Blood and Black Lace

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Mario Bava

REVIEWED: 08-04-97

Starring Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok.

By the mid-Sixties, the Italians were well on the way to defining the giallo, their hyper-violent version of Hitchcock-style murder mysteries. In this murder-Italian-style thriller, Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok run a fashion salon where models keep turning up dead. One of the models kept a diary of illicit love affairs, cocaine dealing, and other decadent happenings, and the murderer wants it real bad. Plot twists abound; in a Sixties Euro-mystery it's a safe bet that Cameron Mitchell is the killer, but here he's a mere red herring. Bava's artistic background shows through in his use of color, with whole scenes drenched in over-saturated washes of primary hues. The high-fashion setting complements his stylistic flourishes, many of which will be recognized by fans of shock director Dario Argento, who has cited Bava as an influence. The black-gloved masked killer also became an Argento staple, though the plot of Blood and Black Lace is much more linear, without Argento's wild, dreamlike leaps of logic and self-referential asides. There are two unfortunate problems that typify Sixties giallos: weak acting and stiff dialogue, but try to ignore those and concentrate on the visual style -- there's one surreal, beautiful scene where a model goes to a house to look for her boyfriend (and gets knocked off, of course). Shot on a two-story set (built open like a dollhouse), the camera roams and tracks the action through the whole house, with red and blue lights bathing the entire segment. This is a flawed but stylish thriller with far grislier scenes than anything Hollywood would touch in '64. (Vulcan Video has a good letterboxed, Japanese-subtitled print).

--Jerry Renshaw

Other Films by Mario Bava
Lisa and the Devil
Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Film Vault Suggested Links
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Night of the Bloody Apes
Lizard in a Woman's Skin

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