Lucio Fulci is a director who is often referred to as a hack by people who are only familiar with his blood spattered films of the late seventies and early eighties(and if you've seen any of his output towards the end of his career you would probably agree with them). Anyone whose seen Fulci's output from the sixties and the early seventies would easily be able to make a case against that argument, particularly with films such as Beatrice Cenci, Dont Torture the Duckling, Four of the Apocalypse and Colt Concert. A Lizard in a Woman's Skin is one of his finest films, and its current on-hold status on DVD is incredibly frustrating to say the least.
Florinda Bolkan plays Carol Hammond, the daughter of a rich lawyer, who is having a recurring dream in which she stabs to death Julia Durer, one of her neighbours who has been annoying Carol by having loud late night parties. Carol tells her psychiatrist about the dream, but he dismisses it out of hand. The next morning Julia Durer is found dead in her apartment, stabbed in the same manner Carol saw in her dreams. Upon searching the apartment the police find a number of items that belong to Carol, and they duly arrest her. Her lawyer father soon has her back on the streets, but things take a turn for the worse when she is harassed by a spaced out hippy (who also appeared in her nightmare).
Carol's stepdaughter, Joan, visits a local hippy commune, because she knows that many of the residents went to Julias parties due to the readily available supply of drugs and debauchery. Joan is hoping to track down an eye witness to the murder, but unfortunately for her she is obviously too close to the truth because before long her body is found with a cut throat. Inspector Corvin(Stanley Baker) is working the case, and even when the menacing hippy confesses to the murder of Joan,Corvin is convinced that he had nothing to do with Julia's murder due to being under the influence of a massive acid binge at the time. Carols father is the next to die-an apparent suicide victim whose suicide note states that he was was the murderer of Julia due to him being the victim of a blackmail scheme.
This seems to tie up all the loose ends of the case, but any seasoned giallo viewer knows better...... A Lizard in a Woman's Skin is one of the many occasions where everything came together for Fulci and his team to produce a fine piece of cinema, easily on a par with the very best of the Italian thrillers from the seventies. The cinematography is excellent, and combined with some top notch editing, the movies psychedelic dream sequences produce some startling images, particularly one involving a white swan, and also the infamous nightmarish scene where Carol comes across a number of dogs strapped to a table with their intestines hanging out. This scene almost ended up with Fulci almost being jailed under Italy's cruelty to animal laws, and he was only saved when Carlo Rambaldi, the revered special effects guru, turned up in court with one of the fake special effects dogs and proved that no real animals had been harmed in the making of the film! This sequence, incidentally, is missing from most export prints of the film.
Ennio Morricone provides another marvelous score, one of his finest of the seventies, and when combined with some wonderful vocals on the soundtrack it provides a genuinely memorable audio experience.
In conclusion, this film is a must for any serious giallo collector, and the sooner it receives its long announced DVD release the better. In the meantime, the best version available is probably the Belgium/French release on the Hollywood label. The version reviewed here is the English release on the VIP label which is slightly cut.
Editor's Note: Well after this review was published, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin was released on DVD by Shriek Show, after several delays, and is currently available through the link below.