Film Review: A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1971)

Film Review: A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1971)

Mar 6, 2016

IMDb: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel

Overcome with vivid nightmares of sexual perversion and death, Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) sees the murder of her neighbor Julia (Anita Strindberg), committed by her own hands after a sexual encounter. The next day, Julia is found savagely murdered in similar fashion to Carol’s dream. She quickly becomes the number one suspect and is even arrested by Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker). Carol is eventually released after a man confesses to committing the heinous act, however Corvin is not convinced. The continued investigation leads him down a spiral of murder, sex, and lies.

With the release of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Fulci would be on the cusp of his breakout, the film run that would cement him in the annals of horror as the Godfather of Gore. He would also employ the help of several other talented hands on the cusp of their breakouts as well. The first being Ennio Morricone who provides a psychedelic score that is as dizzying as the cinematography, a score that would prove to be one of the finest in his career. Carlo Rambaldi provides the special effects, a master in his own right who would go on to win multiple Oscars for his work on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as well as Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Often hailed as a masterpiece of the giallo, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin breaks all of the conventions that would typically be associated with giallo cinema. Mixing dreamscapes and reality, the lines are blurred for the viewer just as much as they are for Carol. This ballet of dreams and reality coupled with the often employed use of handheld swooping and zooming reminds me heavily of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. Fulci does a tremendous job of keeping the viewer off kilter just enough to give you the sense that anything could happen, which it certainly does.

While more known for his zombie films in the horror community, at this point in his career Fulci had made dozens of films, several of which were already in the giallo/thriller conventions. This film represents that perfect bridging point between sexual thriller and traditional horror. Plenty of gore and nudity is present, although not as classically sleazy as his style would eventually come to be. There is also an underlying theme of sexual morality and freedom, although Fulci always seemed to detest any suggestions on social commentary within his films. Regardless of his thoughts or intentions, there is a lot to be taken away from this film, much in the same way of Argento’s subtle social leanings.

Even while remaining light on horror, Fulci’s love for violence bleeds through this dizzying thriller. Fans of Fulci’s later work will find lots to love as he branches out of his comfort zone a bit and employs different cinematic skills showing us an experimental side visually that would eventually pair well with his narrative experimentation.