Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), Or How No Ladies Are Above Suspicion In Italy!


A courier arrived recently at the Ducal estates (known locally as “That creepy-ass huge McMansion on the hill, you know, the one with the constant parade of freaks coming and going, oh and the weird, mute doorman with no ears, not to mention the super fat, sexually virile rich dude that lives there” by the local teens). I knew this to be a special delivery by the outward look of the courier alone: riding a creaky, ancient pennyfarthing bicycle, he was dressed in an elaborate peacock cloak and hunched his shoulders like a dog trying to pass a peach seed. His pock-marked face belied a sort of hideous retardation that at once frightened me and aroused my curiosity. Surely only the most powerful of men could control a freak such as this!

Turns out, he was sent by the Vicar (I should have known). In his leathery hand, he extended a parchment-wrapped parcel, sealed with the Vicar’s own glyph, which was pressed into wax made from the rendered fat of an uncut yak penis. I unwrapped the package as the the dullard knuckled his forehead in my direction, turned and sped off back down the way, a single honk from his bicycle horn echoing sonorously across the expanse of my front acreage.

Inside, a gem of a giallo, dealing with filthy blackmailing Italians, red-headed hotties, and more cane-knives than you can shake a stick at. Huzzah! I exclaimed. The Vicar does love me so.

Let us explore, shall we?

Our movie opens with the young Minou (played by the luscious Dagmar Lassander) taking a bubble bath. Sure, she may have the real-life name of a surly stevedore from Portsmouth, but make no mistake, this is Grade-A Euro-babe hawtness, 100% organic free-range teat, folks. We get no nudity this early, but with Dagmar we don’t need it (well, I told myself this while watching), as her figure is striking whether it’s covered by suds in a tub, or drenched in The Duke’s Own™ Man-Ranch.

But not above smoking in the bathtub, clearly.

As she bathes, Minou gives us a bit of inner monologue about how she’s going to stop drinking so much, and how she’s going to give up taking tranquilizers(!). Now, I can’t speak for all of you, but the thought of a drunk, tranquilized Eurohottie gets me all excited, like. All down in my nethers, even. It isn’t long before Minou violates her own covenant, dropping a horse pill down her gullet with a bourbon chaser. You see, she’s pining for her husband, Peter, who has been neglecting his marital duties of late due to a massive workload.

"Mirror mirror, on the wall, who's the least suspicious of them all?"

Minou decides to go out later that night for a nice walk by the pier a little ways from her house. Before we can shriek “Watch out, Minou, it’s a slimy Italian male!”, a slimy Italian male accosts her by riding up on a motorcycle to leer. Minou flees, but he pursues, using a short cane that is almost like a cudgel, except more, uh, cane-like. Quickly revealing a hidden blade (as all good canes and cudgels should have), he uses it to capture Minou and forces her to the ground. He straddles her, and she fears her worst fear (as well as the top fear by most of planet Earth) is about to be realized: unwanted, surprise insemination by a sleazy Italian.

That's one spicy meatball!

It seems Mr. Blackmailer (as he’s known in the credits, played with obvious aplomb by Simon Andreu) has other ideas than simply cavorting in her cinnabar crevice. He lets her know that her husband is not all he seems he is, and is indeed a murderer! He uses his cane-knife to cut open the top part of her dress, revealing little but hinting at a lot more. He assures her that he’ll leave her honor intact, for the moment, for eventually she’ll beg him to take her. With that, he leaves her be.

Winner of the "Awesome Things To Do With A Cane-Knife" Contest.

Minou rushes off to a nearby bar, where a couple of drunks watch her down roughly 20 beers while waiting on her husband Peter to arrive. A humorous side-note here, the camera sure does linger over shots of the strategically placed bottles, for a brand called “Carlsberg”, which is, it turns out, now the 4th largest beer brewery in the world, and popular most anywhere suds are are popular, minus parts of Arkansas and most of the Darfur region of the Sudan. Minou explains that a sexual deviant accosted her, leaving out the parts about Peter, choosing wisely to keep those to herself for a while yet.

Carlsberg: the J&B of Beers.

Once again, Peter rushes back to the office, leaving Minou to her own devices. She uses this time to hook up with her best friend Dominique (the yummy Nieves Navarro) to go clubbing. Much to my horror, Minou covers up her delicious red hair with a so-white-it’s-blond wig which, complete with the silk pantsuit she decides to wear, just screams “old lady” to me. She resembles Dolly Parton in Nine to Five, only without the ludicrously huge bazooms and backwoods-of-Kentucky accent.

"More suspicious *with* the wig, or without? Be honest, now."

After dancing like a couple of ‘shroomed-out hippies, they have a seat at a nearby table to gossip. Dominique casually mentions the death of an older gent, who happens to be the business associate of Minou’s husband. Later at home, Minou reads more about the death in the local paper. It seems the death was rather mysterious, the deceased having been killed by embolism of the kind divers get from surfacing too quickly. Peter comes home and Minou asks him about the dead fellow, and as it turns out Peter owed the man a considerable sum of money. Hmm, the plot thickens!

