THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION **** Italy / Spain 1970 Dir: Luciano Ercoli. 93 mins
To the gorgeous strains of another early 70’s giallo score by Ennio Morricone, the first shot of this movie is of Dagmar Lassander enjoying a bubble bath prior to a night-out in which she is accosted on the beach by black haired, polo neck-wearing handsome stranger Simon Andrev. He informs her that her husband (Pier Paolo Capponi) is a murderer before riding off, launching an increasingly threatening campaign of blackmail and sexual power play.
Hubby is nonplussed, joking about being “jumped on by Jack the Ripper” while Lassander’s sexy, predatory model-friend (Susan Scott) notes how a dashing stranger trying to rape you at least confirms your desirability. The cops reassure her that sex maniacs are quite common but the guy most likely won’t come back for more. This vivid, queasy vision of early 70’s attitudes toward women and sexual assault provide the backdrop for a twisty, dread-infused plot typical of the period’s giallo – even if it’s light on bloodshed and nudity compared to many of its peers. Andrev impresses as a fascinating antagonist, literally throwing away money and striving to control his victim in every way possible, relishing the thrill he gets from her begging “like a slave” and stripping for his benefit (“I’m the master of your soul, of your body…”). Director Ercoli makes excellent use of ominous sculptures, an almost universally seedy supporting cast and a pet tortoise that always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The plot corkscrews its way to a familiar post-DIABOLIQUE climax, but it’s fun getting there – and Lassander is terrific, as always.
Review by Steven West