In many ways, as both its plot and title indicate, Luciano Ercoli’s jazzy 1970 directorial debut, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, is merely highly stylized pastiche. Technically, the title is classified as a “melodrama gialli,” meaning it’s defined by psychological excess rather than the hyper violent aesthetics of the giallo craze, which would shortly take over following Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970). Instead, Ernesto Gastaldi’s script pays heavy homage to the gaslighting melodrama which popularized international film noir, particularly staples like (of course) Gaslight (1944) and Clouzot’s Diabolique (1955). And the fantastic, unmistakably giallo-y title capitalizes on Elio Petri’s celebrated Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, released only months prior to Ercoli’s film—both Above Suspicion titles are marked by equally idiosyncratic scores from Ennio Morricone.
Feeling ignored by her absent husband, a not-so-successful entrepreneur (Pier Paolo Capponi), trophy wife Minou (Dagmar Lassander) plots a minor night out alone, fantasizing about generating a mild episode of jealousy by suggesting she met someone to flirt with. But before she can even be so bold, Minou is accosted violently on the beach by an aggressive blackmailer (Simon Andreu), who insists her husband is a murderer. She leaves the interaction unscathed, dismissing the man as a mere sex-crazed maniac. But soon, the blackmailer calls the house, playing a recording of her husband as he plots to kill the man whom he just borrowed a sizeable loan from—a man who recently died of supposed natural causes. Before she knows it, Minou has subjected herself to all the blackmailer’s sexual whims—only to find he lied to her, photographing their sexual tryst and now using this evidence to blackmail her in continuing their sexual relationship.
The plot couldn’t be more ridiculous, even though it starts off on a somewhat interesting premise. Poor Dagmar Lassander (who often eerily resembles a red-headed Abbie Cornish), first accosted on the beach and then foolishly tricked into having sex with a blackmailer, only to end up being blackmailed herself because she agrees to have sex with him, positioning her as one of the more unfortunate and unsympathetic damsels in distress from the canon of giallo. Professing to desire her husband so much (a slimy Pier Paolo Capponi, whose attempts to develop a strategy for humans to breath underwater has been led him into extreme debt) she would cover up murder without missing a beat (and not really questioning he would never do such a thing), she then makes all the wrong, most nonsensical moves imaginable.
Standing out as a somewhat more capable presence is Nieves Navarro, supposedly a red herring posing as moral support for the distraught Minou. Navarro, perhaps better known by her stage name Susan Scott, would go on to headline Ercoli’s famed giallos, Death Walks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks at Midnight (1972).
Arrow Video delivers The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion as a brand new 2K restoration, presented in high-definition 2.35:1. Sound and audio have been lovingly restored, with Morricone’s lush, pseudo-erotic score oozing out of the film’s pores. The release contains a new audio commentary track from Kat Ellinger along with several other extra features.
This new forty-four-minute documentary features archival interviews with Susan Scott/Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli as well as new interview material with writer Ernesto Gastaldi.
The Forbidden Soundtrack of the Big Three:
Arrow Video shot this brand new forty-seven-minute interview with musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon, who discusses the music of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion and 70s Italian cult cinema.
The Forbidden Lady:
A forty-four-minute 2016 Q+A with actress Dagmar Lassander from the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester is included here.
Film Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