Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Lady Above Suspicion, A Frightened Woman.

About a week ago I went down to London's Roxy Bar & Screen for Filmbar 70's presentation of Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. Although I consider myself a fan of Luciano Ercoli's films, I had not seen this one in particular, despite having owned the Blue Underground DVD since 2006. This was one of those “lost in the collection:” titles. Strangely enough, I did bring a digital copy of it along with me to London this summer, but when I saw that Filmbar 70 would be hosting a big-screen presentation of this giallo, I saved my first viewing for this event. I was a little surprised to see actress Susan Scott (Nieves Navarro) take second fiddle in this arthouse-giallo, as she's the typical (if not the epitome) giallo female, and as I'd first seen her having lead roles in husband Luciano Ercoli's latter films, Death Walks at Midnight and Death Walks in High Heels. That being said, her role in Forbidden Photos is definitely striking and even, dare I say, slightly more memorable that Dagmar Lassander's lead performance (though she's pretty awesome, too), in this Lenzi-esque early giallo entry. The idea for Forbidden Photos relies on the trendy sixties-style Italio thrillers, where corrupt people try to drive each other insane with twisted, convoluted plots – films which were far more influenced by Les Diaboliques than any of the later gialli from the seventies, which focused more on sex and flamboyantly bloody murders (see again, Death Walks at Midnight). But even with the earlier giallo entry, Luciano Ercoli displays a profound flair for bringing in a cheap thriller disguised as stylish art, something that I'm coming to have more of an appreciation for each time I watch his films.
Strangely enough, I'd come across leading lady Dagmar Lassander a second time in as many weeks when I finally took a couple of hours to watch The Frightened Woman. On the surface (or rather, the DVD cover), Piero Schivazappa's film looks like a pseudo-psychedelic sixties sado-masochistic sex romp devoid of plot and drama. Boy, was I wrong. Sure, there's plenty of sexual (not sex) set-pieces and the entire design of the film is pretty effin' groovy, like Danger Diabolik if it had been designed for early Penthouse, but dammit if this film didn't actually have a story, and it was sincerely engaging. Okay, so chalk this one up to the surprise of the week.
I'm excited now to revisit, or discover, some of Dagmar's other works now that she's in the front of my mind. I must've seen her in Fulci's The Black Cat or Bava's Hatchet for a Honeymoon, but to see this Prague actress really kick some ass, you can't do better than Forbidden Photos and The Frightened Woman. Or possibly Werewolf Woman.