Umberto Lenzi made quite a name for himself with gialli in the late 60s and early-mid 1970s. However, whilst DIRTY PICTURES has its moments, it is nowhere near as much fun as his subsequent SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS (1972) and the ultra-cheesy EYEBALL (1975), amongst others.
It starts promisingly enough, with two carefree British hippies: Richard (Ray Lovelock) and Ingrid (Ornella Muti), who hatch a plan to finance their trip across Europe to Italy with smut. Stopping in Copenhagen they visit a sex shop and stock up on goodies to sell to punters on their travels. These punters include a man on a yacht who buys their collection of erotic audio recordings on 7 inch singles (how sexy!), as well as an elderly woman who snaps up a skin mag in Florence. Richard and Ingrid live the high life as they hotfoot it around Italy, which includes drinking much champagne, releasing doves in a restaurant and buying matching white tussled skin tight suits and running along the beach hand-in-hand.
Eventually they run out of cash, and they hatch a plan to produce their own pornography. They take 'dirty pictures' of them having sex, and Ingrid poses naked on a stool in a phone booth! They make the mistake of trying to sell these snaps to an undercover police officer in Pisa, and find themselves under strict orders to leave Italy within 24 hours or risk getting arrested. They ignore this and continue to head south. However, their luck doesn't change when they are ripped off by a self-styled Robin Hood biker and his pals, and realise that the police are after them for a robbery they didn't commit.
After a close shave at a petrol station, the couple run out of gas outside what seems like a deserted luxury villa. After calling for help they find the garage open and attempt to siphon petrol from the car parked inside. However, the house isn't empty and a middle-aged woman, Barbara (Irene Papas), interrupts them. At first she is hysterical and demands they leave, saying her husband, who works at the nearby NATO base, will be back at any moment. Inexplicably, she changes tack and invites the couple in for a sandwich before they go. Barbara begins drinking and flirting with Richard, seemingly attracted by their free living lifestyle. Ingrid dresses in a sari and waxes lyrical about yogic sex, whilst Richard looks dapper in a Union Jack shirt. Ingrid tells Barbara, “We're dedicated missionaries. Bringing the gospel of sexual freedom to deepest, darkest Italy!”. However, Ingrid's sexual freedom only goes so far, and she is none-too-pleased when Barbara seduces Richard after persuading them to stay the night. In the morning they find themselves locked in separate rooms, with Barbara is downstairs phoning the police, her dress ripped and scratch marks on her chest ...
With DIRTY PICTURES, Lenzi was treading familiar ground. His earlier giallo, PARANOIA (1970), had Caroll Baker (an American actress who was a giallo regular in the 60s and 70s) dealing with a young couple with dubious intentions. However, here it's clear that, although they occasionally play rough, the hippie couple are the good guys in this and are being used as opportunistic pawns to cover up a murder.
Whilst some may find it distracting, DIRTY PICTURES is blessed with a catchy pop soundtrack. The catchy main song is repeated several times throughout (and is sung by Lovelock), as well as getting a Bollywood mix during a party scene. Of course, the sexual politics are delightfully dated – with the audience invited to gawp at the whacky hippies, but also to revel in the naked flesh on show. There's also an interesting throwaway moment when Ingrid writes “PIGS” on a mirror (in ketchup!), a Manson Family reference to further emphasise the off-the-wall nature of these free love flakes.
Whilst the incidentals are certainly entertaining, the film does get a bit bogged down in the middle. It revolves around just one murder, rather than the scatter gun bodycount found in most gialli. However, Lenzi does ramp up the suspense in the closing third of the movie as Richard and Ingrid realise the predicament they find themselves in and do their best to try and extricate themselves from being implicated in the murder. There is also a rousing knife attack on one of the characters in a darkened aviary; something the film could have done more of.
Ultimately, DIRTY PICTURES is a minorly diverting giallo that could have done with a few more thrills and spills. It does, however, have one of those ultra cynical endings that 70s genre cinema did so well.
female:1 / male:2
1) Male found dead
2) Female killed in car crash
3) Male killed in car crash