Blu-ray Review: Blood and Black Lace | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Blood and Black Lace

Studio: VCI Entertainment

Oct 29, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A beloved model is murdered en route to an engagement at a famous fashion salon. Her diary is discovered by a friend, but other models and salon employees fear it may incriminate them for one reason or another and try to intercept it. Meanwhile, the murderer strikes again – and again – as a homicide detective closes in on the killer’s identity.

On paper, 1965’s Blood and Black Lace sounds rather routine but it was highly influential in its execution. Director Mario Bava had already made a name for himself with Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963), both hits not only in Italy but abroad. Financiers backed the movie expecting an easily-profitable police procedural of the variety that had been standard in Europe at the time. That idea bored Bava, and the final product he delivered wound up far from what his producers had wanted. The director’s gamble resulted in a film that was a relative flop on release, but would become one of the most influential giallos of the genre’s golden era.

What otherwise might have been a rote whodunit in Bava’s hands became a gorgeous, Technicolor murder show. His camera work and framing show a resourceful mind, but it’s the movie’s use of color that gives it a look that still feels unique to this day: almost every light source seems to project a bold splash of primary color that’s utterly un-lifelike but absolutely beautiful. This low-budget movie takes advantage of Technicolor in the same way as the big-budget Hollywood musicals, in that doesn’t need to look realistic when the color is better than real life. Bava frames the melodrama that plays out between the murders with a keen eye, taking care to place his characters in the most eye-catching spot on a set and surrounding them with interesting lighting. If you ever wondered what it would have looked like had Douglas Sirk ever directed a horror movie, Blood and Black Lace is probably a pretty close approximation. Within the field of giallos, it’s a very clear precursor to the work Dario Argento would be issuing a few years later.

Story-wise, Blood and Black Lace is a pretty straight forward but well-plotted murder mystery, full of red herrings and false leads. Given that the dialogue was written to be pronounced phonetically by a group of actors who didn’t necessarily speak English, it sounds pretty stilted and unnatural. (Many of the men were later redubbed by famed voice actor Paul Frees, of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Rankin/Bass fame.) The odd line delivery only adds to the movie’s heightened weirdness.

If you want an example of the hyper-stylization Bava displayed throughout Blood and Black Lace, you need look no further than the incredible opening credits scene in which the actors play statue amongst a bunch of stunningly-lit mannequins. It’s weird, but wow, it looks cool:

Now, imagine how much better the above scene would look in HD. VCI Entertainment are offering up Blood and Black Lace in a Blu-ray/DVD special edition newly restored from original film elements. This robust release, besides looking fantastic, comes with two new audio commentaries and a bunch of archival interviews ported over from the prior DVD release. It also includes the alternate opening added to the movie by its English distributor, which heinously replaces the original’s groovy credit sequence with a cheesy skeleton presumably inserted to appeal to American drive-in audiences. It’s at least an intriguing curiosity.

Blood and Black Lace is an essential experience for Euro horror fans, especially for those whose giallo viewing history has yet to branch beyond Argento and Fulci. Bava’s Techicolor magic needs to be seen to be believed, and short of catching it on the big screen there’s no better way to watch the film than in the sharp, eye-popping HD restoration we see here.


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