Luciano Ercoli / Italy / 1970 / 96min
Available on Blu-ray Mon 14 Jan 2019
The BBC’s recent John le Carre adaptation The Little Drummer Girl was criticised for its heavy use of colourful, vintage paraphernalia (phones, cars, flared loons) that distracted from its weary plot. For some viewers this screen trip back to the Decade that Taste Forgot was what made it worth the watch.
In Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion we get the real thing. Well, kind of. Everything in the film seems a bit off (iffy, even): the shaky camera work, the gaudy Air-bnb decor, the wonky acting.
The Italian giallo genre of garish grisliness had a sub-category of “stylish” thrillers of which Forbidden is one of the better examples. Ennio Morricone did the score. But it’s all a bit cracked, hindered, doubtless, by a cramped budget and a director and/or writer for whom human psychology and believable motivation are unnecessary extras. There is not even enough gore to call it a proper slasher.
Minou (Dagmar Lassander) and her busy Don Draper-handsome husband (Pier Paolo Capponi) have an awkward relationship – she adores him, he is bonking her best friend (Nieves Navarro). Meantime she is being stalked by a weird guy (Simón Andreu) with a nightstick and a suede midi-coat. Scary.
She submits to the blackmailer’s depraved demands so he won’t out the husband with compromising photographs. This might be a bit Fifty Shades, yet is so disappointingly mild it’s crying out for a dose of Viagra. The most disturbing thing is Minou’s interior decor. Cerise carpet with acid yellow velour armchairs? I mean, really! It’s like La Dolce Vita never happened.
As Minou slowly cracks up (it never occurs to her that she might be being gas-lighted by her hubby) she always seems to have found time for trips to the salon and appears in a series of emotional showdowns with the most elaborate hairdos. (Watch it in the original Italian – the dubbed version seems to have Minou voiced by the Speaking Clock.)
There are devotees of giallo who will be thrilled at this re-release and happily pay £25 for the pleasure. In truth, like some camp in-joke, you’ll either get giallo or you won’t.
Is the movie’s curious flatness due to the timidity of the director or a trigger-happy censor? Maybe in a parallel universe the film gleams subversively with transgressive S&M, white knuckle suspense and where the odd is replaced with mod. Or maybe not.