1971; directed by Lucio Fulci; written by Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá and André Tranché; 99 mins
An exploitation film that explores exploitation itself with the tale of a bourgeois family torn apart by fear of sexual liberation, new freedoms and the hippie dream! The Telegraph DVD review says; “forget the story” but it’s also a murder mystery where the weirdness is intertwined with a vortex of double crossing and psychological games. It does, however, occasionally go a step too far in it’s desire to push buttons and falls over into male leeriness… we’ll get to that!
Carol Hammond is the daughter of a powerful lawyer, plagued by a dream in which she has a sexual relationship with a woman and then brutally stabs her to death! The victim is one Julia Durer, who lives in the same city apartment building as Carol and her family. Whilst Carol’s family are a respectable, buttoned-down bunch, Julia lives a life of loud, wild orgies and… well, that’s about it, actually. In short order, Julia is found dead in her apartment having been murdered in exactly the same way that Carol killed her in her dream! As the police move in, Carol’s personal life begins to unravel in ways that neither she nor her family could foresee…
I’ll be honest, I bought the DVD on the basis of that title and the poster… and that’s kinda what any exploitation film worth it’s salt wants you to do. With this film, the lurid sensationalism is on display and making no bones about it but – to be fair to the film – let’s put the patronage to one side and say credit where credit’s due because there is a lot of artistry in there. Having not seen a Fulci movie before but heard plenty beforehand (mostly negative), what struck me most of all was his confidence with the imagery. Not just the big schlock moments but the simple visual gags: how do we know that Carol’s father cares a lot for her? As the camera pans across his office, in the foreground, on the father’s desk, we start on one framed photograph of her and the shot reveals yet another framed photograph on the other side.
Where I have a problem with the film is in the early murder scene where you have these tight, pervy close-ups of blood bubbling up from a woman’s tits which, for me, tips over into gross and unnecessary. Hypocrisy on my part? Well, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left has intentionally unsensationalised, brutal scenes of two young women being raped and butchered in the woods which are then punctured by these incongruous comedy scenes because Craven didn’t know how to make a movie. So that’s an honest-to-goodness mistake in an unforgiving but ultimately well-intentioned film. It’s easy with Lizard, to see a stylistic influence on someone like Nicolas Winding Refn and this film has a brain; commenting on the corruption of innocent 60s hedonism. Elsewhere, though, Fulci is giving us bleeding breasts merely to up the ante and I need a reason for my sleaze!