A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

Year: 1971
Production Co: Apollo Films
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Florinda Bolkan

Like probably many others before me, I only watched this movie because I knew Fulci's name from his spaghetti zombie days.

What Fulci's done in everything from the style and costuming to the camerawork and narrative aesthetic perfectly encapsulates the free love/acid trip era of the times, a lot like the films of Russ Meyer did if you can look past the gigantic tits.

Set in England, Carol (Florinda Balkan) is the well to do wife of lawyer Frank, who works for her barrister father. While he cheats on her in secret, she sees a psychiatrist about her conflicted feelings for the woman who lives in the apartment next door, always throwing lavish parties full of drugs and orgies.

Carol is disgusted by such behaviour, but she can't help dreaming about sinking into the mire of such debauchery, something her psychiatrist explains as a fascination with a lifestyle of abandon beneath her genteel exterior.

Carol's dreams turn violent when she murders the neighbour in one of them, only to wake up and discover the woman is really dead, and not only are belongings of Carols in the room, someone apparently killed the woman the exact same way Carol dreamed about doing it herself. Did she really murder the girl next door out of a hybrid of longing and jealousy?

As the police try to get to the bottom of it along with Carol's father, her psyche fractures even more as a hippie gang apparently wants to find and kill her, chasing her through the convalescent home where she's recovering from the shock and the roof of an ornate church.

Despite the psychedelic interludes, Fulci's actually crafted an effective whodunit that seamlessly integrates the hippy style and imagery into a narrative that makes perfect sense when he could have disappeared up his own arse, more interested in confounding and shocking rather than telling an actual story.

It's very rooted in its time because of several elements including the effects (who else but Fulci and Dario Argento decided bright orange paint looked like blood?), but there's a plot with a beginning, middle and end and all the hallmarks of a classic giallo horror, from the blood to the lesbian sex.

The effects were done by veteran Carlo Rambaldi, who went on to create the full-size animatronic King Kong for John Guillermin's 1976 version and ET for Steven Spielberg.

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