"I've told you before, honey. Never take the horse tranquilizers with no booze in your stomach."

The next day, Minou has a lunch date with Dominique. At a small cafe, Minou discusses her run-in with the shady, hairy Italian pervert. Dominique is entranced, exclaiming “Oh! I would love to be violated!” I guess I need to expand the Ducal B&B Promotional mailings. At any rate, the girls retire to Dominique’s house, where she wastes no time in getting the young Minou to leer at pornographic pictures, most all of them containing Dominique being rogered and groped by sweaty, hairy Italian poon-hounds. Minou happens upon a pic of a man pawing Dominique’s ample bosoms, and realizes it’s the blackmailer dude! Asking if she can have that one (Dominique doesn’t mind spreading the porn), Minou takes off without explaining why she’s suddenly acting funny.

"Why yes, I have time for a survey.... Oh, no, sorry, I am not in fact a lady above suspicion."

The next day, we see Peter at his office, and find out he’s involved with diving equipment, including pressurized tank construction! Hmm, mysterious death due to embolism... potentially deadly scuba stuffs.... nah, couldn’t be! Later that night, as Minou and Peter sleep, Mr. Blackmailer calls on the phone, talks to Minou and plays her a recording that is of Peter and his coworker, discussing the killing of the now-deceased guy he owed money to! Minou is suitably horrified, but still determined to protect Peter.

Minou heads to the blackmailer’s apartment. The place is really something, covered in plaster hands reaching from the walls, with a love-nest in the middle of the floor and weird demon statuary of the sort seen around the Vicar’s pantry. Minou tries to pay him off with $1000, but he just tosses it away. He informs her that his sole intent is to sex her up, but she’s gotta ask him for it. He threatens to go to the police with his recording when she recoils in horror at his hairy, sweat-covered body. Finally Minou relents, and spends a busy afternoon having the equivalent of a wet dog rubbed over her naked flesh, as the Italian blackmailer has his way with her. In the end, he gives her the audio tape, which she chunks into the nearby ocean when she leaves his apartment.

"What has seven hands and is dying for a blow job?"

Arriving back home, she finds Dominique hanging out with Peter. Since her excuse that she was with Dominique doesn’t hold much water now, Minou stumbles about under Peter’s harsh gaze until Dominique finally manages to cover for her. Later that night, still obsessing over her sexy-time, Minou once again hits the tranquilizers. Minou just can’t let go, reliving her nightmarish day over and over. We see more tidbits of her time with the blackmailer/rapist, including him donkey punching her in the face!

The next day while Peter is out at work, Mr. Rapist shows up at Minou’s apartment! He tells her the tape of Peter was a fake, and that all he wanted to do was have her submit to him. He shows her pictures that he somehow had taken while they were mid-coitus, and that she can’t tell Peter unless she wants the photos to come out into the open! Not knowing what to believe anymore, Minou turns to tranqs and alcohol as she spirals further down the rabbit hole.

Minou heads over to Dominique’s house, and it is revealed to us that Dominique is sleeping with Peter! He slips out the back door as Minou arrives at the front. She eventually confides in Dominique, confessing the whole thing. Dominique wants to help, so she helps Minou get together $20,000 in order to really well and truly buy off the blackmailer this time. Minou pawns some of her jewelry to make up some of the cash, then heads over to the rapist’s apartment. He’s having none of it, though! Giving her 3 days to once again submit to him, he lets her leave unmolested, this time.

"As you can see, we have a wide variety of gluepots available for your sniffing pleasure."

Dominique goes to Plan B: getting Minou to confess to Peter, which she does. Understandably, Peter is upset, but he calls in a favor with the local police commissioner, who arrives and takes statements. The party heads over to the rapist’s house, which turns out has been empty for at least a year. Minou really starts to come unglued at this point, and even contemplates suicide the next day while standing up on a high trolley station above the nearby bay.

"I'm sorry, Peter. You're neither hairy nor sweaty enough to arouse me anymore."

The rapist/blackmailer keeps taunting Minou, including showing up at her apartment late at night while a storm rages. He gives Minou a creepy Italian leer from outside a window while the rain pelts down. Screaming, Minou calls for Peter, but of course Mr. Poon-hound is long gone. Minou remembers her photo that she took from Dominique, but in looking for it she finds it’s gone. She talks Peter and the commish into going to Dominique’s flat, so she can confirm the existence of the photo. Dominique tells them she can’t recall giving any photo to Minou.

At this point, the writers of the movie are really trying to keep the viewer as confused as Minou. On one hand, we have Peter seemingly involved in a murder via decompression chamber, and on the other we have Mr. Rapist, who could have just invented the whole thing. We also have Dominique acting coy but seeming to know all that is going on with just a few glances or chance looks at Minou.

Everything comes to a head the next night, when Minou is home alone once again due to Peter having a business engagement. She hears a noise, goes to investigate, and finds a turtle has somehow gotten into her house. Suddenly, the lights go out, and she sees what she thinks is the rapist, holding his cane-knife! Only it turns out to be a creepy mannequin. As she’s staring at the mannequin, a hand reaches out from under a nearby curtain and grabs her leg! She hammers it with a nearby statue, and it lets go.

