A mixture of folklore and eyewitness accounts from the lucky few served to earn Lizard a reputation as one of Fulci's finest works. Thanks to Shriek Show, we now have the chance to see what all the fuss was about or, in some cases, to re-appraise this film via the number one home entertainment medium.
Murder, madness and a basketful of red herrings form the basis of this absorbing giallo which places Brazilian born actress Florinda Bolkan in the role of dazed and confused Carol Hammond.
While husband Frank (Jean Sorel) pays clandestine visits to his lover, Carol experiences liberating dreams concerning Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg); a neighbour in the adjoining appartment who she views with a mixture of curiosity and disapproval. It's Durer's erotic lifestyle that inhabits the centre of Hammond's dreams and, ultimately, leads to murder with Carol as number one suspect. Several members of a stellar cast are all in the frame at one stage or another: Sorel's character; Leo Genn (Carol's father); Penny Brown and Mike Kennedy (a hippie couple who figure in some terrific scenes) and who exactly is the mysterious Mrs. Smith?
As this tantalising mystery unfolds, it's an increasing pleasure to join the forces of law and order (Stanley Baker, Alberto De Mendoza) as they attempt to solve a perplexing case.
As a convoluted thriller, Lizard works extremely well, and though it falls well short of a jaw-dropping finale, you'll doubtless enjoy following the twists and turns along the way.
Of course, this film has gained a certain notoriety for its infamous eviscerated dogs scene and while the sfx are every bit as gruesome as we'd been led to believe, there are a clutch of rather more meritorious scenes to savour: an 11 minute excursion through the catacombs of a church, which includes a nerve-shredding bat attack and culminates in a bloody rooftop encounter; the delirious dream sequence where Hammond and Durer get up close and personal, and Penny Brown's hair-raising alternative artwork all live up to the publicity generated over more than three decades since it's release.
Shriek Show's 2 disc presentation contains two versions of this film: an uncut full-frame variant, and the US incarnation (titled Schizoid) which is missing much of the aforementioned lesbian tryst and the appalling lab footage. While the uncut 1.33:1 print is generally stable enough to satisfy those who demand the the complete film, the remastered anamorphic version is more colourful and offers solid blacks with little in the way of grain.
The release of this, one of Fulci's most wanted titles, earns the much-maligned Shriek Show several feathers in their cap, and 'Shedding The Skin' - a 35 minute documentary - is alone practically worth the admission price. Narrated by Penny Brown, this most special feature takes a brief look at the formative steps of the Italian giallo (mentioning the Monadori yellow jacket books) and then proceeds to reel out several cast and crew members including Bolkan, Sorel, Mike "Black Is Black' Kennedy and Carlos Rambaldi, who gives us the lowdown on those much-discussed legal encounters, and treats us to a bat's eye view of the winged creatures who really did scare the crap out of Bolkan.
It's certainly an uplifting experience to see Bolkan and co as they are today, and to listen to them record their appreciation for a director who proved, not for the first time, that he was more than capable of constructing beautifully paced thrillers.
The customary trailer, photo gallery and a selection of Fulci trailers (including Zombie 2 and City of the Living Dead - both looking simply awful) round off this important release.
Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.