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Lizards in Movies
Opera (1987) aka Terror at the Opera
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera
Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera
Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera
Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera
Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera Screen Shot from Opera
This is one of the later Giallos from Italian director Dario Argento. It's typical of his bloody misogynist slasher movies where we watch beautiful women tortured and murdered by a mysterious masked man wearing gloves. I watched the uncut and uncensored version which ends with a scene that includes a lizard. Apparently, the original 1988 U.S. release did not have the final scene with the lizard.

The protagonist is Betty, a young opera singer understudy, who gets a chance at fame after the opera's star diva is hit by a car. (Yes, there are similarities to Phantom of the Opera, but thank goodness this is not a musical.) Most of the victims in slasher movies are not very bright, but Betty is especially dim. The Opera she sings is based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, which some theater people think is cursed. Her production is definitely cursed, as several people involved with the show are murdered. (The movie is probably best known for a scene in the opera house where a group of ravens used in the opera fly around the opera house pecking eyeballs out of the audience's faces.)

Betty is kidnapped several times by a masked and gloved maniac who ties her up and tapes sharp needles under her eyes to keep her from closing her eyes without puncturing herself. He wants to make sure she watches him kill her friends. And she keeps letting him do it again and again. There is not a lot that is believable in this movie, but it's all about the style not the substance.

Cut to the end after everybody thinks the murderer was caught and burned to death in the opera house and Betty has run away to the Swiss Alps to recuperate. But, in true horror movie cliche fashion, the killer is not dead. He has followed Betty to their cabin in the Alps where he kills the opera director she's shacking up with. Betty runs into the woods to escape the killer who chases her while a bunch of policemen chase him until they finally catch him. Betty wanders away from the police action in a daze, traumatized and covered with the director's blood, then she drops to the ground and crawls through tall grass and wildflowers where she takes comfort in the natural world. (It's hard not to think of Hamlet's Ophelia here, though Betty doesn't drown.) We hear her in a voiceover with inspirational piano music in the background saying:

"I wanted to escape all together. Because I'm different. I don't even vaguely resemble others, any of them. I like the wind, butterflies, flowers, leaves, insects, the rain, clouds."

And lizards, apparently. She sees a lizard trapped in a tangle of grass roots. She removes it from the tangle and says:

"There, my beauty. Go free."

She keeps tickling the lizard with her fingers until it finally crawls away, then she lays down in the grass. Fade to black. The End.

I admit, I did enjoy the lizard-hugging part, brief as it was. It was bizarre and totally unexpected, unliked the rest of the movie. The lizard movie star is a female Common Wall Lizard, Podarcis muralis, which is found in much of Europe including Italy and the Alps. It looks like they probably used two different lizards for the scene based on the markings.

I think it's unlikely a lizard would get trapped in grass like that. It's even less likely the police would let a blood-covered trauma victim wander off to crawl through the grass and play with lizards. Maybe that's why the scene was cut from the original U.S. release.