Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Monti, Mike Kennedy
Length: 102 min
Disks: 3 (1 BD, 1 DVD, 1 CD)
Label: Le Chat Qui Fume
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English, Italian, French: DTS HD Mono
Subtitles: English, French
- Brand new interview with Anita Strindberg (english subs)
- Brand new interview with Jean Sorel
- Brand new interview with Lionel Grenier (english subs)
- Brand new interview with Olivier Père (Arte)
- Brand new interview with Jean-François Rauger (French Cinematheque)
- Brand new interview with Alain Schlockoff (L’Ecran Fantastique)
- Brand new interview with Christophe Gans (Silent Hill)
- THE LIFES OF LUCIO FULCI by Lionel Grenier
- LUCIO FULCI AND CENSORSHIP by Lionel Grenier
- DELETED SCENE
- THE DIFFERENT VERSIONS
- AMERICAN AND ITALIAN ALTERNATE CREDITS
- LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN : FRENCH VHS VERSION
- US AND FRENCH TRAILERS
- CD Soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (19 tracks / 84 minutes)
By and large, Lucio Fulci is one of horror cinema’s most notable and beloved directors. However, that love is often applied loosely to his catalog. Sure, everyone knows his gory, zombie films, but these are only a small fraction of the work that he produced over his long, varied career. In fact, some of Fulci’s most interesting (arguably cohesive) films are the ones that least resemble works like Zombie Flesh Eaters or The Beyond. In spite of its immense following, one of Fulci’s most masterful films, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, also remains unseen by many — even those that claim allegiance to Fulci manage to overlook this title. Part of the reason is access. While there are numerous DVD and Blu-ray copies of films like The Beyond, House By the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond, A Lizard has had a much more troubled history in distribution. In the releases the film has received, its been victim to numerous different cuts and of varying quality. When the announcement was made that the french exploitation, horror distribution company Le Chat qui fume would finally issue A Lizard on a High Definition format, fans were pleased. But now that it is out, how does it stack up to expectations…
By A Lizard’s release in 1971, Lucio Fulci had built up quite a lengthy career and filmography in Italy. A Lizard was Fulci’s 23rd film, and was only his second Giallo (following 1967’s Una sull’altra). Prior to these two titles, Fulci predominantly worked in comedy and drama, with the sole Spaghetti Western Tempo di Massacro thrown in. But Giallo was slowly becoming the dominant mode for Italian “genre” cinema, as the Spaghetti Western was reaching its inevitable end near the end of the ‘60s, and Fulci was quick to join in. A Lizard comes somewhat early in sub-genre’s history, right around the time that filmmakers like Dario Argento, Massimo Dallamano, and Sergio Martino were taking the formula that Mario Bavo created and turning it darker, bloodier, and more esoteric, and long before the genre would reach its inevitable implosion in the early-to-mid ’80s.
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin shares a lot of similarities with the comparably underappreciated Sergio Martino film All the Colors of the Dark — which sadly does not have a Blu-ray, despite the film’s beauty. Both films exist in this state that resides somewhere between a dreamscape and reality, and both position the leads in a state of confusion, suffering from vivid nightmares that depict scenes of gruesome death. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is set in aristocratic London, Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) is the wife of a lawyer and the daughter of an even more successful and powerful lawyer. The film opens with Carol running through a train corridor, at first rather empty but soon filled with bodies. After a few moments, the previously clothed passengers are nude, with the seemingly frightened Carol rushing through the tight corridor of exposed bodies. Together with his DP Luigi Kuveiller (who worked with Fulci only one other time but also helped shape some of Italy’s best genre films including Profondo Rosso and Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto), Fulci shoots the sequence in true form, complete with spastic camera movement, quick focus pushing, and snap zooms. Heightening the suspense through the cinematography, the scene becomes unnerving before it implodes into a sex scene between Carol and an enigmatic blonde woman, her neighbor Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg). Over the course of the film, Carol’s dreams continue to evolve and grow darker. Eventually, she dreams that she savagely murders Julia, only to learn that Julia perishes in an identical matter shortly after. Having professed her dreams to her psychoanalyst Carol eventually becomes a key suspect in the murder.Fulci was a director obsessed with the intersection between reality and surreality, especially when that bordered on the sexual or the violent (or, as was often the case, both). As his career would progress, his films would become less and less concerned with character motivation and plot development. Fulci would, instead, work towards building palpable atmospheres of dread and horror. A Lizard marks a step towards this progression but, like most of the contemporary Gialli, is concerned a great deal with plot. Fulci was rather proficient at working within the confines of Giallo formalities, without losing his directorial stamp. While it is certainly not as enigmatic as his later films or as confounding as the manic The New York Ripper (his later-era Giallo), it does weave quite a circular tale that will leave viewers constantly guessing. It should be noted that A Lizard falls more on the procedural end of the Giallo scale than it does horror, but, like the best Gialli, it’s is worth far more than its mystery plot. Fulci’s direction is at its strongest during the hallucinatory dreams, where he is able to enliven the cinematography beyond its boundaries. His films aren’t always known for their stirring performances but he does manage to get solid turns from Bolkan, (admittedly, no Edwige Fenech) and Stanley Baker who plays Inspector Corvin. It’s the kind of psychological, psychedelic mystery thriller that only Fulci could make.
