Splatter Time Fun Fest 2014: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, 1971)

a lizard in a woman's skin

I’ve seen some lizards before and that’s no lizard!

Screenplay By: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá, & André Tranché
Directed By: Lucio Fulci

I’m not sure why Lucio Fulci felt the need to turn a great mind bender into a stock murder mystery. There really wasn’t a reason for the switch, but it happens quite early and from that point on the film stopped engaging me as a viewer. Una lucertola con la pelle di donna is so much more interesting when it’s a trip into the claustrophobic mind of a young woman. When the twists start happening and it becomes clear that her mind is not messed up, well, that was nowhere near as interesting as what had come before.

The murder-mystery aspect of Una lucertola con la pelle di donna is, well, pretty rote. It’s not terrible, but it’s been done a bunch before. Maybe not the specifics, but the general idea of, “She’s the killer, wait, no, he’s the killer, or maybe it is her after all, or it’s these two weirdos!” has been done to death and done much better. The final two acts of Una lucertola con la pelle di donna are a stumbling act as the film teeters and totters towards its conclusion. When said conclusion finally does come the narrative has lost any sense of balance and topples over. The ending of Una lucertola con la pelle di donna is like a dead animal being dragged across a mountain side; not pleasant and a chore to complete.

The first act of Una lucertola con la pelle di donna is pretty trippy and a lot of fun. There’s a claustrophobic edge to the way Signore Fulci goes about showing the mind of Carol. She’s not crazy, but life is pressing down on her and there’s the distinct sense that she has no way to escape from the pressure. Her brain is like a holding area for all the bad things in her life and as she has no outlet her mind keeps getting further and further out of control. There are a few truly creepy moments that occur in the supposed dream state of Carol. Looking back though, the final two acts ruin the first act and undo all the good work of creating a pressure cooker.

This is my third film from Signore Fulci, and so far I haven’t really seen the genius that others have. I’m hoping that as I explore his work some more maybe I will come across more film like Non si sevizia un paperino and less films like Una lucertola con la pelle di donna. A promising first act quickly gives in to a murder-mystery that is uncalled for. The final product is an uneven film and one that cheats the viewer out of the psychological horror the first act went about establishing. Una lucertola con la pelle di donna could have been a much better film, as is it’s nothing more than a wasted opportunity.



Bill Thompson

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