The Film (4.5/5)
The body of a murdered model is found in a high class fashion house. When it’s revealed that the dead girl kept a diary that could incriminate a number of her friends and colleagues in all manner of illegal tomfoolery, the masked assassin returns to claim more victims. The police, lead by Inspector Silvester (Thomas Reiner), try to solve the case but they’re always one step behind the maniac.
The style that Mario Bava brings to this film is beyond compare. His sumptuous use of color, gothic horror staging, and lavish setpieces are captured in meticulous detail by cinematographer Ubaldo Terzano. The cast is filled with gorgeous actresses who meet horrific fates at the hands of the killer. The music of Carlo Rustichelli is perfect for the material; moody and slinky mixed with one of the catchiest themes in the history of the giallo genre. All of these elements combine into a morbid beautiful concoction that is hypnotic and endlessly watchable.
I only have a couple of personal gripes with this film. For one, the police procedural elements aren’t great but they’re absolutely necessary to the story. And the other nitpicking I can bring up is the film’s lack of a central character which is -again- absolutely necessary to the plot. Bava would explore the latter in his other gialli such as Five Dolls for an August Moon and Bay of Blood to even greater effect. I feel weird even typing this paragraph because I know that next time I sit down to watch this film, I’ll be so mesmerized by the masterful filmmaking behind it that these complaints which just melt away.
If you’re like me and the only halfway decent version of Blood and Black Lace you’ve seen previously is VCI’s original DVD -not their double disc reissue which was a disaster- then Arrow Video’s Blu-ray is going to blow your dang mind. The image is so unbelievably clear that I was bouncing up and down in my seat when I beheld Arrow’s amazing transfer. As for audio, both the English and the Italian dub sound clear and I couldn’t find anything to complain about. If you’re a fan of this film then the Arrow Video version is a must have just to see it lovingly restored like this. I know for a fact that Blood and Black Lace is one of the reasons that the Blu-ray format was created but don’t Google it.
This Blu-ray is so full of extras that just by holding it in your hands, you’re automatically an expert on Blood and Black Lace. Man oh man, you’re going to have to spend some serious time with all the craziness that Arrow Video has packed into this release. First up is a new audio commentary for the film with Mario Bava expert Tim Lucas. There’s an hour long discussion on the giallo called Psycho Analysis that is really enjoyable featuring Ernesto Gastaldi, Dario Argento, and Lamberto Bava among others. Next, the directors of Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, talk about how Blood and Black Lace has influenced them.
You want more? Okay, you got it! The 26 minute neo-giallo called Yellow is featured on the disc as well. If I had to pick a favorite extra after Lucas’s commentary then it would be Michael Mackenzie’s visual essay called Gender and Giallo. He breaks down the giallo to its core essentials and it’s pretty damn fascinating. There’s an amusing panel discussion with Dario Argento and Luigi Cozzi where they reminisce about working with Mario Bava on Argento’s Inferno. There’s a two part TV show called “The Sinister Image” where Cameron Mitchell is interviewed about his work in cult movies. It’s pretty spectacular. And finally, there’s a trailer for the film as well as the alternate US opening AND a booklet full of essays and reproduction art.
While many critics cite Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much as giving the giallo its true genesis, this utterly beautiful film laid the groundwork for the look and feel of an entire genre. Everything from the lighting to the killer’s costume was to be copied over and over again thanks to this 1964 classic. I can’t stress enough how essential Blood and Black lace is for one’s understanding what a giallo is. On top of its importance and influential status in cinematic history, this also happens to be one of my favorite films of all time.