Lizard in a Woman's Skin (Lucio Fulci / Italy-Spain-France, 1971):
(Una Lucertola con la Pelle di Donna; Schizoid)

Midway through, a blank canvas hemorrhages as itís struck by an artistís blade -- surely Lucio Fulci must have recycled the terse exchange ("Whatcha doing?" "Painting") when defending the gore in his movies. Prim dame (Florinda Bolkan) and brazen sensualist (Anita Strindberg) live side by side, the split-screen drolly separates a quiet dinner from a raucous orgy yet fantasy mingles the two worlds. Bolkanís shrink spells it out: "Your neighbor is a symbol of vice... At the same time, her freedom excites your curiosity." Her "liberating dream" travels down a narrow corridor suddenly filled with nudes, pauses to contemplate some Francis Bacon portraiture, and peaks with two elongated beauties pawing at each other before an invisible wind machine. Once Strindberg turns up dead and Scotland Yard inspector Stanley Baker starts investigating, the giallo machinery kicks into gear. The Mod scene of Blowup further withered under Italian scrutiny, London here is an overcast labyrinth where psychedelic freak-outs have lost revolutionary potential and hippies play blind witnesses to the bourgeois folly of sexual repression. Fulciís spiraling style deals in arresting shifts in space and perspective -- aristocratic cottage versus makeshift commune, antiseptic walls versus pulsating innards, a politician quietly bailing out his daughter versus a long-haired suspect screaming "Hail Britannia" mid-interrogation. The camera zooms back from a pastoral landscape to reveal a shredded corpse in the foreground, the extended chase through the bowels of a cathedral (clanking doors, scaffold, shrieking pipe organ) builds to the Hitchcokian delectation of bat after bat caught in the heroineís tresses. "The truth comes to light in very odd colors." An absolutely astringent vision of a reptilian world, where even reveries function not as escape but as blueprints for murder. Music by Ennio Morricone. With Jean Sorel, Leo Genn, Silvia Monti, Alberto de Mendoza, Penny Brown, Mike Kennedy, and Ely Galleani.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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