Out from under the curtain comes the rapist, of course. He retrieves his cane-knife and knocks Minou down, straddling her once again. He begins to make tiny incisions along her neck, all the while kissing her! Meanwhile, Peter realizes he left some important papers at home, so he rushes back, arriving just in time to see Mr. Rapist straddling his wife. Calm as a flat sea, Peter sets his briefcase down, pulls out a pistol, and shoots the blackmailer square in the back, killing him instantly!

**** spoilers beyond this point, I suggest you skip the next few paragraphs if you want to retain your innocence! ****

Minou awakens to find Peter about to make a phone call, instead of checking on her of course. Peter reveals that it was him all along, that yes indeed he murdered the business rival, but that wasn’t enough, he had to set up and elaborate web of lies that included having Minou murdered for insurance money. Only the guy he hired, Mr. Rapist Blackmailer, took his job too seriously and instead toyed with Minou when he was only supposed to kill her. Just as Peter is about to shoot Minou, the police rush in along with Dominique, and the commish guns down Peter!

Forbidden Photo of a Lady (Below a Suspicious Italian).

Minou is wheeled away to the hospital, her external wounds merely superficial, but her mental scarring understandably deep. Dominique explains to the commish that she had slowly put things together when she realized that Peter had taken out a large life insurance policy on Minou. We cut to a few days or perhaps weeks ahead, and Minou is leaving a psych ward, good as new. Dominique picks her up in a convertible, and the two drive off, with Dominique joking that she has some new pornographic pictures to show Minou. It is to laugh! The two drive off, screeching like drunken harpies. Fin.

**** end spoilers ****

"How dare you suspect my wife of anything. She's above that, sir!"

As gialli go, this one was actually pretty enjoyable. There wasn’t a whole lot of nudity, and all of the sex was pretty much done clothed, but what nudity existed was tastefully done. The storyline really kept me guessing along with Minou, but then I’m easily duped by movies so perhaps my illustrious readers would have had it figured out very early on. Some things are never really explained, like how did they set up the rapist’s apartment in order to make it seem like no one had been there for a year? Dominique’s having photos of the rapist were never quite explained either, I guess except for her promiscuity. The writers used Dominique as a red herring quite a bit.

A lot must be said for the direction, done by the great Luciano Ercoli. His use of pacing and suspense really added a lot to what could have easily been a mediocre giallo. Cinematography by the fab Alejandro Ulloa (of El Caminante fame) was eye-popping to say the least. Every shot was beautifully framed, and his use of light and shadow during the night scenes really added to the tension. Special props go to Ennio Morricone’s score.

In the end, I have to give this one 2 Thumbs Up, despite the lack of rampant nudity and the fact that it was packed to the rafters with sweaty Italian men. I prefer my men hairless and Scandinavian, but that’s a conversation best left for a long winter’s night. Friends, if you enjoy a good giallo from time to time, you could do a lot worse than Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion.


Bonus Sweaty Italian

5 comments:

Al Bruno III said...

Another fine article, as always the writing to be found here is top notch and keeps me interested even when I am reading about a genre of film I am not all that interested in.

I know Kentucky Fried Blasphemy but that's just how I roll.

I particularly liked your description of the ending of the film and how it relates to the healing power of homemade sweaty Italian porn.

Soukesian said...

Just for the record, Carlsberg was exclusively endorsed by Orson Welles in TV ads for many, many years: "Probably the best lager in the world". I don't know that I'd go that far, but I've certainly raised a few glasses of it to the big man's memory.

The Vicar of VHS said...

@Soukesian--I know that in my college days, when I was in England studying abroad (her name was "Fiona," for the record), Carlsberg was everywhere, and was generally the favored "fizzy lager" amongst those who went in for that sort of thing. For myself, I enjoyed a good Strongbow cider for thirst-quenching, then a Tetley's bitter, Old Peculier, or Castlemane XXXX for seconds. For main course: wherever you go, Guiness is the beer the drinks like a meal.

@Duke, this sounds like a sweatier-than-normal example of the genre, aided by the particularly perpirational performance of Simón Andreu as the blackmailer. He was just as scummy in one of my fave vampire (lesbian) flicks too, as the the husband of The Blood-Spattered Bride!

The Duke of DVD said...

@Al - Your generous comments make my nipples erect, as usual. I think the world would be a better place if more folken were exposed to the healing properties of manly Italian sweat, sluiced off the nethers of horny Mediterranean men. On second thought... scratch that idea.

@Soukesian - Well if Orson Welles endorsed it, then it's good enough for me! I'm going to pretend that he got so whale-like by downing as many liters of Carlsberg as he could in an hour, and then trying to break that record.

@Vicar - I need to hunt down Simón Andreu's entire body of work. I could feel the sleaze coming off him in waves. Plus, I challenge anyone to find a human more capable with the cane-knife!

J. Astro said...

It sounds like more giallo than I personally could handle, but kudos to you for tackling it and loving it. That said, I bet I'm far sweatier (even on a chilly day) than all these Italian guys put together. Not bragging, just telling the facts. :)

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