Minou seemingly has it all; beauty, a wealthy businessman husband, a spacious home filled with art, a wardrobe filled with designer clothes, a best friend who is wild and liberated, but she also has too much of a reliance on cigarettes, booze and pills despite her stated intention to cut back, and she also has a stalker.
Approaching her as she walks alone by the harbour at night, he calls her by name, throws her to the ground and terrorises her with a knife, cutting the fastenings on her dress, but rather than forcing himself on her he tells Minou that her husband Pier is a murderer, then leaves her with her doubts and her suspicions.
Her friend Dominique laughs it off, telling Minou to take it as a compliment, and the police say she did the right thing, playing along with her assailant, but when the newspapers report that one of Pier’s creditors has died under mysterious circumstances, the doctors unable to identify a cause, Minou finds herself caught in a web of duplicity and blackmail, unsure who she can trust and questioning her own sanity.
The directorial debut of producer Luciano Ercoli, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (Le foto proibite di una signora per bene) is a 1970 giallo now restored on Blu-ray for Arrow, the erotic thriller an Italian-Spanish co-production filmed entirely in Barcelona with a predominantly Italian cast and crew, though consciously shot so the locale would remain anonymous.
Dagmar Lassander of Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery is Minou, a woman whose carefully groomed beauty is outweighed by her insecurity, her intense devotion to her husband (The Cat o’ Nine Tails‘ Pier Paolo Capponi) leaving her open to blackmail by the unnamed stranger (Flesh+Blood‘s Simón Andreu).
Credited as Susan Scott, All the Colors of the Dark‘s Nieves Navarro who later married director Ercoli is Dominique, the counterpoint to Minou’s self-torturing repression, her confidence in person and in front of the camera leading Minou to the photographic clue which may help Minou identify her assailant.
Stunningly shot by cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa with costumes by Gloria Cardi and set decoration by Claudio Giambanco and Juan Alberto Soler, the lavish design and presentation of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion overcomes any narrative shortcomings of Ernesto Gastaldi’s script which is very much of its time, Minou frustratingly helpless, a pliant and vulnerable victim.
In the supporting features, Diabolique Magazine‘s Kat Ellinger provides an informative and insightful commentary, providing a women’s perspective on the film and its characters and the wider giallo genre, often considered misogynist, while in footage from the 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films star a relaxed and garrulous Lassander is interviewed at length on her career.
Musician Lovely Jon discusses the career of composer Ennio Morricone and his collaborators Bruno Nicolai and Alessandro Alessandroni and their work on The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion in a somewhat hyperbolic piece, hampered both by offering excerpts of only three of the tracks discussed and excessive proclamations of “incredible” and “genius.”
Director Ercoli, screenwriter Gastaldi and co-star Scott offer their reminiscences of the production and the wider Italian film industry of the period and their experiences within it, Scott emphasising that they all approached the shoot as a team, pitching in together on set to get the work done within the modest budget and fondly recalling her friendship with Lassander who was “a lot of fun – not like her character at all.”