On her way to a party, beautiful Minou (Dagmar Lassander) is ambushed by a knife-wielding stranger (Simón Andreu). Claiming her husband Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi) is a murderer, the stranger threatens to hand over an implicating audio recording to the police unless Minou submits to his sordid desires. When the cops fail to locate the maniac, Minou is prepared to forget her ordeal but begins to suspect Peter did indeed kill an old business associate threatening him for money. Out of love for her husband, Minou spends a steamy afternoon at the blackmailer’s apartment, only to discover his whole plot was a ruse. He now threatens to send photos of Minou’s ordeal to her husband unless she agrees to more sexual humiliation.
Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion was the first of Luciano Ercoli’s kinky giallo thrillers. Low on visceral thrills - save for the taut finale - but high on steamy intrigue, this spins a Sadean scenario wherein Minou’s love for Peter is tested through a series of sordid sexual trials (“You must suffer and be my slave!”). Some may take offence at the tawdry plot, arguably with good reason, but Ercoli teases out moments of pulp pathos. It is the kind of giallo that inhabits a politically incorrect parallel universe rife with surreal Seventies décor and far-out fashions, where the most sleazy of sexual misadventures seems improbably glamorous when seeped in stylish lighting and a glorious score by Ennio Morricone, in easy listening mode.
Ercoli’s wife, Susan Scott (a.k.a. Nieves Navarro) plays Dominique, our heroine’s bisexual best friend and confidante. She treats Minou to a collection of nude photographs of herself and at one point claims she would adore being violated. Dominique is a key character, at once very much a creature of this dangerously hedonistic world, but also the kind of outspoken, confident woman Minou would like to be. Ercoli’s assembles his film with great artistry, often framing Dagmar Lassander in labyrinthine settings just as Minou is caught in a spider’s web of blackmail and deceit. Ercoli could not ask for a better leading lady. Best known for her haggard appearances in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981), Lassander is here caught at the height of her flame-haired sex kitten glamour. Her groovy outfits are worth the price of admission alone. What pleases most the ensuing bravura twists revealing seemingly immoral characters as far more virtuous than they seem and Lassander essaying her stock character of the party girl in peril who somehow transcends depravity to emerge a stronger person. By comparison the erotic thrillers of the late Eighties and early Nineties, with which this shares certain parallels, seem far more conservative and cynical.