Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (1971)

Italy, France, Spain, 1970
88m [Spain], 95m [Italy], 96m [USA], 100m [UK], 101m [France]
35mm, Technicolor, 2.35:1, Techniscope
mono, Italian

An Italian giallo directed by Lucio Fulci. Fulci and his producer Edmondo Amati faced legal action over the nightmare scene in which Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan) enters a room where dogs are apparently being experimented on. Carlo Rambaldi’s effects were so realistic that Fulci and several key crew members were taken before a judge to testify that the sequence was indeed done with special effects. Rambaldi turned up in court with his fake dog props to demonstrate his work.

Plot Summary

Carol Hammond, the daughter of a British politician, suffers recurring nightmares in which she attends drugs parties held by the lesbian who lives in the flat below hers and ends up making love with her. In her dreams, she eventually kills the woman who turns up dead in the real world too, stabbed with Carol’s letter opener. A traumatised Carol begins to doubt her own sanity – did she kill her and just how real were the dreams all along?

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
© copyright MCMLXXI [1971] Apollo Films s.r.l. – Rome
A co-production of Apollo Films s.r.l. – Rome, Les Films Corona – Paris, Atlántida Films S.A. – Madrid. An American International release [US prints]
Executive Producer: Renato Jaboni
A film produced by Edmondo Amati
Written by: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay by: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá, André Tranché
From an idea of [sic] Lucio Fulci and Robert Gianviti
Director of Photography: Luigi Kuveiller
Film Editor: Jorge Serralonga
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Sound: Massimo Jaboni
Costumes by: Maurizio Chiari
Head Make-up: Franco Di Girolami
Hair Stylist: Rosa Luciani
Special Effects: Rambaldi Co., Eugenio Ascani
Art Director: Maurizio Chiari
Locations: Woburn Abbey, England; London, England

Cast
Florinda Bolkan [Carol Hammond]
Stanley Baker [Inspector Corvin]
Jean Sorel [Frank Hammond]
Silvia Monti [Deborah]
Alberto de Mendoza [Sergeant Brandon]
Penny Brown [Jenny]
Mike Kennedy [Hubert, a hippie]
Edy Gall [real name: Elide de Galleani] [Joan Hammond]
George Rigaud [real name: Jorge Rigaud] [Doctor Kerr]
Ezio Marano [Lowell, Scientific Squad]
Franco Balducci [McKenna, a policeman]
Luigi Antonio Guerra [policeman]
Erzsi Paal [Mrs Gordon]
Gaetano Imbró [policeman]
Leo Genn [Edmund Brighton, Carol’s father]
Anita Strindberg [Julia Durer – uncredited]
Ezio Marano [Lowell, forensic scientist – uncredited]
Jean Degrade [St Paul’s Clinic director – uncredited]

Alternative Titles

Carole – French title
Femme serpent – French title
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – UK/US title
Una lugartija con piel de mujer – Spanish title
Les Salopes vont en enfer – French title
Schizoid – US title
Le Venin de la peur – French title

Production Notes

Critical reaction

1971
Variety vol.262 no.10 (21 April 1971) p.17
“[A]n unusually well-mounted suspense thriller that should draw an audience from among filmgoers on the prowl for sensational stimulation. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin has this in abundance in a melange of deviate sex, gratuitous sadistic terror and hippy-drug orgiastics well worth the tab for anyone bugged on these recurrent screen abnormalities. Oddly enough the characters, story, and direction of Lizard come off as matter-of-fact ingredients though helmer Lucio Fulci is far more imaginative in staging the surrealist fantasy of dreams and mental derangement. On the other hand, the Apollo film production has an elegance of background suggestive every now and again of Francis Bacon touches. […] Among the first rate technical credits are Luigi Kurveiller’s lensing, Roman Calatyud’s rich interior, sets and exciting location backgrounds and a taut score by Ennio Morricone. In addition, editing is brisk and costuming in fine taste.” – from a review by Werb.

Los Angeles Times 29 September 1971
“It takes 93 minutes to peel Fulci’s “A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin” only to find there’s nothing there and never was. This Italo-Franco-Spanish co-production – set in London! – is a deliriously silly, extravagantly arty but actually thoroughly routine murder mystery. […] The English dubbing is technically far better than usual, but it’s funny to hear upper-class English accents coming out of so many patent non-Britons. Worse still, the dialogue is insufferably arch. Genn and police inspector Stanley Baker, who’ve got their own voices at least, fare best. The others look good but sound awful. Any way you look at it “A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin” is a waste.” – from a review by Kevin Thomas

1973
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.40 no.474 (July 1973) p.150 (UK)
“Set by its Italian makers in a decidedly jaded Swinging London, this tortuously plotted thriller is so liberally sprinkled with red herrings that it takes the final ten minutes to unravel the tedious complications of the previous hour-and-a-half. A curious listlessness, reinforced by the deadening effect of the dubbing, pervades the playing of the principals; and the director’s efforts to disguise this with visual fireworks result merely in an uncontrolled use of a frequently hand-held camera, forever tilting, zip-panning and zooming in on the actors. This frenetic style is employed imaginatively only in the dream sequences, and especially in the shot of a line of frozen, howling figures whose visual strength – like the paintings on the Hammonds’ wall – is partly derived from Francis Bacon. Elsewhere, the influence of Hitchcock (the ambivalent role of the heroine, the Birds-inspired bat attack) serves only to emphasise the film’s evident shortcomings.” – from a review by John Raisbeck

1992
European Trash Cinema vol.2 no.6 (1992) pp.14-15
“Mostly known for for its infamous dog “evisceration” scene by Carlo Rambaldi, the film features Fulci’s truly paranoiac vision of how the Sixties generation screwed up. His laughably unenlightened view of what constitutes a bad LSD trip is comparable to Reefer Madness during the thirties. There are a lot of highlights anyway, including another fine score by Morricone and a superlative performance by Florinda Bolkan as the murderess. Anita Strindberg as the lesbian/murder victim shows her adept at playing sluts, bitches, saints, murderess or victim. Fulci’s shining moments as a director come during the dream sequences. They are quite effective.” – from a review by Craig Ledbetter

References

Periodicals
Bianco e Nero vol.32 no.3/4 (March / April 1971) p.107 – credits
Cinema d’Oggi 1 March 1971 p.4 – review
CinemaTV Today 9 June 1973 p.19 – credits, synopsis, review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
European Trash Cinema vol.2 no.6 (1992) pp.14-15 – review
Filmfacts no.4 (1972) – illustrated synopsis
Intermezzo no.5 (March 1971) p.8 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.40 no.474 (July 1973) p.150 – synopsis, credits, review (by John Raisbeck)
Spaghetti Cinema no.65 (August 1996) pp.34-35 – credits, article/review (by William Connolly)
Starburst no.64 p.42 – note
Variety vol.262 no.10 (21 April 1971) p.17 – review (by Werb)

Newspapers
Los Angeles Times 29 September 1971 – review (by Kevin Thomas)

Books
American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson pp.216-217 – credits, synopsis, review
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror p.236 – credits, review
Beyond Terror by Stephen Thrower pp.276 – credits, review
Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.420 – credits
Unsung Horrors by Eric McNaughton & Darrell Buxton (eds) pp.316-317 – illustrated review (by Kevin Lyons)