cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller operating at peak form.

Concocted somewhere above the base impulses of his more gory titles, LIZARD hits the top of the brain-pan with a stylishly convoluted marriage of giallo traditions and cinema fantastique embroiled with Ennio Morricone’s dreamy score. With her stark cheekbones and stoic face, euro-beauty Florinda Bolkan fully launches herself into her role of London housewife Carol Hammond. Though living a wealthy and high-class lifestyle, Carol is haunted by the spiraling vivid realism of her lucid dreams drenched in sexual violence and featuring her phenomenally eurosexy neighbor Julia Durer (completely dimensionalized by the stunning Anita Strinberg).

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Body-hugging furs paired with sensuous scenes of slow-motion movement, falling in blackness, and a gloriously colorful bedroom set enrich Carol’s dark fantasies until she awakens into bleak reality, darker than any nightmare, as the brutal murder of Julia jolts her out of her surrealist reveries and she becomes the prime suspect. Reciting her dreams in an attempt to unlock the truth, Carol relives her otherworldly stories to try to unravel her waking state and discern if she is a murderer, or merely set up to take someone else’s fall.

Unlike most giallo police procedurals, A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN  is a pulsating monster of vibrating psychedelic eroticism, fully coated with candy-colored sequences trembling with high art. Beyond some of the frame-worthy set pieces, Fulci does choose to shock with gore, though in a more unusual attack focuses on tortured dogs in a laboratory, stretched and partially dissected, their guts exposed as they whimper in their undead hell. This very sequence was so strong on first release that it was cut from many prints, and the mechanical effects designer Carlo Rambaldi had to present evidence in court that the scene was in fact composed of special effects and no animals were harmed.

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Ennio Morricone has fashioned many sounds with images in a glorious career though here he creates a perfectly dreamy montage of elements and cues that elevate the film itself into higher realms of experience. This combined with the visuals and the film’s own presentation of hippies and orgiastic drug use, and pulsations of electronic sounds and strings carries the force of Fulci’s vision into the other side of the mirror, a hypnotic elegance of striking vibrancy. Furthering the concoction’s power is legendary director of photography Luigi Kuveiller, the man who helped glorify Paul Morrisey’s FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN and BLOOD FOR DRACULA, Elio Petri’s INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, and Dario Argento’s DEEP RED.

 

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Always able to be counted on for delivering a film to its optimum home viewing, Mondo Macabro goes all the way in adding a collection of material that enhances the film and its makers. “Shedding the Skin” is a 34-minute documentary from a previous release starring Jean Sorel, Florinda Balkan, and special effects genius Carlo Rambaldi and hosted by “Hippy Girl” Penny Brown, while Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower elucidates the pathways that led to this film’s creation and execution in his own 29-minutes essay, and Fulci himself reminisces on his own career in a half-hour chapter.

A 12-minute monologue from actor Tony Adams and various trailers for the film add a few more sprinkles to an already sugar-filled video cupcake. Recommended.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmQ0TtoBoQ