Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Fantasy double bill: Lizard / Ashes

LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN from 1971 is another of those steamy Italian giallo thrillers with heightened drama and piling on the exotica, by stalwart Lucio Fulci. I liked those two I saw a while back: SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS with Jean Sorel and Ingrid Thulin and Barbara Bach, which was stunningly done and involving, and Sorel again with Carroll Baker in one of theirs, A QUIET PLACE FOR A KILL in 1970.

This one is all about Florinda Bolkan - that stunning Brazilian who came to prominence in Visconti's THE DAMNED in '69 and was the lead in De Sica's A BRIEF VACATION, as well as her Lola Montez in Dick Lester's ROYAL FLASH in '75 (see previous post....). Here she is Carol who is having very realistic dreams or nightmares where she is involved with the sex crazed lesbian who lives next door - cue lots of girl on girl action which takes a violent twist when the said neighbour is found stabbed to death, with Carol's fur coat and scarf nearby .... in Carol's nightmares she is the guilty party who then realises after the stabbing that she is being watched by two hippies who are out of their minds on acid.... What is real and what is fantasy or nightmare? Is Carol being set up? Carol dreamed the killing, and there are her prints all over the place. She claims she didn't kill her, but then who? Can Carol's father find out and put the blame? Will the police detectives solve the crime, which could be a set-up. There are several striking sequences such as Carol fighting her way through a crowded train corridor when suddenly all the other people on the train are naked....

Fulci takes the viewer on a convoluted journey through Carol's psyche, with the various endless corridors, winding staircases and labyrinthine buildings through which she finds herself being pursued (whether by actual physical forces or her own subconscious) reflecting her confused and deeply convoluted mental anguish.

The supporting cast is similarly excellent, combining famous British faces - an older Stanley Baker as the investigating policeman and QUO VADIS's Leo Genn (that dependable English actor) as her wealthy father, and as her husband giallo regular Jean Sorel who really has not too much to do here. The sets are opulent and there is that chase through the deserted Alexandra Palace, which features a bat attack clearly influenced by Hitchcock's THE BIRDS. Other London locations are well used too, and there is the usual Morricone score. The ending is quite a revelation....

What I actually enjoyed more was the 1965 British thriller RETURN FROM THE ASHES, a long unseen item, by stalwart J. Lee Thompson, shot in Panavision monochrome by Christopher Challis with a good score by Johnny Darkworth (who also did those scores for THE SERVANT and MODESTY BLAISE among others). This is an involving thriller heading by Ingrid Thulin terrific as ever as the woman returning to Paris from the concentration camps - we first see her on a crowded train unaware of her surroundings as an annoying child falls from the train, her tattoo visible on her arm. She books into a cheap hotel in Paris and even her old work colleague Herbert Lom does not initially recognise her. Before the war she had married an opportunistic chess player Maximilian Schell but is he really carrying on with her tease of a step-daughter Samantha Eggar?

It turns out that Thulin is now a very wealthy woman and Eggar and Max want to get their hands on it. Sam spots Thulin in the street and realises they could use her to pose as her mother, whom they believe died in the camps, to get their hands on the money. Ingrid goes along with this, not telling them who she really is. The plot twists and turns, with a very good bathroom scene, until final retribution. It is actually very enjoyable and the 3 leads excel. Highly recommended - if you can find it!

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