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us title: The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
italian title: Le foto proibite di una signora per bene
year: 1970
director: Luciano Ercoli
composer: Ennio Morricone
full details: IMDB
overall score: 77

Bottom Line: Must-See
A quintessential example of the genre.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

I would like to point out immediately that The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion features my favorite Gialli soundtrack of all time. Many Gialli have a catchy main theme, but Morricone's brilliant mix of bossa nova, funk and suspenseful mood music is wholly cohesive and stands on its own without the help of the film. I mention this first because I suspect that my fondness for the film in general might be influenced a bit by my adoration of its music. But Forbidden Photos has a lot more going for it than just the soundtrack.

This is the first (and arguably best) film in Luciano Ercoli unofficial Giallo trilogy (which also includes Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight) and (like the other 2 films) served as a promotional vehicle Ercoli's wife Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott). Written by veteran Gialli screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, the story is light on murder and heavy on mystery, aligning itself with the suspense Gialli that preceded it rather than the "killer is on the loose" Gialli that followed.

As the Giallo Score indicates, the lack of bloody murder set pieces doesn't detract from the film's ability to achieve a high score. All of the characteristics of the genre are in place including black gloves, an amateur detective, a blackmail motive, an urban Italian location, outlandish fashions, plenty of suspects, and of course, the aforementioned Morricone soundtrack. 

What makes Forbidden Photos more memorable than the average Giallo is its attention to detail, both visual and thematic. Its clear that each frame of the film was painstakingly architected and symbolism is present without having to look hard for it. Clearly influenced by Bava's Blood and Black Lace, Ercoli employs light, color and imagery to set a suspenseful mood and convey the emotions of his characters.

At the core, Forbidden Photos is the story of Minou, an emotionally fragile female with a substance abuse problem. This weakness is exploited by all the other characters in the film in an effort to prove that Minou is harboring an evolving psychosis and ultimately cannot be trusted to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. A similar theme was explored in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardth, also written by Gestaldi and released in the same year.

The film moves at a slower pace than most Gialli but I think that (at least for me) the better than average quality and attention to detail prevent the film from getting boring. In the end, the mystery is a good one and most viewers won't be able to predict the film's twist ending.

So unless you're looking for a "hack n' slash" Giallo, Forbidden Photos is highly recommended for many reasons, but above all as an example of what can be achieved within the genre when extra attention is paid to quality and detail. 

...and of course the soundtrack. Did I mention that I like the soundtrack?

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 50/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Black Gloves5 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Classic Period (1970 - 1975)5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Avoid Capture: Killed by Police or other character5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 21/30
Italian Location3 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Morricone/Nicolai/Ortolani3 points
Nude Scene >= 13 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 6/10
Dolls/Dummies1 point
J&B1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Psychologist1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Taunting1 point
Total Points : 77/100



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Published: 2015-03-10