Long before the legendary Lucio Fulci released his masterworks, Zombie (1979) and the ‘Gates of Hell Trilogy’, Fulci developed a prolific resume of films, including a fine selection of giallo films. Lucio Fulci created Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) as an artistic response to the ‘Summer of Love’. Accordingly, his film carries with it rush of the sexual revolution, women’s liberation and as well as the drug fueled lunacy made infamous by Charles Manson. In the opinion of Malevolent Dark, this film marks a high-point in Fulci’s giallo production.
This film was released in the United States as Schizoid.
Sex, Drugs and Murder
Lucio Fulci casts Florinda Bolkan in the lead role as Carol Hammond. Those familiar with Lucio Fulci’s work will recognize the name Florinda Bolkan from his more celebrated film, Do Not Torture a Duckling (1972). Carol Hammond is the daughter of a wealthy lawyer and politician, Edmond Brighton. Her husband Frank, played by Jean Sorel, works for her father. They live next to a beautiful socialite name Julia Durer, played by Anita Strindberg.
Julia regularly hosts drug fueled orgies and Carol can’t seem to stop thinking of them. She regularly sees a psychologist to discuss her reoccurring dreams about Julia and the debauchery that occurs in her apartment. One of these dreams details a lesbian encounter between Carol and Julia that ends with Carol stabbing Julia to death. The following day, Carol finds out that Julia really has been murdered in the same circumstances that she had dreamt. Carol Hammond becomes the prime suspect in the investigation.
A Critical Statement on the 60’s
Lucio Fulci’s film boils over with 60’s psychedelic trappings. Everything from the music assembled by Ennio Morricone, the shag carpeting and blood red satin bedsheets feel as if taken directly from the pages of July 1968 issue of Penthouse magazine. This holds especially true during the prolonged dream sequences. Lucio Fulci creates a fantastically visual tour de force that indelibly imprints his style in the viewers minds. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a hyper-sexual acid trip that just so happens to also be a suspenseful giallo thriller at the same time.
The critique of the 60’s comes in the form of brutal murder. During the late sixties, the world became captivated by the ‘Love Movement’. Woodstock and ‘3 Days of Peace and Music’ occupied at the forefront of the mind. However, behind the scenes, the brutality of racism boiled over in major cities. Riots overtook the streets. A college campus in Ohio erupted in gun fire as the National Guard opened fire on protesters, killing 4 students and wounding 9. In a final and bloody exclamation point, the drug fueled slaughter of Hollywood socialites by followers of Charles Manson burned the whole thing down to the ground.
Lucio Fulci roots his social commentary in the idea that unchecked depravity of thoughts and actions eventually collide with social norms with disastrous consequences.
A Refined Giallo
Here at Malevolent Dark, we spend a lot of time discussing the art of the Italian giallo film. Owing to their fascinating ability to display common traits, while refusing to be pinned down exact parameters, Italian giallo films fascinate cinephiles. Lucio Fulci confidently demonstrates the stylistic exuberance often associated with the art. While the film lacks the persistent threat of a faceless killer, this film presents a mystery with several twists and turns. Certainly, Fulci’s film exudes the sexual depravity that often comes part and parcel with the sub-genre.
Malevolent Dark referred to trusted Twitter advisors for a read on whether Lizard in a Woman’s Skin actually qualifies as a giallo. We swiftly received confirmation and were then asked shut-up about it.
The Great Dog Controversy
One of the revered aspects of Lucio Fulci films is a steady supply of gore. The man famously creates some of the most sickening displays of blood and guts of any director. For the most part, Fulci presents more of thriller than slasher. In its entirety, the film only portrays two real kills. What’s man like Fulci to do? He must improvise. In a chase scene, Carol runs from an unknown assailant. As she plows through room after room in a sanitarium, she bursts into a room with four vivisected dogs, organs pumping for all to see. As fantastic as that all sounds, it’s not even the most remarkable part.
For whatever reason, something odd seems to happen more often in Italian cinema than any other nationality of film. More than once, an Italian director has been charged by law enforcement for with the supposed real slaughter of an animal or in other cases, a real human. Famously, this would come back to haunt Deodato Ruggeri in his film Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Ruggeri had to call that cast in before the judge to get charges of their murders dropped. Likewise, Luci Fulci was charged with bringing real harm to the dogs. Special effects artist, Carlo Rambaldi, had to bring the props before the court to get the charges dropped.
So… is there some preponderance of snuff films in Italian culture that makes this a rational response to a horror movie? While Carlo Rambaldi cleverly created this special effect, any fool can clearly see that it is not real. Its as if a director would proudly display his crimes on the silver screen in a major motion picture release. I truly hope that the judges and lawyers involved fully realize how ridiculous they look.
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – The Score
Watching Lizard in a Woman’s Skin for the first time was an absolute pleasure. It embodies the best parts of Italian horror cinema and constitutes a very strong composition by Lucio Fulci. Fulci’s film is a strong giallo with that extra layer of funk that he puts on all of his work. Fortunately I was able to find a DVD copy that retained the grainy patina of early ’70s film. It all added to the experience. Forinda Bolkan has an exotic beauty that demands attention. She provides competent acting as well. Florinda’s rendezvous with Anita Strindberg is electric sexuality.
Lucio Fulci tells a tale of what happens when the excesses of drugs and rampant sexuality clash with the worlds of monogamy and professional integrity. Fulci spins a visually exasperating tale of murder, wanton sex and deception. It also serves as a transitional work that focuses more on suspenseful narrative than visceral gore. Malevolent Dark considers this film a must see Fucli experience.
Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) - Indulgent Drug Fueled Fulci - Malevolent Dark
Director: Lucio Fulci
Date Created: 1971-01-01 00:00