Tuesday, August 9, 2016

LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN 1971

Would I pay good money to see a film titled Lizard in a Woman’s Skin? Yes!
Were I were a producer, would I invest in a movie called Lizard in a Woman’s Skin? Yes!!
If they gave Oscars for films with the most kick-ass titles ever, would Lizard in a Woman’s Skin win? Yes!!!

As you may have guessed by now, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is one of my all-time favorite titles for a movie ever. I’m absolutely crazy about it, and have been since first seeing a poster ad for the film in the “pink section” of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle back in ’71. The US release dropped the superfluous “A” from the beginning of the title, making this hallucinatory Italian-French-Spanish co-production sound even more enticingly like a retro, Creature Features programmer, or one of those nifty ‘50s monster flicks spoofed on MST3K.
It’s such an intriguing title to me. Even now, as I type out the words Lizard in a Woman’s Skin - I’m made aware of having roughly the same reaction to it I had forty-five years ago: “That is one GREAT title!”
Although she doesn't appear in the film, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 may recognize
the model on this poster as Leslie McRea, star of Girl In Gold Boots

Perhaps too much so, I’m afraid. For (irony of ironies) the very provocativeness of the title proved to be precisely the hurdle my parents were unprepared to surmount when, at the ripe old age of thirteen, I (a little too-casually) told them that a friend and I were headed downtown to see Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (I also seem to recall a request for bus fare squeezed in there, somewhere). Turning a deaf ear to what I believed was a very reasonable argument on my part: that 13-year-olds were doubtless the age group most likely to be attracted to a title like that - my folks nevertheless laid down the law. The film was R-rated, its ad copy included the word “erotic,” and it was playing on a double bill at one of the seamier grindhouses on Market Street. Case closed.
And since it was an American-International Pictures release (whose films were known in our house as El Cheapo), I couldn’t even fall back on my usual “It might be up for an Oscar!” argument. No, I’m afraid my folks (rightfully) detected the low-brow in my eyes.

So I never got to see Lizard in a Woman’s Skin when it came out, after which it seemed to disappear fairly quickly. So completely, in fact, that I really forgot all about it until it resurfaced earlier this year—in all its pristine, never-before-seen-in-the-US, unedited glory—on Blu-ray. I wasted no time in securing a copy.
Was it worth the wait? Yes!!!!
I would even go so far as to say the film exceeded my expectations, but nobody (except perhaps, Ken Russell) in their right mind expects a movie as deliriously loony as Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.

A hypnotically surreal, psychedelic, totally over-the-top experience, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a tense suspense thriller with so much going on in the way of sex, graphic violence, and overwrought visual excess...it practically hyperventilates.
Best of all, it’s a film that ultimately lives up to its bluntly ambiguous/subtly sensationalist title! A title which—like those of the best exploitation movies, pulp novels, and tabloid magazine headlines—evokes more than it explains. A quality that can also be said to be one of the chief attributes of this seductively baroque and entertaining thriller.
Florinda Bolkan as Carol Hammond
Jean Sorel as Frank Hammond
Edy Gall as Joan Hammond
Leo Genn as Edmond Brighton
Silvia Monti as Deborah
Stanley Baker as Inspector Corvin
Anita Strindberg as Julia Durer
Alberto de Mendoza as Sgt. Brandon
It boggles my mind that ANYTHING but Lizard in a Woman’s Skin was ever considered for this film, but during production the title alternated between the drab The Cage and the mundane The Trap. For the wide US release, the cryptic Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (which I suspect was retained in metropolitan areas) was jettisoned in favor of the derivative and artless Schizoid, and in some international markets it was known simply as Carole.
Similarly, depending on where and when one saw the film, its length (edited for sex and violence) and language (dubbing and subtitles differ) varied significantly.

