Though their later collaborations in the giallo genre, Death Walks At Midnight and Death Walks On High Heels are better known, the unusually titled The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion marks the first collaboration between director Luciano Ercoli (the film also marks Ercoli's directorial debut) and scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi within the genre. While it's low on nudity and murderous mayhem, it does have some interesting suspense and enough underlying themes of kinky depravity to keep things interesting despite the slow pace at which it plays out.
The lovely Minou (Dagmar Lassander of Mario Bava's Hatchet For The Honeymoon) spends her days drinking and popping pills and waiting for her husband, Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi of Dario Argento's The Cat O' Nine Tails), to give her the love and affection that she so obviously craves from him. He works a lot, however, and seems to always have to put in long hours at the office and spend more time away from home than most people need to. One night, while walking to the local bar for a drink, Minou is assaulted by a strange man (Simon Andreu of The Blood Spattered Bride) with a knife cane who cuts open her shirt and holds her to the ground but stops short of actually doing anything further to her physically, instead telling her that her husband is a murderer.
Minou doesn't believe the man until a day later she finds out that a man that Peter owed money to has been found dead. Later that day Minou gets a phone call from the same stranger who assaulted her earlier, who plays a cassette recording of her husband discussing the murder with an associate of hers. He tells her that if she doesn't want him to go public with this information, she'd better meet him at his place, which she does, and it's there that he finally has his way with her in a strange red lit apartment with plaster hand sculptures protruding from the walls and crazy colors everywhere. What Minou doesn't realize is that the fiend has setup a camera and has managed to photograph her in the act with him, resulting in further blackmail schemes on his end.
Minou doesn't know who to turn to, the only friend she seems to have is Dominique (Susan Scott of Death Walks On High Heels), but she has her own suspicions about her and thinks that she might be having an affair with her husband. The fact that Dominique owns some pornographic photos of the man who has been threatening her in action tells her that she might have ties of her own to all of this, and Minou soon finds out that no one is to be trusted.
The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion does not move at a particularly fast pace nor does it contain much in the way of gore of on screen nudity – two characteristics for which the giallo genre is well known for. Instead it relies on atmosphere and creeping tension and on that level it works quite well. Minou's plight isn't evident right from the start but we do know from the opening narration that she is a trouble woman despite the fact that she has what so many other women want – looks and money. As the plot develops and red herrings and strange twists start to come at us from all directions its easy to forgive the lack of more exploitative elements and savor the slow burn we're treated to. Top it all off with a fantastic score from Ennio Morricone, and it's like the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae!
Benefiting from a strong cast of Euro-cult regulars (many of whom would work with Gastaldi and Ercoli on later giallos), the acting might not blow you away but it serves its purpose here and everyone certainly looks the part. The visuals are fantastic, with every frame composed carefully and elegantly so that even during the slower moments of the film, of which there are quite a few, there's a lot for your eyes to feast on. Underneath all of this is a fairly depraved little pot boiler that plays with some interesting psychological twists and turns throughout and while it's not on par with the better films in the genre, The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion is very much a worthwhile entry, particularly for seasoned fans of the giallo.
The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion comes to Region 1 in a pretty killer progressive scan 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors look nice and bold throughout, the black levels stay strong and deep from start to finish, and the flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There is some mild edge enhancement present in a few scenes and some line shimmering in the usual places like on the front of a car grill or along the sides of a building but there aren't any mpeg compression artifacts worth noting nor is there much in the way of print damage aside from the odd speck or two – the image is consistently clean and very nice looking throughout. Some mild grain is present, but that's to be expected. Overall, the film looks great on this DVD.
This one hits DVD in a dubbed Dolby Digital English language mix, with English subs automatically popping onto the screen for the one or two spots in the film that use Italian text (newspaper headlines) so that you're still able to follow the film. Quality of the mix should please most fans. Anyone familiar with Euro-cult films of this era knows that sometimes the dubs are a little wonky and that the lips don't always match the performers but that's sometimes half the fun of these films. Dialogue is clean and clear, there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced properly. Ennio Morricone's lush score sounds excellent here, coming through strongly without ever overpowering the dialogue. There's a bit of hiss in one or two spots but it's so mild that it's really never an issue.
The main extra feature on this release is a nine minute video interview with writer Ernesto Gastaldi entitled Forbidden Screenplays in which the writer talks about his career and how he got his start in the industry. He covers how the script for The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion had to use some clever tweaking to essentially hide some of the naughtier parts of the movie and how his relationship was with director Luciano Ercoli. The film's theatrical trailer is also included.
A slickly made and suspenseful, if slow moving, Euro-cult thriller, The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Under Suspicion looks and sounds very nice on DVD and contains some decent extra features as well. Giallo fanatics will want to own it, as should anyone else who appreciates a well crafted tale of mystery. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.