Tuesday, February 5, 2013

REVIEW: Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
Director: Luciano Ercoli
Year 1970

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a devilishly good Giallo film featuring a healthy dose of love, sex, murder, and mystery, all jam-packed into its 93 minute runtime. Lensed in a sleek, stylish fashion, this overlooked genre classic is a real treat for the eyes thanks to the impeccable vision of director Luciano Ercoli. With a narrative that is laced with tension and overflowing with red herrings, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a delectable Giallo production that definitely stands out from the rest of its sadistic peers.

The film follows a newly married housewife named Minou, who begins to have suspicions that her businessman husband, Peter, has committed a murder in order to clear his overwhelming debt. One night a mysterious and nameless man accosts Minou, threatening to go to the police and expose her husband unless she sleeps with him. Giving into fear, Minou placates to his demands, but finds out that things quickly begin to escalate once the stranger wants more than he first demanded. To make matters worse, the plot begins to become more intertwined when Minou's best friend is found possessing pornographic photos of the blackmailer. As her guilt and shame slowly turn into madness, can Minou reclaim her life and save her marriage, or will she meet a untimely and sinister end?

Dagmar Lassander takes on the role of Minou, the beautiful newly married woman who has had her life suddenly turned upside down by a malevolent and persistent outside force. Lassander does an excellent job with the demanding role, as we witness her slowly slip into a madness that is rather excruciating to see unfold. Her innocence and sanity is violated more than a few times and you can see the costly effects that they have on her character's mind and body. Distraught and wildly detached from the rest of the world, Lassander gives her oppressed character a maddened feverish personality as the film delves deeper and deeper into some unsettling territory. The result of this ill-fated persona gives the movie a dream-like quality which resembles a living, breathing nightmare, brought to cinematic life.

While Lassander carries a great deal of the weight of this production, there are a handful of amazing actors present to poke and prod her character through this wild roller-coaster thrill-ride. Pier Paolo Capponi plays the role of Peter, Minou's husband and the suspect of a mysterious murder that could possibly be of his making. Capponi fits the role with class, as he straddles the line between loving husband and suspicious suspect to perfection. Simon Andreu takes on the role of the blackmailer and damn does he not make a convincing scumbag. Vicious and absolutely heartless, Andreu's blackmailer character is a thing of unsettling beauty and he milks the vile role for all it's worth. Speaking of unsettling beauty, though on a more positive note, Nieves Navarro plays the role of Dominique, Minou's closest friend. Navarro is no stranger to the Giallo world, including Simon Andreu, and she has appeared in some of the most interesting efforts of the genre like Death Walks on High Heels, Death Walks at Midnight, and Death Carries a Cane. In expected form, Navarro knocks the role of Dominique out of the park playing one of the most ambiguously intentioned characters of the bunch. You never really know if she is being earnest in her concerns for her friend or if she has an ulterior motive for what she is doing. The unknown intent of her character is phenomenal and damn does Navarro look absolutely fabulous to boot.

When it comes to tension and mystery, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion has it down packed. Every character in this film seems to be involved in some way, shape, or form, with what is going on with poor Minou, and you can't help but be swept up in all the red herrings the film throws at you. There's a sly, seedy nature to it all, and director Luciano Ercoli just languishes the film in this unnerving atmosphere, keeping you on your toes for the inevitable reveal. With Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion being his first foray into the Giallo world, it's safe to say that he did an amazing job on his initial effort in the genre. Of course he would go on to make Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight, two great Giallo entries which pull religiously from all of the elements that make Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion so enjoyable and provocative.

The film's visual palette is one of great metaphorical and thematic presence, allowing the imagery to tell the story in its own personal way. It's interesting to see such poetic imagery exist beside such sleazy and violent-infused visuals, but Ercoli manages to fuse the contrasting styles to tell a most intriguing story. One moment in particular shows Pier Paolo Capponi's character of Peter as he peers through a broken glass window at his wife as she sits in a bar waiting for him. The way the camera is positioned on the other side of the glass as it holds on Peter, transposing his face across the shattered portion of the window frame, gives a great metaphorical impression of his character's own personality and intent. Eroli also manages to use a wild array of colors to represent the steady descent of Minou as she is spiraling into madness and literally losing her mind. The harsh reddish hues, used sparingly, and the outlandish production designs of the blackmailer's apartment, are all wonderfully executed to give off that off-kilter and foreboding atmosphere that this film so loves to flourish in. As a Giallo film goes, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a wonderfully crafted thriller that really gets inside the main actresses head in portraying what it's like when the world seems against you and you have no where to turn.

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is an accomplished genre effort created by a budding filmmaker who fused art and horror into one comprehensive and exceptionally crafted package. For a first effort in the world of Giallo, Luciano Ercoli does an excellent job with balancing all of the aspects of this production, while at the same time maintaining a morbid sense of perversion that blankets this gem of a flick. Lost in a sea of mistrust, the film thrives on the unexpected and the unknown, making you second guess every single characters intentions and aspirations for Minou's character.

Each and every role in this film is performed phenomenally, allowing for the strength of the story to really take hold. Dagmar Lassander is wonderful as the helpless Minou and Pier Paola Capponi gives an astoundingly obscure performance as Peter, while Simon Andreu and Nieves Navarro pull no punches in delivering genuinely memorable characters, with the later of the two looking absolutely delicious in the process. With the multitude of twists and turns to be found within this wonderful Giallo film, I think it's safe to say that if you're a fan of the genre you should really get a kick out of this one. Luciano Ercoli is an under-appreciated director of the genre and he really does deserve a wider audience for his three beautifully crafted Giallo films. Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is one.....

Hi.... Want to be my snuggle buddy?

I can't believe you drank the last of the apple juice. You bitch!

Damn kids and their baseball!

Dagmar Lassander wasn't too keen on Nieves Navarro's cleavage.

Let the meeting of the Stupid Hats Club begin!

Did I forget to turn off the oven?

It's Movie Night with the girls!

I don't remember scheduling an appointment with a pair of legs.

Can I pet your fur?

This lady looks above suspicion.

Looks like Peter got caught in Dominique's cleavage. Bad boy!

Stop acting so damn suspicious!

What did you just say about my weird mustache?

Smell my five dollar bill. SMELL IT!

Looks like someone is having a good time.

Looking good!

We're going to draw a happy little tree right across the chest.

And so begins the second meeting of the Stupid Hats Club. Hooray!


  1. An excellent review which reminds me that it's time to revisit this little gem. To me, this is the best of Ercoli's gialli and by far the most stylish. Beautifully shot and great use of colors, plus it has the most amazing art direction, costumes, wigs etc. An absolute delight to look at. And I can't get enough of the awesome Morricone score - I even have the soundtrack CD. Dagmar's character is rather naive (we're always at least two steps ahead of her) but she's very good and makes for a really likable damsell in distress. But best of all is the ravishing Susan Scott. This was the first film I saw with her and I've been a big fan ever since.

  2. Thanks Johan! Yeah this particular Giallo is just beautiful to look at and it also reminded me that I need to check out some more Giallo films sitting on my shelf. I also agree that Susan Scott is amazing and the first time I saw her was in the highly enjoyable 1966 Eurospy film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I've been hooked ever since! Thanks for taking the time to check out the site.

  3. One of the reasons I like Susan Scott so much is because she's a lot stronger and more confident than the average giallo heroine. A very spunky and sexy lady!
    Sure! I've enjoy your site a lot, and it's particularly interesting to read your many Eurospy reviews since this is a part of Italian cinema that I'm less familiar with. Keep up the good work!