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Giallo Score
70

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us title: A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
italian title: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna
year: 1971
director: Lucio Fulci
composer: Ennio Morricone
full details: IMDB
overall score: 70

Bottom Line: A Worthwhile Deviation
Breaks some important rules and comes out on top as a result.


WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

By 1971, the popularity of Argento's Bird with the Crystal Plumage left filmmakers scrambling to assemble the "killer is out there/amateur detective" type Gialli as quickly as possible to latch onto the popularity and rake in some of the success for themselves. Most of what we consider to be "classic" Gialli were released in this year as well as 1972. But horror maestro Lucio Fulci had already dabbled with the genre in his 1969 Hitchcock inspired mystery, Perversion Story. And in what seems like an obvious effort to continue challenging the conventions of the genre, he released Lizard in a Woman's Skin in February of 1971.


Lizard is a Giallo that emphasizes the emotional aspects of deception and murder. From the opening scenes, Carol is haunted by disturbing dreams of claustrophobia and lesbian encounters. The party sequence makes effective use of a split screen effect showing the juxtaposition of Julia's care-free life and Carol's disturbance literally side by side. Learning that the real death of Julia Durer matches in specific detail with the death in Carol's dream exacerbates her anxiety and paranoia. Once Carol is suspected of the murder, she continues to be tormented by stalkers, dissected dogs, bats and pipe organs. 


All of these set pieces help fill the gap left by the absence of a black gloved killer. And while there's still a mystery to be solved, the identity of the killer and the motive tied to Julia Durer's death is fairly straightforward in retrospect. What makes Lizard entertaining (at least for me) is not the final revelation of the killer but all of the misdirection that Fulci employs to lead the viewer down the wrong path. The phone call made to Edmod Brighton by "Mrs. Smith" at the very beginning of the film is the cornerstone of the mystery, but Fulci purposely directs our attention away from it long enough for us to enjoy the film for its surreal and nightmarish sequences. And very much like Argento's Cat o Nine Tails, Lizard is fun to watch repeatedly after knowing the secret and imagining the off-screen actions of the characters.


The police in Lizard are very straightforward and apart from Inspector Corvin's annoying habit of whistling at the worst possible times, their investigation is portrayed without any humor. At one point in the film, Frank is suspected of the murder and takes a few actions to prove his innocence, but Inspector Corvin is really in control of the investigation and so there is little need for an amateur detective.


The film lost a whopping 25 points in the staples section. This is a clear indication the Fulci was trying to create something unique while still operating within the confines of the genre. But more importantly, Lizard shows Fulci's progression within the genre from barely compliant (Perversion Story, score 61) to unconventional (Lizard, score 70) to full-fledged Giallo (Don't Torture a Duckling, score 89). While this progression might indicate that Fulci was succumbing to the trends of popular film making, Duckling is still a very unique Giallo and considered by most to be Fulci's crowning achievement.


But if Duckling is Fulci's best film, Lizard is not too far behind. Fulci's direction is top notch and since most of the cast seems to speak English, the acting/dubbing is better than average. And let's not forget Morricone's fantastic score that combines melodic, surreal and psychedelic themes into a multi-layered musical tapestry. Lizard is a film that no fan of the genre should go without seeing and the obstacle of obtaining a decent copy has vanished with the DVD release by Shriek Show in the US.


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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 35/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Classic Period (1970 - 1975)5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 27/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Flashback Revelation3 points
Mistaken Identity2 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Morricone/Nicolai/Ortolani3 points
Nude Scene >= 13 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 8/10
Animal, Number, Color, or "Death" in title1 point
Chase scene1 point
Gay/Lesbian1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Prove Innocence1 point
Psychologist1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Visual Misinterpretation1 point
Total Points : 70/100



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Published: 2014-02-24