The fully restored version is quite the experience, with Italian director Lucio Fulci creating a giallo thriller that feels like full-on “Alfred Hitchcock meets Ken Russell with a nod to Russ Meyer.” 
In the tony Belgravia district of London, Carol (Florinda Bolkan), the perpetually guilty-looking daughter of a prominent British barrister and politician (Leo Genn), lives a somewhat emotionally sterile life of aristocratic luxury with her attorney husband (Jean Sorel) and his peevish teenage daughter from a previous marriage (Edy Gaul). Weighing heavily on Carol’s mind and contributing to her severe guilt complex are the sexually feverish recurring dreams she’s been having about her next-door-neighbor (Anita Strindberg); a beautiful, free-love bohemian who hosts loud, drug-fueled orgies which Carol and her family are given an earful of during their formal, deadly-silent dinners.
In Dreams
It's hard to look at Carol's visually stylish dreams (all furs, lingerie, slow-motion,
and wind-blown lesbianism) without wondering if it served as the inspiration for that
memorable Columbus Circle photo shoot sequence in that American giallo, Eyes of Laura Mars

As Carol’s dreams grow increasingly nightmarish, her psychoanalyst (George Rigaud) reassures her that the contradiction of content (though disapproving and repulsed by the carnal shenanigans of her neighbor in real life; Carol nevertheless dreams of being seduced by her) is merely a manifestation of the conflicted feelings of resentment and repression within her own life (after marrying, Carol suppressed her desire to follow in her father’s legal footsteps), combined with the estrangement she feels from her husband (enhanced by the self-insinuated omnipresence of his gorgeous secretary, Silvia Monti) and aloof stepdaughter.
Unfortunately, just as Carol comes to be convinced that her dreams are merely her subconscious providing her with a healthy outlet for her inner conflicts, her neighbor is found murdered. And in a manner uncannily similar to one of Carol’s bloodier nightmares.

Did Carol suffer a blackout and commit a brutal murder? Is someone familiar with her dreams trying to frame her? Was there an unknown witness to the crime? Is there really someone trying to kill her, or is she imagining it all? And who placed that mysterious phone call?
I can’t remember when I’ve had a better time trying to solve a murder mystery amidst so many false leads, numerous red herrings, and gleeful misdirections. Nor can I remember a detective crime thriller so spectacularly shot or filled with so many gripping moments of suspense and cover-your-eyes horror setpieces. There's never a dull moment in Lizard in a Woman's Skin, and now having seen it, I'm seized by how well-suited a film it is to be promoted with the tagline used for Ken Russell's Tommy in 1975: Your Senses Will Never Be The Same.
Venus in Furs
In one of her dreams, Carol envisions herself trapped in a corridor full of naked couples

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
A 1978 film review citing Faye Dunaway’s Eyes of Laura Mars as an American take on the Italian “giallo” was the first time I’d ever heard of the film classification. Typically a detective/crime thriller combining elements of exploitation, suspense, horror, sex, and gore—all with a hyper-Technicolor overlay of stylized visuals and dramatic music; giallo films are relatively new to me (I’ve only seen about four), but of the few I’ve seen, Lizard in a Woman's Skin stands out as something pretty special.

What with that cheesy title I love so much and my history with American-International releases, I came to this film with understandably low expectations. I’d have been more than happy had the film proved to be just an amusingly dated, campy exploitationer full of big hair, ‘70s fashions, and that glaring red poster paint they used for blood in those days. 
And while Lizard in a Woman's Skin indeed features all of the above (to spare!); it also blew me out of the water by being such a surprisingly effective whodunit and a tension-filled suspense thriller. I know “Never a dull moment” is an oft-used cliché, but Lizard in a Woman's Skin seizes upon it like a mantra.
The Age of Aquarius
Mike Kennedy as Hubert and Penny Brown as Jenny
Old London's clash with the hippie counterculture plays a significant role in the film's puzzle

This well-plotted puzzle loaded with suspicious-looking characters locked in questionable relationships and harboring dubious motives, leaves you scant time to catch your breath. Between the gorgeous, color-drenched cinematography (with swooping, subjective camera angles, split screens, dizzying wipes, and jarring jump cuts); over-the- top gore effects; Ennio Morricone’s unsettling music score; and the pitch-perfect performances of the entire cast (everyone looks like they’re up to something), Lizard in a Woman's Skin gives giallo a good name.
You can't really go wrong when a thriller indulges in elaborate costuming and
enormous hairdos while framing the actors in melodramatic soap opera tableau

