Arrow Video: The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970) Reviewed

A giallo film of a different caliber, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is likely one of the finest entries I’ve seen yet in a niche genre that has otherwise found a hard time burrowing its way into my interests. For me, giallo pictures are more about the style without offering a lot of substance to their stories, causing me to lose interest quickly if I feel that the story isn’t really going anywhere- one of the biggest problems I have with Dario Argento films the majority of the time. But with Forbidden Photos, I found myself entangled in its web of sexual deviancy far quicker than I ever thought possible- its story starts right off with both feet running, tossing its hapless damsel in distress right into the midst of the conflict without taking too long to set up the mood and atmosphere.

Its story can be akin to that of Vertigo- a tale of false takes and twisted perceptions that make you think twice about what’s real and what isn’t. It’s less a horror-focused giallo than a straight-up thriller: placing all of its chips on a riveting mystery that continues to gain traction until its shocking conclusion that you definitely won’t see coming. It’s giallo if Hitchcock directed it, which is probably the highest compliment I can think of to give this little-known gem. It’s complemented by a beautiful array of colors splashed against a 2.35:1 ratio that gives the story the kind of cinematic taste that it really deserves.

I’m happy to say that I found myself pleasantly surprised by Forbidden Photos. Arrow Video did a fantastic job at cleaning up the picture in a stunning 2K restoration that defies all logic of time and aging. It could very well have been a film from yesteryear, instead of a nearly fifty-year-old classic that it deservedly should be renowned as.  Naturally, you’re given the choice between the original Italian and the English dub, both in lossless mono soundtracks; and of course, being the foreign cinema purist that I am, I will tell you that the Italian version is the only way to go. English dubs are useful to help films from overseas reach a wider range of viewers over here who refuse to look a couple inches lower to read subtitles, and while I can commend the option to help more people enjoy foreign films, there’s a kind of genuine quality that gets lost when listening to an English dub. The Italian language is a beautiful thing to hear, why waste Italian source material by listening to impersonators cover it just so you don’t have to do a little reading?

Soundtracks notwithstanding, there’s also a healthy dose of supplements included with this release. A new documentary featuring archival interviews with actress Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli, and a new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. A new appreciation on the film’s soundtrack (composed by Italian soundtrack legend Ennio Morricone) and other 70s Italian cult cinema scores by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon. A Q&A session with actress Dagmar Lassander from 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films. Not to mention the original Italian and English trailers to the film for added authenticity. Each of these documentaries and interviews run for at least 40-45 minutes, so you’ll find yourself strapped in for a while on learning more about the ins and outs of this underappreciated piece than you probably expected. Arrow Video’s release of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a fantastic blu-ray that is more than worthy of an addition in your budding giallo collection.

-Wes Ball