Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Marcello Fondato
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini
Running Time: 89 Minutes
UK Certificate: 18
Format: Dual Format DVD & Blu-Ray + Ltd Edition Steelbook
Studio: Arrow Video – Out NOW
Blood and Black Lace is an Italian Horror film from the director of Bloody Sunday and Black Sabbath, Mario Bava.
Opening with a rather strange title sequence, involving the cast being posed as if they were appearing in a fashion catalogue, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
The story focuses on the girls of a fashion salon in Italy. One of the girls, Isabella (played by Francesca Ungaro) is murdered on her way back to the salon. Her assailant is a man in black wearing a featureless mask, looking like a character in a 1930’s pulp strip, he kills her brutally. This sets a precedent for the film as the deaths are unflinching and brutal. Bear in mind that this was 1964 and as of yet we hadn’t seen Voorhees or Myers plying their trade.
With the death of Isabella her diary is discovered. Every single character within the Salon reacts to this find and we suddenly realise they are all worried, they all have something to hide and that diary holds all their secrets. Over the course of the film we discover that the killer, too, is after the diary, throwing suspicion over all the cast. When the police become involved the film does stalls a little,it isn’t to do with the story but actually the dubbing, which although good in most cases, seems flat and unfeeling when it comes to the Inspector, played by Thomas Reiner.
The film itself definitely influences some later slasher movies, the silent killer in the mask, utilising objects around him to make for interesting kills. Great care is taken, however, to not cheapen these deaths, which don’t become more elaborate as the film progresses. These murders are personal and harsh and the killer presents as calculating, yet all killings have a tiny peppering of to them. The killer doesn’t play cat and mouse, they have no time, they have a job to do and will do it however they can.
The story and its resolution are solid as are the majority of the cast. Some of the characters are incredibly interesting, an unwanted pregnancy, unrequited love and a Marquis who owes a significant amount of money. This gives at least a few of the cast motive for finding the diary and feeling the need to kill for it. I would have liked to see some of these character threads brought to some form of conclusion, instead, the focus shift to putting the murders front and centre.
The main characters of Max and Cris who both run the Salon are played wonderfully by Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok respectively. Mitchell oozes cool and calm and Bartok is stunning, pure 60’s beauty.
Bava’s direction was a delight to watch, his camera movement is fluid and exciting. The sets are lit with varying, bright colours that enhance the mood and cast long shadows over the fairly epic sets. The kills are presented in the face of the audience, leaving no room to escape, not an inch of frame is wasted.
The music by Carlo Rustichelli was, at times, brilliant at capturing the mood and tension but then at odd times he incorporates the theme from the opening titles which comes across like a jazz band scoring a chase sequence, this is both distracting and inappropriate. The performances on the whole were great, however, as I mentioned before, although some were hurt by the dubbing. Paul Frees dubbed multiple roles for the US release.
Overall very enjoyable, once you got through that bloody awful title music, and I surprised myself at how much I liked it. And it has made me want to seek out other works by Bava in the hopes that I will enjoy them just as much.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
New 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Optional Italian and English soundtracks presented in original uncompressed mono PCM audio
Newly translated subtitles for the Italian audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English audio
Brand new audio commentary by Mario Bava s biographer Tim Lucas
Psycho Analysis a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre featuring interviews with directors Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Lamberto Bava (Demons), screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark) critics Roberto Curti and Steve Della Casa, crime novelist Carlo Lucarelli and others
An appreciation by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, the creative duo behind Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Yellow the much-acclaimed neo-giallo by Ryan Hansom & Jon Britt
Gender and Giallo a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s
Panel discussion on Mario Bava featuring Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa, recorded at the 2014 Courmayeur Film Festival
The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell an episode of David Del Valle s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and presented in full
The alternative US opening titles, sourced from Joe Dante s private print and scanned in 2K especially for this release
Original theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes, author of Cinema Italiano and Mario Bava: Destination Terror, and an interview with Joe Dante, David Del Valle on Cameron Mitchell and more, all illustrated with archive stills and posters