PERFORMANCES
I learned from the DVD commentary that colorful supporting characters are something of a staple of giallos, and on that score Lizard in a Woman's Skin doesn’t disappoint. Stanley Baker as the whistling detective, Jean Sorel as the something-to-hide husband, and especially Leo Genn as Carol’s concerned father, are all top-notch. But for me, the entire film worked exclusively because of the outstanding performance by the beautiful Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan.
Carol's father visits her after she's jailed for a murder she swears she didn't commit

I’ve never seen her in anything before, but I think I’m going to have to search her out. Not only is she stunning in that intelligent, no-nonsense way of so many of my favorite ‘70s actresses (Glenda Jackson & Julie Christie come to mind); but she commands the screen in a tense, tortured performance that reminds me of the best of the Hitchcock heroines (Hitchcock references abound in this film). Like Janet Leigh in Psycho or Kim Novak in Vertigo, Bolkan magically allows a wealth of tortured inner conflicts to play out over a face that is, in the context of the story, trying hard to reveal very little. I don’t know how any actor does that, but Bolkan is actually mesmerizingly good. I suspect her voice is dubbed, making the overall effectiveness of her portrayal even more impressive.
Ersi Pond as busybody neighbor Mrs. Gordon. And Piero Nistri as her...chauffeur

THE STUFF OF FANTASY
I tend to have two reactions to grotesque images or bloody violence in real life: 1) If I’m lucky, I can avert my eyes quickly enough before my brain has a chance to formulate a clear (read: lasting) image of what I thereafter tell myself I never saw. 2) My least favorite. I see it briefly, but before I turn away, my eyes perform a rapid zoom and my mind does this kind of “Terminator-vision” thing where far too much detail and information is clocked in a nanosecond. Thus, long after I’ve stopped looking, my mind’s eye is still seeing. 
The cinematography and editing in Lizard in a Woman's Skin recreates both types of reactions, often to disturbing effect.  Lizard in a Woman's Skin has several scenes of gory violence that must have been very shocking for its time (most notably an unpleasant animal vivisection scene that looks quite fake today, but was realistic enough in 1971 to get the producers hauled into court on animal cruelty charges and made to show the prop animals). For me, this is where the limitations of 1971 special effects are a blessing.  
In a Hitchcockian sequence prominently featured in the film's advertising,
Carol is attacked by a room full of bats

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
After now having seen Lizard in a Woman’s Skin twice, I have to say I owe my parents a serious debt of gratitude for sparing me the untold years of nightmares and trauma this thoroughly out-there movie most assuredly would have wreaked upon my young psyche. I’m also thankful to have been able to experience this unique film for the first time in its uncut entirety; probably looking and sounding even better than it did when originally released. 
Even under extreme duress, Carol exhibits a killer sense of '70s style. Her wardrobe is a highlight.

But most of all I’m glad I (re)discovered Lizard in a Woman’s Skin at an age when I’m better able appreciate what an intelligently-conceived, artfully realized film it is. I've noted countless times in previous posts how much I adore hallucinatory, dreamlike films. So much so that I frequently resort to the term "fever dream" to describe those films of particular visual and emotional intensity. Well, Lizard in a Woman's Skin is all that and a bag of chips.
Exploitation films tend to get a bad rap, but movies like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Harry Kümel’s Daughters of Darkness, and now, Lucio Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, remind me that sometimes it's only in the low-rent subgenres of film where truly unconventional directors are allowed to be their freest.


BONUS MATERIAL
Mike Kennedy (aka Mike Kogel) plays a hippie drifter in Lizard in a Woman's Skin and was the lead singer of the '60s pop group Los Bravos.  Watch the music video for their 1966 hit "Black is Black" 
















So what does "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" mean? You have to see the movie.

Copyright © Ken Anderson

34 comments:

  1. Ooh, Ken, you've come up with another gem here! Can't believe this is the first I've heard of it, and can't wait to see it!

