Sunday, 22 February 2009

A Lizard In A Woman's Skin

Lovers of freaky erotic cinema (especially Jess Franco's otherworldly Venus In Furs and Vampyros Lesbos) would do well to check out Lucio Fulci's 1971 film A Lizard In A Woman's Skin, a murder thriller set in Swinging London. The plot concerns the murder of a hippie and the would-be involvement of a woman who has weird nightmares about LSD soaked sex orgies. Fans of Italian giallis will be glad to hear that the film is reassuringly convoluted with enough plot twists and turns to recommend a second viewing of the film to unravel all the various elements.

A Lizard In A Woman's Skin is one of Fulci's most accomplished films. It’s impressively directed and fizzes over with enough visual style to keep you interested long after you’ve abandoned keeping up with the story. There's much to enjoy here - Ennio Morricone's psychedelic tinged score, extraordinary dream imagery and some taunt muscular hand held camera action. Two sequences worth noting - a stunning chase sequence through a dilapidated church, and a notorious sequence where the heroine, played by the very fine Florinda Bolkan stumbles into a room of vivisected dogs. It was this scene which brought some considerable heat down on Fulci when Italian authorities believed the director had used real dogs. Luckily Fulci avoided a two year jail sentence when his effects man Carlo Rambaldi was able to provide one of the puppet dogs used in the sequence. The film is noteworthy for its gore - it’s not terribly blood drenched but it is much stronger than anything the director had previously filmed. One rather shocking breast stabbing scene would return in more explicit fashion for the director's 1982 slasher epic The New York Ripper. Incidentally, Florinda Bolkan would re-team with Fulci the following year for the director’s classic Don’t Torture A Duckling.

The R1 DVD from Shriekshow is a good but far from stellar presentation of the film - the English dub print used suffers from somewhat stale colors, and some scenes are lifted from a different, more worn print. It's nothing that would spoil your enjoyment of the film, and pleasingly the film can now been seen uncut. Shriekshow issued the film in two editions, a 2-disc fullscreen print of the film and later, a single disc widescreen uncut edition. The latter is the version to own.


  1. Nice write up, Wes. This is one of my favourite Fulci films and an excellent giallo; it's so beautifully shot and constructed. I agree with you about the chase sequence through the church (that bat attack!), but for me the other stand out moment occurs at the beginning with that far-out and sexiful opening montage. So freaky and psychedelic.

  2. Many thanks James, I cringe when I look back on old reviews, and if I was writing that review today I would have mentioned Stanley Baker, an actor I've discovered since and am fond of, I really enjoyed him in the tough truckin' film Helldrivers and Hammer's great noir masterpiece Hell Is A City...

  3. I am still catching up on my giallo - as too many releases were edited and watered down and pan and scan back in the day. I have yet to see this one - but it sounds like it'll provide an evening's entertainment!

  4. I know what you mean Craig, it's only in recent years that I've began looking at the films of Jess Franco, Jean Rollin and Wong-Kar Wai after too many botched DVDs over the years... This is a very good Fulci, tighter and more controlled that his post-Zombie films... well worth investigating...