Horror Digital  

Go Back   Horror Digital > Reviews > DVD Reviews A-M

Latest Poll
What unreleased movie do you want to see most on DVD/Blu-ray?
Blood Beach
Death Weekend
Full Moon High
House IV
Island of Terror
Jennifer
Massacre at Central High
Next of Kin
Night Warning
Silent Madness
Something Evil
Spasms
Stepfather III
The Amityville Curse
The Keep
The Mutilator
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
The Prey
Willard
Other (specify in thread)...
Who's Online
There are currently 7 members and 132 guests. Most users ever online was 799, 04-10-2006 at 07:37 PM.
cjg, Franco, inetryconydot, MisterTwister, Paff, Scorpion
 Thread Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.
Old 03-12-2006, 09:54 PM
190
Moderator
 
Scored: 8
Views: 11,735
Default Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, The



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: March 12, 2006

Released by: Blue Underground
Release date: 3/28/2006
MSRP: $19.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageIn its formative years, the giallo was almost exclusively masculine in its focus and perspective. Inspired by David Hemmingsí iconic swinger in Blowup, the leads in gialli were predominately males trying to piece together the convoluted details of a mystery thrust upon them. Argentoís Animal Trilogy, Bavaís late-60s work and even the early gialli from Aldo Lado all demonstrate the early thrust of the genre into an all-male focus. Later, of course, weíd see the giallo adopt a more feminist perspective as the years went on, from Fulciís Lizard in a Womanís Skin to Argentoís Phenomena, but it wasnít always like this. There was a shift to permit the presentation of women in the genre as subjects rather than mere objects.

While Argento, Bava and Lado were all hung up on menís issues, Luciano Ercoli was busy mining new territory with the woman in his early gialli: Death Walks at Midnight, Death Walks on High Heels and most importantly his first feature, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. Although largely forgotten, it is nonetheless a landmark film of the genre in its focus on female issues in light of womanís lib. Blue Underground has unearthed this important film from obscurity, and hopefully with this new DVD release will help to redefine how we all look at the genre and how it was shaped throughout the early-Ď70s to become the longstanding genre we all remember today.


The Story

inline Image The film begins with a shot of an ornament of a child hanging on the wall. This is to symbolize the self-imposed rebirth that Minou (Dagmar Lassander) is to embark on for the remainder of the film. ďIím going to give up cigaretteís todayÖĒ she begins, pontificating in the bathtub of how she will start to assert herself with a do-gooder attitude. The important thing is that she wants to do it for herself, and not out of duty to her cold, adulterous husband, Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi). Minouís motivations quickly change when, later that night, she is sexually attacked by a prowler (Ercoli stalwart, Simon Andreu) during a late night stroll. Helpless and vulnerable, she realizes she is nowhere near strong enough to become the independent woman she desires. She cowers back to her husband, but still things are not right.

inline ImagePeter is having an affair with Minouís close friend, Dominique (Ercoliís wife, Susan Scott), but that is the least of his sins. He also has some shady scientific work that he does behind closed doorsÖor so it seems. While heís at work, Minou begins receiving threatening phone calls from the prowler, telling her that Peter has killed a man and that unless she performs sexual favors for him, heíll notify the authorities. Looking to protect her husband, but implicitly wanting to step out of her husbandís shadow and do good on her own, she obliges to the sexual games. The sex is troublesome for her, since on one level she the freedom and catharsis it provides her, but at the same time she still holds ties to Peter. Quickly however, the sex becomes a catalyst to her seductive self-discovery.

inline ImageMinou begins spending more time with Dominique, and finds sheís not the only one seeking sexual liberation. Dominique is a voyeur, she shows Minou her stash of sexual pictures (the Forbidden Photos of the title). Although the two pictures unite the women in some liberating fashion, they also help move forward the plot, since the man in one of the photos is the same prowler to which Minou has been granting sexual favors. It is clear that Minou is involved in one labyrinthine web of sex and deceit, but will she come out liberated or obliterated?

Luciano Ercoli made three gialli in succession during the time when the genre was just beginning to get its footing. While Argento and Lado were unflinchingly obliged to the male gaze, Ercoli, and to a lesser extend Umberto Lenzi, was busy exploring the genre from the other side of gender. While Lenziís films were feminine more on the surface (they dealt with female characters at the center, but did not really explore them), Ercoliís had a deep-rooted desire to explore the nature of female repression during a time of supposed liberation.

inline ImageAll three of Ercoliís gialli, Forbidden Photos, Death Walks at Midnight and Death Walks on High Heels, all present women who are dehumanized as sexual objects. Nicole is a stripper in High Heels, Valentine is a model in Midnight and Minou becomes a sex toy for her male stalker in Forbidden Photos. What is worse, is that in all films the woman is almost always right in her suspicions, but yet is deemed mentally unstable each time by demeaning male detectives. They are victims to the male perpetrators of each film, but what is more scathing is that the people they go to for help are just as heartless. There is little place for women to go in Ercoliís films other than in their own mind, for they are a victim in the greater chauvinist male system.

