Before he became the idol of many a horror fan (and apparently the saviour of the depressed Italian film industry in 1979) with ZOMBI 2, Lucio Fulci had carved a career for himself making all kinds of movies, including historical dramas (BEATRICE CENCI / PERVERSION STORY, about the Catholic church in 16th century Italy), comedies (THE EROTICIST / THE SENATOR LIKES WOMEN...DESPITE APPEARANCES AND PROVIDED THE NATION DOESN’T KNOW, about a senator with a Benny Hill-like uncontrollable urge to grab ladies’ bottoms) and giallos, of which LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN is one.
After some groovy psychedelic music / atonal warped nonsense we launch straight into a weird acid dream featuring two naked ladies cavorting on bed while being watched by two blind hippies. One of the women, the rather characterless Florinda Bolkan, stabs the other three times and then gets all panicky before waking up in her psychiatrist's office to tell him all about that and a bit we've just seen where she runs down a railway carriage corridor filled with naked people. Rather than explain that she's in an Italian exploitation film, the psychiatrist tells her it's all because, family girl that she is, she's jealous of the girl who lives upstairs and her wild party lifestyle. Anyway, when the girl in question turns up actually dead, that's the cue for badly whistling and even more badly dubbed Stanley Baker (the film's in Italian, you see) to take on the case along with sidekick Alberto de Mendoza who could possibly be an alien who crash landed here at the beginning of time...oh sorry that's his role in HORROR EXPRESS in which the psychiatrist from this also happens to appear. Euro-horrors are sometimes their own blur of sleazy confusion that obviate the need for mind bending drugs, and how glad we should be for that.
Anyway, back to the 'plot'. because there really isn't any. Flo's father is Leo Genn from Pete Walker’s DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE who gets so fed up with the nonsensical pointless story and the terrible way his own dubbing is working out that he kills himself. The pretty girl from Mario Bava’s FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON gets her throat slashed, and despite Flo's claims the police continually reassure her that 'there are no red-haired hippies in the building'. They organise a hunt for one who eventually reveals the meaning of the title before they 'give him a lot of drugs and he confesses'. Here at the House of Mortal Cinema we’ve noticed a trend in the bizarrely titled giallos of the early seventies in that the title seems to have to be explained as late in the proceedings and bear as little relevance to the story as possible. Thus while Dario Argento can just about get away with THE BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (late but relevant if absurd) and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (also late and daft but outweighed by the daft way in which said explanation is then used to identify the killer) Lucio Fulci wins for sheer complete and utter irrelevance with this and also with DON”T TORTURE A DUCKLING (of which more another time I’m sure).
LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, despite its cracking title, is probably the least of Fulci’s giallos. The ending is rubbish, the plot is pointless, Florinda is terrible, both as an actress and a character, and there's not a drop of J&B to be seen. Despite that, the music score by Ennio Morricone is really pretty good, and if nothing else it gave the movie posters artists around the world an opportunity to go completely crazy, as evidenced by some of the work on display here. Despite the criticisms this isn’t at all bad if one is yearning for a dose of early seventies daftness, and probably a better bet than a film about a politician’s bottom-pinching antics.