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Deceit, Sex, Blackmail: Her Photos Are the Object

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoiler Free)

(this review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene (The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) (1970) ****1/2 R

Dagmar Lassander: Minou, the Wife

Pier Paolo Capponi: Pier, the Husband

Nieves Navarro: Dominique, their friend (as Susan Scott)

Simon Andreu: The Blackmailer

Osvaldo Genazzani: Commissario Franco Poretti

Salvador Huguet: Giorgio, Pier’s colleague (as Salvador Buguet)

Written by Ernesto Gastaldi & Mahnahen Velasco (as M. Velasco)

Directed by: Luciano Ercoli

Synopsis: A stranger holds a knife to a woman demanding she sleep with him in exchange for not going to the police with evidence her husband killed a man he owed money to. He returns later and admits he lied in order to get her into bed, but this time threatens to reveal the hidden camera photos of their tryst to her husband if she doesn’t continue to sleep with him. With the aid of a friend, the woman searches for answers.

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By 1970, the Giallo had found its place as lurid Murder Mystery Thrillers in Italy. While many filmmakers tended to have the villain of the piece be a black-gloved, sunglasses wearing enigma, Luciano Ercoli decided to have his villain’s face shown right from the start, but keep him elusive to all but the female protagonist. Focusing more story and characters rather than the erotic undertones and overtones the genre would quickly become noted for and identified with, the twist and turn filled story has a woman certain she’s being used as a ploy in someone’s scheme to drive her out of her mind, but is uncertain of who would gain from her being declared mentally incompetent or would want to put her through such torment. Ercoli, along with his regular collaborators Ernesto Gastaldi and Mahnahan Velasco invent a very intricate Mystery story that leaves audiences guessing up until the very end as to what exactly is going on. Only giving the audience the indication that the villain is in cahoots with someone close to the woman he’s stalking, Ercoli and his screenwriters bring the Mystery Thriller back to its Agatha Christie roots.

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An interesting first for this film is the music of the Italian Maestro Ennio Morricone. Le Foto was Morricone’s first entry into the Giallo genre, and hits the mark with his first score of the new medium. Morricone’s unique blend of instruments and tones, which he first crafted when doing the Italian Westerns, would help to define the genre as one of its main staples for years to come. The score fits the film like a second skin, offering a nice balance of beautiful drama score, and suspense score.

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Dagmar Lassander, a Czech actress who settled in Italy, is in fine form and brings the classic element of the Giallo heroine back to the fold in the role of Minou. A fairly typical upper class, white collar wife, Minou enjoys mild luxuries that allow her to pursue interests most women of the period wouldn’t get the chance to. Recent financial strains on her husband Pier’s most recent project, have led her love life to become dull and void of happenings, and a previous addiction to stress pills to deal with it. When a perverse stranger informs her that her husband’s latest product resulted in the death of a greedy financier, Minou is forced to decide how far she will go to protect the man she loves. Distraught and disgusted she had to sell her body in order to prevent her husband’s ruin, Minou begins falling deeper and deeper into her pills and depression. Realizing all too quickly the stranger has a strong S&M fetish that can’t be satisfied, and learning his “evidence” was completely fabricated so he could keep blackmailing her, Minou is forced to confide in her friend Dominique, feeling she is the only one who’s understand her predicament. Soon she becomes certain that someone close to her is aiding this man in his actions against her, and is completely unsure of who to trust, even her own judgement, now unable to tell if part of what has happened was real or imagined as the result of her husband’s business dilemma and their bland married life.

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Nieves Navarro, a Spanish actress who became popular in Italy, is a luring delight as Dominique. A free spirit in every sense of the word, Dominique is content to travel the world and try as much as she can to enjoy and get the most out of life. Originally involved with Pier, she convinced him to give Minou, whom she recently met at the time, a chance as a girlfriend, feeling she was better for him than her Bohemian lifestyle. Minou’s sole form of support while her husband struggles to fix his business, Dominique tries as best she can to keep them together. Even when sleeping with Pier’s trusted assistant, she can’t help but worry for the stability of her friend’s wedded bliss. When she learns Minou has been put in a compromising position by a devious and odious blackmailer, she does whatever she can to help her, including helping her to raise a monetary price that even a blackmailer couldn’t say no to. While a ménage-a-trois isn’t out of the question between the three, Dominique can’t deny she still has some feelings for Pier, but whether she regrets giving him up to give Minou happiness is anyone’s guess. Fearing something is amiss in her friend’s life Dominique must decide what kind of card to play in order to prevent anymore tragedy.

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Simon Andreu, a Spanish character actor who enjoyed a twenty-year international career, is a successful slimeball in the role of the Blackmailer. Nothing is known about this guy or who he really is, but what is known is that he’s sadistic and has an interest in the bizarre side of sex. Smugly sure of himself, he constantly states he’s only done what he’s done for pleasure, the only thing mattering is Minou practically being forced to go to him in order to avoid scandal for both herself and her husband. What begins as merely a game for him soon becomes an obsession as he slowly begins to become to intrigued with Minou, entering into state of mind that borders on the psychotic. Pier Paolo Capponi, an Italian character actor who was most prolific from the mid-1960’to mid-1970’s maintains a mysterious interest as Pier, Minou’s husband. Admitting right away he’s having financial trouble in his business it isn’t hard for Minou to think her husband would resort to drastic measures to ensure he didn’t go bankrupt. While he loves his wife dearly, Pier can’t help but worry that he’s in a hole he can’t dig out of to save what he has, which is the cause of their marriage having gone cold. Realizing his wife is going crazy with worry over her near rape experience, Pier soon finds himself wondering what’s more important: his financial status, or his wife’s peace of mind?

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One of the more intriguing and engaging entries of the genre, Le Foto is the most Bava influenced of any Giallo in the early to prime stages of its existence. Lesser known and less talked about because of its focus on story and characters rather than the lurid murders and nude sex scenes that would eventually become a major staple of the genre, Le Foto uses the old school methods of the Murder Mystery to great effect, proving murders and masked killers weren’t always necessary to create suspense and intrigue.

(I extremely highly recommend this film as it keeps you in suspense and uncertainty as to who is behind the mind games and blackmail against the lead actress. While it doesn’t have the staples the genre’s famous for, the film makes up for it with a supurb story from genre stalwart Ernesto Gastaldi. All of the performances, especially those of Nieves Navarro and Simon Andreu are done very well, and again keep the viewers guessing. The Blu Ray from Arrow Video is once again spot with audio and visual transfers, crisp and clear as always. Surprisingly, Arrow’s subtitle translation of the Italian audio track is missing in two scenes, very unusual and very rare for Arrow as they’re pretty precis, perfectionist, and spot on with all of their releases. The missing spots don’t offer new information to help the viewer along with the story, so the scenes aren’t overtly important, but it’s still a little strange for Arrow to miss those scenes.  Other than this, the release is great as usual.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065677/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_foto_proibite_di_una_signora_per_bene

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B07JZBP2XS/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=&sr=

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B07JK2HZSL/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1568830004&sr=1-1

https://www.arrowfilms.com/product-detail/the-forbidden-photos-of-a-lady-above-suspicion-blu-ray/FCD1838

https://www.arrowvideo.com/product/the-forbidden-photos-of-a-lady-above-suspicion/934

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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