inline ImageErcoli remains committed in all three of his gialli to the feminist perspective, always placing the view of the narrative through his female lead. Oftentimes, we see more than just the story, as the dreams and flashbacks of the female characters (the murderous hallucination in Midnight or the remembered sex games in Forbidden Photos) are often shown firsthand. Ercoli makes it easy to see that there is much more to women than there mere to-be-looked-at-ness. In a time when womenís lib was just beginning to take hold, Ercoliís films were showing the rare flipside of the male centric giallio genre. His The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is his first, best, and most unequivocally female of the lot.

inline ImageCalling the film a giallo is somewhat of a misnomer. Instead of beginning with a murder (like his next two gialli, and basically every other giallo post-Plumage), Forbidden Photos instead begins with a woman fantasizing about becoming someone new. Right from the first frame it centers on female lifestyle issues rather than male-oriented depictions of murder. So instead of being centered around a crime or a mystery, like most gialli, it is instead centered on Minouís own self-discovery. The fact that there is a murder, a cover-up and a threat is all just matters in the periphery that help Minou to really find herself. Instead of ending with the solving of a case, Forbidden Photos ends with the rebirth of Minou into a woman freed from male domination. Although the film has all the surface gloss of a typical giallo, from the dark scope cinematography to the trademarked Morricone music, its ties to womenís issues make it a transcendental picture in the entire giallo cycle.

inline ImageIt is tough to imagine lauded female centered gialli like The Strange Vice or Mrs. Wardh had it not been for the influence of Ercoliís Forbidden Photos. Brian De Palmaís feminist pics of the seventies, Sisters, Carrie, The Fury, all seem to take more than a little from the early Ercoli mold of filmmaking as well. Although not overly remembered, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion has no doubt left and influence as one of the most focused female horror movies of the seventies. It holds up still today, too, with strong performances, an involving story and a pace much quicker than Ercoliís subsequent films. With every snapshot of femininity, Ercoliís Forbidden Photos still resonate today.


Image Quality

Presented in luscious 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, these Forbidden Photos have never looked better. Colors are brilliantly vibrant here, almost Technicolor in their deep saturation. Any dust or specs have been completely filtered out here, although black scratches still pop up subtly throughout the picture down the vertical axis of the frame. There is still some grain present, but for the most part this is a very clean and sharp picture. Again though, the most commendable attribute are the colors, still looking as vibrant as ever after 35 years. I donít know where they do their transferring, but Blue Underground continues to prove that they have the best lab in the business. Another beautiful transfer.


Sound

Perhaps weíve been spoiled with NoShameís dual-language giallo dubs, but the English only sound options here seem incomplete. The English mono track is solid, without any of the dropout found on some of NoShameís releases, but at the same time it doesnít sound quite right. Ercoliís Death films played out much better in Italian, and I have a feeling Forbidden Photos would too. It is a shame there isnít an Italian track, since the female voices here, particularly Lassanderís, sound oddly out of place in context with the emotions portrayed on screen. Still, what is offered here is fine, it just would have been nice to have had the option to hear it in the more natural Italian as well.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageAs per usual with most gialli on DVD, there is a trailer and a small interview contained on the disc. The trailer is a snoozer, way too long and not nearly as stylish or psychedelic as the trailers used for Ercoliís subsequent film. The 9-minute interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi though, is a very good list. Gastaldi has been flaky in the past, often not remembering anything about the films heís worked on (understandable, since he wrote about 5 films a year in his heyday), but here he is very vocal about the film and his collaboration with Luciano Ercoli. He explains his original aspirations to be a novelist, and how he ended up getting trapped in the giallo genre for many years. He has no problem in pointing out it was often just for the money, although the quality of many of his films demonstrate he is to an extent humbling himself. He ends off the interview with an interesting bit about the fate of Luciano Ercoli, which makes you wonder what could have been had he stayed in the game longer.


Final Thoughts

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a mouthful of a title and a pleasure of a movie. Unique in its female perspective, the film is tense, clever and provocative, despite the absence of much nudity or violence. Its presentation of the woman-in-peril was unique for its time, and it still holds up surprisingly well today. The video quality holds up too, although the audio suffers from a lack of an Italian language track. Finished off with a nice little interview extra, this is yet another quality giallo DVD from Blue Underground. Thereís nothing suspicious with this release, this is a lost gem worth seeking.

Rating

Movie - B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - C
Supplements - B-


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 36 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Mono

Supplements
  • "Forbidden Screenplays - Interview with Co-Writer Ernesto Gastaldi"
  • Theatrical trailer

Other Pictures

 

__________________
Can't argue with a confident man.
 

Extras
New Article
New Reply

DVD Reviews A-M
« Previous | Next »

Old 03-12-2006, 10:53 PM
Great review, Rhett! It has me very excited for this release, moreso than any of the other gialli BU will be putting out on the same day.
 
 
Old 03-19-2006, 11:31 PM
Dig me..but don't bury me
Thanks for the review.I haven't seen this movie yet so I can't comment on it.But I'm looking forward to it as it will arrive in a couple of weeks!
__________________
"People scare better when they're dyin' "
My DVDs My CDs
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
 
 

Posting Rules
You may not post new articles
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On


Main > Reviews > DVD Reviews A-M
All times are GMT +1. The time now is 05:43 AM.


Portal By vbPortal Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vbPortal. All Rights Reserved.