Mysterious and reclusive director Luciano Ercoli is a somewhat underrated Italian director that made a handful of quality giallo murder mysteries in the early 70's. His most memorable film is the wonderful "Death Walks at Midnight" but his first foray into the genre was the exhaustively long titled "The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion" and he proves that even at the beginning of his career he had a knack for making good suspense mysteries.
The plot starts with a housewife of a successful business man being cornered by a potential rapist that tells her that her husband was a murderer and that he killed a business partner that he owed money to. She later finds out that one of her husband's business partners was mysteriously killed and then she is phoned by the mysterious man who blackmails her with a recording of her husband admitting to the murder. She agrees to pay the man and even offers up her body but his blackmailing doesn't end there. With the help of her nymphomaniac friend (the beautiful Susan Scott), she has to escape the potential killer and find out the truth about her husband.
Unlike other giallo specialists like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino, Luciano Ercoli's style is a bit more restrained. By this I mean his films rely less on graphic violence and gore and focuses more on plot. Though his films are less violent he still has plenty of sensual nudity that may be tame by today, but back in 1970 this would have been quite shocking and controversial. His style is a bit more elegant compared to his counterparts and his films are beautiful to look at but giallo fans looking for some more extreme elements when it comes to violence and sleaze are better off looking someplace else.
The cast is wonderful and the most memorable is the best friend character played by the gorgeous Susan Scott (real name Nieves Navarro). Navarro was the real life girlfriend of director Luciano Ercoli and I usually despise when directors cast their lovers in pivotal roles. However here it's great as not only is Navarro great to look at, but she's a good actress to top it off. She was so memorable in this film that Ercoli would cast her in the main role in many of his gialli to come.
If I had to make a complaint it would have to be that the film does tend to drag a bit. These dull moments and for the fact that the film is more restrained compared to other films in the genre makes it not as memorable or re-watchable as such films of let's say Dario Argento. It still has a good plot and a wonderful twist at the end.
Fans of Italian gialli will definitely dig this film but fans of the more extreme films that the genre has to offer will find "The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion" lacking and a bit dull. It's still wonderfully made with a great cast and will make a fine addition to any DVD collector's shelf.
Written By Eric Reifschneider