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    1. Hey,Thom!
      I really feel like the one out of the loop. The cult that has built around this film is so devoted, I was sure this film must have crossed your path by now. I do think it is a film right up you alley, so I do hope you get your hands on a copy soon. It's such a trip!

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  2. I hope this sends you down the giallo rabbit hole. I can't get enough of them, though they start to blur after a while. Not to mention that Jean Sorel seems to be in about a third of them.

    It's a shame Fulci has such a reputation as a "splatter" guy, because this movie and his other giallo, "perversion story" (aka "one on top of the other"), show that he can be just as delirious in "quieter" stories. (BTW, Perversion Story is shot partly in San Francisco if that sweetens the deal for you.)

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    1. Even given the very few giallos I've seen, I know exactly what you mean when you say they start to blur after a while. I saw a nifty one with Jane Birkin and Hiram Keller a while back, but its title is so similar to "The Cat o' Nine Tails" and "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", I'm forever forgetting which is which. The one thing that makes me think I might enjoy seeing more giallos is that none of the ones I've seen so far have gone for the "dumb." They may be exploitation movies, but they are constructed so intelligently and require their audiences to pay close attention. Not to mention their audaciousness in theme and presentation,which feels like the best of '70s envelope-pushing.
      The only other Fulci film I've seen fits in with his "splatter" reputation (1980s "Zombie") and I saw that without knowing who directed it. I didn't enjoy it much and wonder now why the hell I even paid to see it.
      Reminds me of latter day Ken Russell; as much a I loved his films, some of his late-career outings felt too self-consciously weird.

      I have Fulci's "Don't Torture a Duckling" lined up, and indeed, the S.F. setting of the film you mentioned does peak my interest. I'm looking forward to falling down the giallo rabbit hole! Thanks!

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  3. Never heard of it--but you sold me! I'm going to look for it now. I tend to sail right past anything that features "gaillo" because in my mind I see a lot of gore, but I've seen a couple that were very atmospheric and stylish. Obviously, this belongs in that category. Thanks again for bringing back a forgotten gem for a reappraisal.

    I always thought Los Bravos was a Spanish group. "Black Is Black" has always been one of my favorite songs--a desert island disk for sure!

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    1. Hello Deb
      I'm sort of in uncharted territory, too. I'm not too keen on gore, and often the the misogynist angle of giallo ads (She's beautiful! See her killed in the most vicious way possible!) can be a turnoff. I think I hit pay dirt with this very female-centric offering that heavy on style and is drenched in atmosphere. Hard to say if it'll be to your taste, but I know I found a new repeat-viewing favorite.
      And you're right about Los Bravos being a Spanish group...although I don't know how they wound up with an German lead singer (who sounds like Gene Pitney)!

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  4. I am in total 70s flashback mode! I hadn't thought of Florinda Bolkan in ages. There was a time in the 70s when South/Central American beauties were the rage...Florinda, Barabara Carrera, Sonia Braga, Bianca Jagger. I really only remembered her for the film A Brief Vacation, which got her a lot of buzz. Great to see her (she is striking) again -- time to go to Google to see what she's been up to over the last 40 years!

    Also, I had to laugh at Stanley Baker's really bad toupee. I never understood why bald men in the 1970s thought that growing huge sideburns distracted people from noticing their hairpieces.

    Best of all, though, is the mishmash of 1970s typefaces used on the title screen, and movie poster (2 typefaces on that alone!). My graphic designer friends would consider this movie's poster as a time capsule of 70s ad design.

    Needless to say, Ken, you've put another film treat in front of me like a tempting cupcake. I know I probably go for it, but it's just toooo good to resist. Good thing your blog focuses on movies, not cupcakes, or I'd be 400 pounds!

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    1. Hi Roberta
      It really is surprising to me how I managed to go this long without ever having encountered Bolkan in a film before. Just goes to show; no matter how broad you think your scope of knowledge is, there's always more to discover.
      Even Stanley Baker I've only seen in one other film (and yes, that hairpiece thing!).
      Funny you should mention the typefaces on the poster because the title style I always attribute to "Barbarella."
      By now I think you probably have a good sense of how offbeat my tastes are, so proceed with caution if you're thinking of giving this one a try. I can find no fault with it, but you don't sound as though your childhood movie experiences were as twisted as mine.
      So pleased you enjoyed the post, and thanks for sharing your 70s flashback with us!