Studio Canal’s new restoration of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is resounding success. Detail and image depth are very satisfying, from wide shots to close-ups, yet there are no telltale signs of DNR filtering, or edge sharpening. Film grain is allowed to underpin the texture, but never dominate it, and is evenly distributed. Color and contrast are very good, if slightly variable. But any such fluctuations are inherited from the source material and can not be considered defects. In all, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’s blu-ray debut is is a pleasure to behold.
One of the film’s shining features is Ennio Morricone’s riveting score. Morricone is a giant in the composing world, one of the few Italian genre composers to achieve international and critical acclaim. His work on this film is a bit less musical than some of his other compositions, notably his Western scores, but it is none the less impressive for it. Combining elements of 60s psychedelic and jazz with darker, more ominous tones, Morricone successfully weaves an unsettling tapestry that assaults your aural senses and heightens the film’s manic imagery.
The blu-ray has three original mono tracks (French, Italian, and English), and all three are as satisfying as the image. Dialog is clear and easy to follow, and Morricone’s score is given sufficient body and amplitude. There are optional English and French subtitles.
Le Chat Qui Fume give us quite a bounty of extra features with this release. Some of them are English-friendly, but most are not. There are 7 newly-recorded interviews with various film scholars and actors. They are all in French, and only two come with English subtitles. The interviewees are: Anita Strindberg (13 min, English subs), Jean Sorel (16 min), Lionel Grenier (22 min, English subs), Olivier Père (26 min, Arte), Jean-François Rauger (21 min, French Cinematheque), Alain Schlockoff (23 min, L’Ecran Fantastique), and Christophe Gans (38 min, Silent Hill).
Additionally, we are given a number of featurettes and other supplements that are also in French, without English subtitles. These include: THE LIVES OF LUCIO FULCI with Lionel Grenier discussing Fulci’s career (14 min), LUCIO FULCI AND CENSORSHIP with Lionel Grenier discussing the history of censorship with Fulci’s films (8 min), DELETED SCENE (1 min), THE DIFFERENT VERSIONS a comparison of the different versions of the film (3 min), AMERICAN AND ITALIAN ALTERNATE CREDITS (5 min), LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN : FRENCH VHS VERSION (96 min), US AND FRENCH TRAILERS, PHOTO GALLERY.
Additionally, this release comes with a separate CD Soundtrack of A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin by Ennio Morricone (19 tracks / 84 minutes).
Fulci is one of horror’s most beloved directors for a reason. His films are passionate, artistic, entertaining, and harrowing (often all at the same time). He was known for being a tough director but he did so out of a dedication to his work. His films are commonly laughed at by those modern viewers not in the know; those who can’t see past the sometimes-stilted performances or awkward character reactions. But everything about his films seems intentionally and meticulously crafted. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin marks an important changing point in his career, following A Lizard, Fulci began to work on the films that would make his career iconic and international. While there does appear to be small cuts in this Blu-ray print, they seem to be very minor and certainly shouldn’t deter fans from checking out this otherwise beautiful package. North Americans without region free players or those simply wanting to avoid the somewhat high price/import fees should be pleased to know that Mondo Macabro have a BD of A Lizard slated for release, but it has been put on hold while they attempt to locate the missing footage. Fulci fans that love his films solely because of the ridiculous amount of violence and gore may find A Lizard to be somewhat of a disappointment, and, on the flip side, fans of Italian cinema that see Fulci’s excess as a bit off putting may appreciate this film above his other work. Either way you look at it, its hard to deny that A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is one of Fulci’s most interesting and accomplished works, one that has, thankfully, entered the High Definition world in full glory.