Director – Mario Bava
Cast – Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Claude Dantes, Luciano Pigozzi, Lea Lander, Massimo Righi, Francesca Ungaro, Giuliano Raffaelli, Harriet Medin
Release Year – 1964
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Mario Bava(Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Twitch of the Death Nerve)’s influence on the horror genre is pretty much unmatchable, and he made possibly his biggest mark on the genre with Blood and Black Lace, known as pretty much the first “giallo” film thanks to its awesome murder-mystery story complimented by amazing direction employing captivating sets, atmosphere, and scenery. Way before its time due to its brash nature and awesome horror, Blood and Black Lace is a true horror classic that not only set the bar for the many that followed its template, but proves the true directing prominence that is Mario Bava.
When a shadowy masked killer brutally murders a young model, her diary containing incriminating material about the killer sends the modeling boarding house into blood-soaked terror when the killer begins killing them off one by one in search of the diary.
Murder-mystery films have been done before, but Bava’s story took the idea to new levels with his excellent usage of the horror resulting form a savage masked killer’s desperate quest to cover his name and evade authorities at whatever cost. The story is fairly simple overall, but comes with many twists and turns eventually made even more famous by the slew of giallo films that followed Blood and Black Lace‘s legacy. The mystery element is well-written and each of the numerous characters involved is used to mostly full potential. Some were merely meant to move the storyline via being killed in awesome fashion, and others served a stronger purpose in playing into the mystery and conflict; in other words, every character played their part and fulfilled their purpose. We get numerous kill sequences thrown in thanks to the number of models living in the home, making for a very well-paced and engaging film that is sure to please those who love seeing “beautiful” women run for their lives to no avail. The ever-famous giallo climax was an enjoyable one that I really did not fully expect despite entertaining the idea in my head earlier in the film, but the insanity of it had me thinking that it could not happen that way, but of course I was wrong. The final sequence does lag just a tiny bit and possibly could have been condensed or a bit more exciting, but overall this story gives us everything that we needed, and then some.
Despite the cool and excellent story, Bava’s direction is what really sells this piece and makes it a forever part of film history. From the get-go we are thrown into Bava’s incredible atmosphere that consists of awesome sets adorned with beautiful lighting, and his camerawork captures the tranquil yet horrifying essence that each set provides. His usage of the killer is awesome as well, giving us great horror thanks to the look of the killer, who dons a simple yet very creepy mask, and the mannerisms the killer employs while doing away with the broads in the way of acquiring the diary. The execution of the kill sequences is great and contains high levels of tension unseen during the sixties, and Bava makes the most of these sequences by drawing them out and taking his sweet time in delivering the horror. We get great performances from everyone involved, which included the models in playing their parts as the beautiful eye candy they were meant to be, and dying as they should in awesome fashion. In all honesty this is a simple film that results in a very unique effort due to great writing and expert direction, continuing Bava’s never-ending directing prominence.
Overall, Blood and Black Lace is an incredible effort from Mario Bava that itself pretty much jumpstarted the famed Italian “giallo” sub-genre made very popular during the 70s and 80s. The storyline is a fine yet simple one sure to keep you guessing ’till the end, and Bava’s direction sells this effort with expertise and make for one of the best and absolutely one of the most influential horror films of all time.