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    2. I concur, that sure looks like the Barbarella font, and in the trailer, they used that oh-so-70's typeface from The Mary Tyler Moore Show! But don't get me started on font geekery and design feels--like the awful kerning and placement in the poster. C'est suffisant pour meurtrir le coeur!

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  5. Glad to see some Fulci on this blog!

    Florinda and Gian Maria Volonte are both responsible for many puberty spurts when French TV aired 'Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion' in prime time in the early 80s. On both side of the aisles I might add. We still talk about it enthusiastically to this day...

    If you like Bolkan and terrible short-and-curly Hepburn hair, you will also enjoy 'Footprints On The Moon' aka 'Le Orme' which has a great Rosemary's Baby cum giallo vibe to it.

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    1. Hi Mangrove
      I could easily develop late-in-life crushes on both Florinda Bolkan & Gian Maria Volonte. I look at them and wonder what the hell are these interchangeable, sexless androids passing for stars in American films today. By the way "Investigation of a Citizen" isone of those films I need to get around to seeing. I've only heard good things.

      And thanks for the tip regarding Footprints on the Moon, which I see is on YouTube (for now). As crazy as I am about big '70s hair, from what little I've seen, Bolkan is still quite the knockout with that Genevieve- Bujold-in-Coma type haircut.

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    2. Although "Le orme" (Footsteps) is not really a giallo, it is a rare gem, with great cinematography by Vittorio Storaro.
      Some other suggestions (the titles are literal translations):
      1970
      Le foto proibite di una signora per bene(Forbidden photos of a lady above suspicion)
      L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The bird with the crystal plumage)
      1971
      La coda dello scorpione (The scorpion's tail)
      La corta notte delle bambole di vetro(Short night of glass dolls)
      Quattro mosche di velluto grigio(Four flies on grey velvet)
      La tarantola dal ventre nero (The black belly of the tarantula)
      Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (The strange vice of Mrs. Wardh)
      Reazione a catena (Chain reaction)
      1972
      Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso (Seven bloodstained orchids)
      Non si sevizia un paperino (Don't torture a duckling)
      Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key)
      Tutti i colori del buio (All the colors of the dark)
      Chi l'ha vista morire? (Who saw her die?)
      Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (What have you done to Solange?)
      1973
      I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (The bodies show evidence of rape)
      Lisa e il diavolo (Lisa and the devil)
      1974
      Il profumo della signora in nero (The perfume of the lady in black)
      1975
      Profondo rosso (Deep red)
      1976
      La casa dalle finestre che ridono (The house of the laughing windows)
      1978
      Solamente nero (Only black)

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    3. Thanks very much for the list of giallo film suggestions. Perfect guide for a stranger in paradise like myself. What a collection of intriguing/cryptic titles! Much appreciated!

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    4. Also photographed by Storaro (shades of The Conformist) is The Fifth Cord with the smoldering Franco Nero in an all-out mysoginistic role!

      The Perfume Of The Lady In Black is quite extraordinary might I add: an ending like no other.

      We gave you so much homework!

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    5. Thanks for the additional suggestions, mangrove! It's good to have so many choices to weed through. I sense "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" was a bit of a perfect storm when it comes to my particular tastes, so I know I'll want to tread lightly before (if ever) immersing myself in the giallo pool. It helps to have so many of you recommending personal favorites.

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    6. The title missing from that great list is Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975)(Nude per l'assassino), which is kind've a giallo gone wrong--all of the characteristics of the genre, but characters who don't act with any kind of logic.

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    7. Wow MDG! Let Ken get acclimated first before plunging headfirst into artful trash like Strip Nude... Baby steps...

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  6. I haven't read such an excellent movie review as this in years. Beautifully written, infectious in its love of the film and its players, and laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish. I'm so glad I happened upon your blog. All your reviews are great, but this one was the aforementioned fever dream and a bag of chips.

