Blood and Black Lace Review
Carnage would not be this ravishing again until Dario Argento
Movies reviewAfter giving the Giallo genre its cinematic debut with The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Bava took it upon himself to create it’s most iconic and long-lasting elements with Blood and Black Lace, forging the whodunit with the bodycount picture and, along with Hitchcock and Psycho pretty much laid the foundation stones for what would become stalk ‘n’ slash.
The models at a super-trendy Italian fashion house are being picked-off, one by one, by a mysterious masked killer in Mario Bava’s legendary 1964 Giallo trendsetter, Blood and Black Lace. The butchered bodies of beautiful women keep on turning up. All those still alive appear to have a secret or two. The police are left blundering about with a host of twitchy suspects. Everyone seems determined to get hold of the first victim’s diary because the vital clues to the murder’s identity could well be in there. And all concerned smoke endless cigarettes.
With its baroque sets, lurid and flamboyant use of Technicolor, inventive photography and elaborate set-piece murders, Lace continues to fascinate and entertain. The large roster of victims and suspects can now seem quite comical – Agatha Christie on acid – but this just adds a welcome element of sheer un-reality to the film’s killing-spree momentum. It is great fun to witness the anguished and desperate looks of a gaggle of potential murderers as seemingly every cast member realises, in unison, that they need to get their mitts on a dead girl’s diary to save them from incrimination in her slaying.
B-movie and drive-in flick legend Cameron Mitchell gives a great performance in one of several pictures he made for Bava during his European stint. Eva Bartok walks that fine line between savvy and vulnerability, empathy and suspicion as the widowed Countess who co-runs the fashion house with him. And it is always cool to see Luciano Pigozzi, the Italian Peter Lorre, get all bug-eyed nervous in an identity parade. Lots of lovely ladies flutter through incendiary and hallucinogenic lighting schemes to come unstuck in the merciless grip of a mystery killer – a figure in black and white cutting a swathe through a garish world. And the lush score from Carlo Rustichelli moves from breezy, cigarette-smoky jazz to sinister serenades for slaughter. It is all good, ghastly fun.
But although notable for its decorative violence and the often sexualised charge of the attack sequences, I still find the film quite tame, even given its audacious impact at the time of its release, and its continued notoriety. Yet there is no denying that Bava pushed a few boundaries here, especially with regards to the treatment of the female victims, giving future filmmakers and the genre, as a whole, that mostly undeniable moniker of outright misogyny. Dario Argento was certainly as enraptured by this element as much as he was by the striking visual style that Bava delivered, as would be revealed when he commenced on his own cinematic massacres the following decade.
Whilst the police procedural aspect of the story is painfully protracted and stuffed with truly awfully written and eye-rollingly duff detective work, it does provide some ironic relief from the frequently intense and suspenseful chapters of damsels in distress. But with black gloves, a horrible blank mask, a hat and trench-coat, one of the most indelible species of movie-killer was born within this sensationally colourful festival of picturesque carnage.
Carnage would not be this ravishing to behold until Dario Argento took the baton from Bava and carved his own unique signature upon the Giallo. Dripping with atmosphere and smothered in stunning visuals, this is a savage work of art.
Stalk ‘n’ slash was born here.
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