Monday, September 19, 2011

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

First of all, I still think that Mario Bava or his producers saw Arne Mattsson’s 1958 classic Mannekäng i Rött and became inspired to make Blood and Black Lace. I know very few agree with me, just because Mario Bava is such a predecessor, a creative genius, when it comes to give us new, unique movie experiences. The first time I saw BABL was on a cut Greek VHS tape, and that kinda put me off to watch it again. Many years later I got it on DVD, maybe the first DVD VCI released, and now I gave it another spin in the 2 disc “unslashed” special edition. Like the two first times I just can’t get into the movie, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie – just not perfect.

Everyone knows the story, but for you who have no clue what this is: a masked person with a black coat and hat, attacks and brutally murders models at a fashion house. It’s managed by the sleazy Max Marian (Max Marian) together with the wife of the former owner, Countess Cristiana Como (Eva Bartok). The always Peter Lorre-esque Luciano Pigozzi slimes around the place and so a bunch of other suspicious characters. And soon we realize that most of our stunningly beautiful super-models have a lot of dark secrets up their sleeves… and all is prepared to step over each others dead bodies to keep ‘em secret!

Let me first complain, so you can stop reading for a while and throw darts at a photo of me and then come back to read the rest. The script for Blood and Black Lace is absurdly generic even for it’s time. It borders to being almost 100 % predictable in the same way as Transformers 2 or any John Wayne western you choose. This is not always a good thing, ‘cause a giallo lives on the mystery and BABL don’t have so much a mystery. It’s quite easy to guess who is the killer is and when it’s revealed it’s like “Huh, ok…?” and nothing more. The dialogue is mind-numbing and stupid and performed with almost robotic tendencies from almost all actors. What’s good with the story compared to Mannekäng i Rött is that it lacks the heavy-handed and not so funny comedy. This is serious shit and I like it that way.

Blood and Black Lace are all about style over substance, but lack the emotional power to makes the viewer involved in the story. In this case the style aren’t substance, it’s just style and what a fantastic stylish movie it is! I can complain as much as I want about other details, but the looks of the movie is stunning (which not even the lousy DVD from VCI can’t hide) and Mario Bava clearly knows where to point his camera to make even the most boring scene interesting to watch. Everything in this movie is loaded with details and colours, from the sets to the clothes and the behaviour of the characters. It’s just gorgeous.

What makes BABL even more unique for it’s time is the ferocious violence! It’s not that graphic, but boy, it’s a very mean-spirited killer we have here, slapping around his victims like there’s no tomorrow! In one long scene he kicks the shit out of Peggy (Mary Arden) while Bava seamlessly switches the actress to a male stunt-person in drag. Bava goes for the throat and never looses his grip until the ending.

The only questionable visual solution I will complain about is when the killer disappears in a very annoying jump-cut. I guess it was meant that he would be gone in the flickering of a shadow, but right now he’s just standing in the light and disappears like that darn priest in City of the Living Dead, in a bad and primitive special effect.

I like it more the third time around, and I must agree that Blood and Black Lace is a wonderful early giallo with a highy bodycount and nice murder set-pieces. But I hope it will get the released it deserves, sooner or later. It feels like it was made to be released in HD!


CiNEZiLLA said...

Bava or someone in his clique undboutedly saw MiR, and told him all about it. There's also the story of Hitchcock presenting Mattsson with a cigar and the praise of making a really scary movie...

So what ever way you shift it, I'll always back the Mattsson/Bava connection.


Ninja Dixon said...

Thank you, I think you're the only one supporting this theory except me :)