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    1. Hi Uncertain
      Wow! That's an incredibly nice thing to say. And I'm pleased as all get-out that you enjoyed this post. In fact, I'd say you really understood the spirit in which it was written. Your kind comment made my day! I'm glad you happened upon this blog, too! Thanks!

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  7. Ken, I think you sold a few Blu Rays here. I’m a moderate fan of Italian horror, and I’ve had this on DVD for years yet never watched it. I don’t know why I started with later Fulci, but grew too weary to make it back to A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Nearly though—I saw Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), also with Florinda Boklan, and it’s quite good. Anyway, I gave the Lizard DVD to a friend and now ordered the Blu Ray.

    Next to Tennessee Williams, the best titles did belong to giallos: Blue Eyes of a Broken Doll, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Perfume of the Lady in Black…

    As for Florinda Bolkan, she really is a beauty. She always reminded me of a lot of Laura Antonelli. For more Bolkan, I’d recommend De Sica’s A Brief Vacation—huge change of pace but it’s a lovely movie.

    And dear God in heaven, did you ever see the poster for Lizard’s AIP release in the states?? I’m guessing, it’s not to accurate…

    http://www.zomboscloset.com/zombos_closet_of_horror_b/2011/12/my-entry.html

    Thanks Ken!

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    1. Hi Max
      I'm so impressed that you actually had this film on DVD! I don't know how this movie escaped me for so many years. I'm even surprised that none of my friends (who know my warped tastes) has mentioned it over the years.

      You say you are familiar with late-career Lucio Fulci; I take it that later Fulci is not as good as his earlier efforts (too much of a departure into the aforementioned "splatter" genre)?
      I think I one of the reasons I'm not so familiar with Italian giallo is that I'm not very much a horror fan. I don't know if "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" is average for the genre, but I really liked that it was chiefly a psychological murder mystery with suspense elements. Had it been out and out horror, i'm not sure it would have made such a strong impression. I think perhaps I'll tread lightly in seeking other giallo films.

      Those are great giallo titles you listed. I remember seeing the poster for "Four Flies on Gray Velvet" when iw as young, and being intrigued by the title. I actually think I've seen that one, but I get it mixed up with Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Cat o' Nine tails. I have no distinct memory of the content of any of them.
      Since posting this I've seen clips of Florinda Bolkan here and there, and she really is a stunning-looking woman. Such an interesting face that camera seems to love. I think your comparing her to Laura Antonelli (who seemed to be in everything when I was growing up, always as an object of desire) is very apt.
      And I'll take you up on your recommendation to check out "A Brief Vacation." Very exciting to find now "old" films to discover!

      And YES, I saw those terrible "Schizoid" posters when i was Googling poster art for this piece. It makes it look so much like it's all about killer bats! Audiences must have been so disappointed.
      I only remember when the film was released as "Lizard"...I wonder when and in what markets it became "Schizoid" (It's like how I can only remember that Julie Andrews disaster "Star!" when it came out; i don't recall when they released it as "Those Were the Happy Times"- terrible title!)
      Thank you very much for you spirited response, Max. And even if it turns out you're not as crazy about "Lizard" as I am, the Blu-ray has so many cool extras!

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    2. I wanted to say that A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin arrived. I watched. I loved. I think it’s probably Fulci’s best film. While even something such as Zombie has its outlandishly enjoyable moments, Fulci has a greater consideration in Lizard of color and composition, with a couple of really terrific set pieces. Plus, his customary zoom shots also seem to serve a greater purpose here.

      I also loved the distinctive early 70s vibe, especially in the party/dream/nightmare sequences which recalled everything from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to The Mephisto Waltz, and like you said, very Laura Mars. I was also taken with the (sexier and gorier) am-I-being-driven mad scenario that was so popular with made-for-tv movies of the 70s that always seemed to star Barbaras Parkins or Stanwyck.

      But the biggest revelation was the score. I had an Ennio Morricone collection on cassette back in the days of the Sony Walkman and had no idea at the time that the music I listened to over and over at night on the Staten Island Ferry was selected themes from Lizard—until I heard them again last night. I was thrilled! Anxious to download it, or get it on CD, I discovered that the score has in fact been reissued…on vinyl. Deluxe, gatefold, double LP. Fabulous retro idea, but unfortunately useless to me.

