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January 24, 2019

Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion

forbidden photos poster.jpg

Le foto proibite di una signora per bene
Luciano Ercoli - 1970
Arrow Video BD Region A

I don't know if Luciano Ercoli had ever seen Sam Fuller's China Gate. Fuller's film is in part notable for introducing the character played by Angie Dickinson with her legs stretching across the CinemaScope screen. Ercoli does something similar with Dagmar Lassander, the titular lady, with three shots of her legs dominating the wide screen. The playfulness of some of the visual choices is echoed in the opening credits music by Ennio Morricone - unusually peppy and poppy, almost like an instrumental from Burt Bacharach.

I viewed the film in the Italian dubbed version with English subtitles, so the names of the characters are as they appear in that version. With Lassander as Minou first seen taking a bath, she is introduced with a first-person voiceover, making the vow that as of that morning she will no longer self-medicate with pills and alcohol. Barely out of the tub and those vows are forgotten. Taking a walk at night wearing the mini-est of mini-dresses, Minou is followed by a motorcyclist. Threatened with the cyclist's stick with a retractable blade, Minou is told that her husband is a murderer. Threatened with blackmail, and trying to protect her industrialist husband, Minou finds herself stalked by a man she is unable to prove exists.

Ercoli is more interested teasing the audience, which may disappoint those looking for giallo that is more violent or erotic. While the audience knows that Minou is not imagining her encounters with her blackmailer, it's not clear until the end if her husband, Pier, had indeed committed a murder that passed for death by natural causes. There is also a scene when Minou's best friend, Dominque, is on the phone. Dominque is in bed with a lover, the camera pans slightly to the right stopping short of revealing the lover's identity. While not explored within the story, there is visual twinning of the main characters, with Minou and Dominque (Nieves Navarro billed as Susan Scott) both similarly fashionably dressed, with similar shades of red hair with the occasional donning of wigs. Also the three main male actors are somewhat alike physically. Ercoli keeps the mystery going with lights suddenly going out, and characters moving in spaces with oversized shadows. Also notable is the recurring use of red throughout the set design.

The blu-ray comes with a commentary track by Kat Ellinger that is best at discussing how many giallo films are linked, as this one, with a screenplay by the prolific Ernest Gastaldi. There are interviews with Navarro and Ercoli from 2012 that are edited with an interview with Gastaldi. Say what you may about plot holes or other bits of illogic in his screenplays, but for me it's always a treat listening to Gastaldi humorously discuss the life of Italian genre filmmakers from the 1970s. Another extra reviews the music by Ennio Morricone and his main collaborators. A question and answer session from 2016 with Dagmar Lassander is an overview of her still active career. There is also a booklet with notes by critic Michael Mackenzie which helps place Ercoli's film within the history of giallo.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 24, 2019 01:25 PM