Blue Underground presents
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (Le Foto proibite di una signora per bene) (1970)
"You expect to buy me with your paper dollars. You don't know me, Minou. You must surrender your mind, and your body."- The Blackmailer (Simon Andreu)
Stars: Dagmar Lassender, Pier Paolo Capponi, Simon Andreu, Susan Scott
Other Stars: Osvaldo Genazzani, Salvador Buquet
Director: Luciano Ercoli
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence)
Run Time: 01h:35m:44s
Release Date: 2006-03-28
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewSuddenly, Luciano Ercoli is a hot property. Following fast in the footsteps of NoShame's double feature of Ercoli's Death gialli, Blue Underground offers this thriller, which marked his directorial debut. Not quite a giallo, it does have some effective moments that portend the first-rate films that would eventually come from Ercoli.
Repressed housewife Minou (Dagmar Lassender), plagued by a problem with tranquilizers and liquor, is assaulted and threatened by a mysterious man (Simon Andreu) who hints that her businessman husband Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi) is a fraud and a murderer. Soon she starts receiving threatening calls and corroborating proof of Peter's guilt, promising exposure unless Minou becomes Andreu's sex slave. She gives in to save her husband, retrieving the incriminating tape recording, only to find out that her time with Andreu has been documented in compromising photographs that are the source for even more blackmail.
Lassender makes for a fairly colorless heroine, though she does credibly play both devotion to her husband and erupting passion under the threat of her blackmailer. Andreu is coolly evil, relishing his role as tormenter to the point that he's really frightening. He projects a desire for complete control and cruelty throughout, making him a true villain; his evil is given a universality by the fact we never even learn his name. But the show is stolen by Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro, Ercoli's wife) as Minou's swinging friend Dominique, who may have some secrets of her own. It's clear from this test run that she could handle the leads in Ercoli's next two films, which she did with sexy aplomb.
The set decoration is quite interesting, with an emphasis on objectification of the human form throughout. Both Minou's apartment and Andreu's hideout feature statuary and figures of hands, heads, limbs and other dissociated body parts, emphasizing the treatment of Minou as a commodity by Andreu (and some might say also by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi). But it's a good set-up for the premise of the film, making the art direction surprisingly cohesive with the storyline. Although there are a number of steamy sequences, nudity is pretty limited (mostly shown in still photos rather than onscreen), which may disappoint some looking for hotter Eurotrash.
Although the keepcase blurb describes this as a giallo, it really isn't one; there's no black-gloved killer, no psychosexual motivation, and Minou is the sole target rather than a series of victims. One of these might be missing from any giallo, but the absence of all three really moves it outside the subgenre and into the standard suspense thriller, with a layering of obsession. On the whole, it's not bad, aside from lagging a bit in the middle. The finale does have a terrific suspense sequence, but the last reveal is a bit disappointing in its absurd complexity. In the extras, Gastaldi points out an interesting ambiguity in the coda that makes it worth re-watching.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks quite nice, with little artifacting or artificial sharpening. The picture is a bit on the soft side, and fine detail and texture are lacking, but better this than artificial enhancement that actually obscures detail. Blacks are rich and deep and colors are extremely vivid without being oversaturated.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Only the English language dub is provided (in 2.0 mono), but most of the principals appear to be giving their lines that language rather than Italian, so that's not a huge issue. The transfer is very clean, though Ennio Morricone's Eurolounge score is a trifle bright and lacking in any sort of deep bass (not entirely surprising for 1970 mono).
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:48m:21s
Extras Review: Extras are a little scanty, with an anamorphic widescreen English-language trailer that gives away much of the story. There's also a good featurette, Forbidden Screenplays, in which co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi talks about this film, what happened to the end of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (where's that DVD?), problems with the censors, and why Ercoli stopped making films. There's a lot of substance packed into a mere nine minutes. The featurette is in Italian, with English subtitles. Chaptering is solid.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsA stylish and sexy mystery thriller with a good if slightly soft transfer. A few worthwhile extras are included.
Mark Zimmer 2006-03-27