      And the movie’s extra bonus! Jean Sorel in high-def. His nipples looked positively 3D.

      AND I actually saw “Those Were the Happy Times” before I saw “Star!”. It must have been around 1969 in my hometown. I remember the poster looking like “The Happiest Millionaire”. It was not fun, but I’m not a big fan of the complete version either, regardless of that exclamation point.

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    3. Hi Max!
      Such a pleasure to read your comments on the film. Your observations on the film's 70s vibe (especially in reference to The Mephisto Waltz and the TV movies of the time) is on the money. Had I not been freaked out about the gore, I know my 13-year-old self would have loved it. And though I can't recall the name of the TV movie, I remember really enjoying the one starring Barbara Parkins and Barbara Stanwyck (it cropped up on YouTube)
      Also, how great is it that you had such a familiarity with Morricone's score? I had no idea about it's cult popularity...I mean, an LP reissue!

      Of course your reference to the handsome Jean Sorel in HD had me checking out the scene-in-question again. I see what you mean! I guess I was just so caught up in the plot, but it's very unlike me not to notice such things myself. Thank you :-)

      So you're one of the few who actually saw the heavily edited "Those were the happy times"! I only got around to seeing "Star!" on DVD. I plan to write about it sometime, but outside of the marvelous "Berlington Bertie" number, I don't know that it holds much charm for me, either. Thanks very much for the follow up report, Max! I think in your enthusiasm you might have sold a few DVDs yourself!

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  8. Investigation of a Citizen... is VERY '70s and won the Foreign Language Oscar! One person who didn't like it: the inimitable Pauline Kael. But should you see it? Definitely.

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    1. "VERY '70s" is a huge inducement! Can't wait to see it. I have to revisit Pauline Kael's review after I see it. I think one of the reasons she remains my absolute favorite film critic is because in spite of how few films we actually saw eye-to-eye on (a surprising amount we disagree vehemently about ) she was never less than a fascinating and enthusiastic writer. Thanks!

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  9. Oops. In rereading, I see you DID mention the bats in the advertising. Sorry!

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    1. No, you were right to call attention to it. The poster makes it looks like it's part of the film's theme rather than a brief (but gross) scene. What's great is you provided everyone with a chance to see the "alternative" artwork - which, curiously enough, doesn't feature Bolkan at all, but the same model (Leslie McRea) from the other poster. I guess they figured one brunette with massive '70s hair is as good as another!

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  10. Dear Ken: Hi! This is a movie I'm completely unfamiliar with and probably would not be to my taste. But I have to comment: doesn't "Lizard in a Woman's Skin" sound like the English translation of a film by Bergman or Bunuel? :)

    I enjoyed your post a lot! And it was fun to see mention of Leo Genn, two-time Rosalind Russell leading man. It's great to see that he was in such provocative and interesting fare later in his career, rather than just being in exploitation-type junk!

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    1. Hi David
      It's funny, when I was writing about the film and going on about how much I loved its excesses, I almost felt like putting in an asterisk at some point and writing "recommended to all except David Kucharski"!
      I couldn't imagine you enjoying a movie with this much gore, but its a perfect film to explore vicariously through the many online posts about it.
      And youre so right, while the title always struck me as having an ambiguously cheesy sound, it DOES have that slightly "off" feel of too-literal translations of a Bergman or Bunuel film!
      And until you mentioned it, I thoroughly forgot that I had seen Leo Genn before in "The Velvet Touch" (I'd count "Mourning Becomes Electra" but that one I regrettably fell asleep during-numbing my partner's arm in the process. He still tells me what a wonderful film I missed).
      Seeing Genn in this film was like having John Ireland pop up in 1976s "Madame Kitty" - as you described, a provocative and interesting alternative to the usual exploitation stuff. Thanks for commenting, David!

