Blu-ray Review: ‘The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion (1970)’

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion takes place in the mystical land of the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine a time without smartphones or cloud storage, but this is a film that depends on things like landlines and photographic negatives. We have come so far in such a short time. However, it makes major portions of the story feel extremely dated.

Minou (Dagmar Lassander) loves her pills, her whiskey, and her husband, Pier (Pier Paolo Capponi). He works for a research company creating experimental underwater breathing gear. Minou’s best friend, Dominique (Susan Scott), is a wild one. Dominique likes the nightlife and the fringe benefits that come with it. She has an extensive pornography collection, including photos of herself in interesting situations. Minou’s perfect life is thrown into disarray when she is attacked one evening by a smarmy man (Simón Andreu) on the beach. He carries a staff that conceals a spring-loaded blade which he can use as a spear. The attacker tells Minou that her husband is actually an assassin. That explains all the business trips and, perhaps, the death of the president of the company Pier works for.

From there, the story turns into a tale of secrecy and blackmail. The extortionist has evidence of Pier’s side hustle. In order to protect her husband, Minou must succumb to the blackmailer’s sexual whims. There’s more to the story, of course, as events become more intense and twisted as the film progresses.

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion was a tremendous hit in Italy when it was first released. Current standards would place it somewhere around the level of a made-for-late-night-cable flick as far as sex and violence go. For the modern viewer, those elements are pretty restrained. Thankfully, the story is well conceived. It could easily have veered into softcore erotica or overwrought drama, but the film stays the course. It’s a fast-paced suspense thriller with some fascinating twists to the plot.

Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray edition of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion is not as filled with special features as some of their other presentations. The commentary by Kat Ellinger is an interesting listen. Both the English and Italian versions are available [Note: I used the Italian version for this review]. But the real treasure is the documentary Private Photos, which edits together interviews with director Luciano Ercoli, star Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott), and writer Ernesto Bastaldi. There’s some great behind the scenes stuff in that short film, and it’s well worth watching.

If Arrow Video has released a bad Blu-ray, I haven’t seen it. But it doesn’t matter how extensive the special features are, how crisp the 2k restoration looks, or how wonderful the lossless mono soundtrack sounds if the movie is awful. The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion is a bristling little movie. There’s not the graphic violence one looks for in a giallo and the sex is fairly tame. This is a psychological thriller, and a darned fine one at that.

It’s often said that old movies couldn’t be made in this day and age. That is particularly true of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion. Nobody holds photo negatives for ransom anymore. They just upload naughty pictures to Dropbox and threaten to post the pictures on Reddit. This movie details a Seventies Fappening, but it also provides an excellent an engrossing mystery, great performances, and a swinging Ennio Morricone score. When a good movie looks great, it’s hard to ask for too much else.

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion, released by Arrow Video, is available through Amazon and wherever fine genre Blu-rays are sold.

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