Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Although I’m ambivalent about lumping the giallo in with the horror film as many do, it’s hard to deny that Mario Bava’s 1964 tale of blackmail and murder in and around an Italian fashion house has had quite some importance to the latter (despite being a comparative box office flop); as Tim Lucas’ DVD commentary notes, the film’s Italian title, “Six Women for the Murderer”, establishes it as a (literal) body-count film much like the slashers of the 80s to which it’s often considered an ancestor. It’s also the progenitor of the giallo, with Bava being somewhat more interested in the killings (the grotesqueness of which must’ve been striking in 1964) than the whodunit aspect of the plot and the cliches of the thriller genre (Lucas, again, notes how the police inspector is written out of the film about two-thirds of the way through and so never actually gets to solve the case)… Hugely stylish too, of course, as you’d expect; while there’s often a case to be made for shooting in black and white, it’s hard to imagine Bava having shot this particular film that way. A lot of fun, this film, which is why I’m so disappointed by the VCI disc of it… I wish I could still play my old VHS tapes, cos then I could watch my recording of SBS’ version, just to confirm my memory of their print being a damn sight better than VCI’s; I have their two-disc version which is apparently a marked improvement on their own earlier edition, but still leaves a fair bit to be desired (particularly in the subtitle proofreading department; what exactly is a “full proof alibi”?). Which is a damn shame, because as horrible as some of the business in Blood and Black Lace is, this is often a beautiful film, and Bava managed to achieve some quite remarkable things on a budget of something like only $150,000. Looks like a new edition of this is something the people at Shameless should be looking at adding to their fascinating catalogue…

Written for the 3rd Annual Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

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