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  11. Hi Ken, I'm so late in responding again! Thanks for reviewing this film. How wonderful that you like giallo films as well! I like them too but I have avert my eyes when the violence starts. Most often it is too late, as you say. The shocking murders come out of nowhere and I see more of the slashings than I would want to.

    Some of the violence in "Woman in Lizards Skin" is too scary for me. The scene with the dogs almost makes me sick and the one with the bats is truly nightmarish! (The big building where the scene was filmed is astonishing. It's called Alexandra Palace and I think it's still standing to this day.) Some would say why would I even watch giallos when the point of them is to shock! I enjoy them because they're so stylish and wonderfully wierd and intriguing!

    The early seventies fashions are fascinating to watch. (It's the mid 70s fashions that I have such a hard time with.) I love that crazy mix of hippie and mod from the early 70s, especially in "Lizard in a Womans Skin" when the characters are so sophisticated.

    The sets in the film are also gorgeously early 70s. I recall a big sitting room with brown walls! Also, the sexy neighbors' huge bachelorett-pad with all the fur. Too trippy!

    Florinda Bolkan is gorgeous! I love her name too. I like the international atmosphere of giallo films with stars from different countries filmed in different parts of Europe. I too can recommend "Perversion Story" with Marisa Mell and Jean Sorel. Jean was always so cute and clean cut, yet he starred in so many disturbing films!

    Thanks for the great review of a new favourite of yours, Ken. Very enjoyable to read!
    - Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      Given how I've only just now seen this film so many people seem to be familiar with, I"M the one late in responding!
      I so know what you mean about the violence/gore issues with Giallo. I'm not great with gore, but a good deal of my tolerance for it is in it's context. I really have a hard time with a lot of the kind of "woman hating" violence common to a lot of American horror films. The context of the violence in "Lizard" is so much in the service of recreating the jagged sensibilities of the female lead, I can thoroughly get behind it. It feels like madness and we wonder if she is indeed going mad. But mere shock-effect gore makes me avert my eyes, too.
      I think I will choose my future giallos VERY carefully!

      That Alexandria Palace location is quite stunning! The footage shot on the roof is some of my favorite from the film.
      Florinda Bolkan just blew me away. What a marvelous face, and such a substantial actress. She grounds the film and saves it from being camp. I really am eager to check out more of her films. And I also like how she's dressed in this. As you say, the early 70s's has a bit of style that got lost later in the garish part of the decade.
      I saw the trailer for "Perversion Story" and outside of the groovy fashions, 'm thrilled to see it was shot in San Francisco! Have to see it now! Also, Jean Sorel is very handsome. His fave is so chiseled it looks like they used it as a model for one of those puppets from the "Thunderbirds" TV show.
      I always enjoy hearing from you, Wille. You have an enthusiasm for film that's matched with a very keen perceptiveness about what works for you and what doesn't. Makes it very fun reading your thoughts on a film. Thanks!

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    2. Hi Ken, when I try to comment your excellent reviews I want to give it some thought and it can take some time! I also want to read the comments left by others so that I don't repeat what's all ready been said. You're always so gracious when you respond your followers.

      It's so true that Jean Sorel could be the inspiration for the Thunderbird puppets! Poor Stanley Baker, he had chiseled looks of a different, less "cinematic", variety. I can not understand how he was considered star material.

      You are right about how Florinda's role could have been played more hysterically by some other actor. I want to see more of her too. She was very big in Brazil and Italy.

      What I remember the most of this film are the two spooky looking hippies naked on the balcony. This really is a nightmarish film and I want to see it again soon! I love Ennio Morricone's cool easy listening music for this film and other similar ones from the same age.
      -Wille

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  12. I am squeamish when it comes to violence (no matter how artistic). I really enjoyed "Deep Red" plotwise, for example, but the violence was just too much for me. However, "Le Orme" has all the weirdness of the giallo film with very little bloody violence. I can definitely recommend it if you haven't seen it.

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    1. "Le Orme" seems to be a big favorite. Thanks for offering the recommendation. I don't know "Deep Red" but I love having all these potential films to explore. It's certainly a way for me to discover what my own limits are when it comes to screen violence. Much appreciated!

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