Blood and Black Lace (1964)

There’s no way to calculate the influence of Blood and Black Lace. It takes the giallo from where Bava started with The Girl Who Knew Too Much and adds what was missing: high fashion, shocking gore and plenty of sex. The results are dizzying; it’s as if Bava’s move from black and white to color has pushed his camera lens to the brink of insanity.

Isabella is an untouchably gorgeous model, pure perfection on human legs. But that doesn’t save her as she walks through the grounds of the fashion house and is brutally murdered by a killer in a white mask.

Police Inspector Sylvester takes the case and interviews Max Morlan (Cameron Mitchell!), who co-manages the salon with his recently widowed lover, the Countess Christina Como. Soon, our police hero discovers that the fashion house is a den of sin, what with all the corruption, sex, blackmail, drugs and abortions going on under its roof. Isabella was murdered because she had kept a diary of all the infractions against God that happened inside these four walls.

Nicole finds the diary and tells the police she will deliver it, but it’s stolen by Peggy. As she arrives at the antique store her boyfriend Frank owns, the killer appears and kills her with a spiked glove to the face. The killing is shocking. Brutal. And definitely the forerunner to the slasher genre.

Even after the cops arrest everyone in the fashion house, the murders keep on piling up. Peggy claims that she burned the diary, so the killer burns her face until she dies. Greta is smothered to death. And Tilde is killed in the bathtub, then her wrists are slit open, spraying red into the water and marking her as a suicide.

So who is it? Come on. You’re going to have to watch it for yourself.

The success of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath had given Bava the opportunity to do anything he wanted. His producers thought that this movie would be a krimi film along the lines of an Edgar Wallace adaption. Instead, Bava gave more importance to the killings than the detective work, emphasizing sex, violence and horror more than any film in this form had quite before.

Blood and Black Lace was a failure in Italy and only a minor success in West Germany, the home of Edgar Wallace. And in America, AIP passed on the film due to its combination of sex and brutality. Instead, it was released by the Woolner Brothers with a new animated opening.

Today, Blood and Black Lace is seen as a forerunner of body count murder movies and the excesses of later giallo films. To me, it’s a classic film, filled with Bava’s camera wizardry and love of color. It is everything perfect about movies.

You can watch this on Shudder and Amazon Prime.

14 thoughts on “Blood and Black Lace (1964)”

  1. […] We start with the hallmark of this style: a beautiful woman slashed to death by a masked killer in a public location — this time an elevator in a modern high-rise. That body is discovered by a black exotic dancer — well, she’s more of a wrestler who challenges men in the crowd to fight her on stage — who soon becomes the next victim in a bathtub drowning with a killer that references the look of the killing machine behind Bava’s Blood and Black Lace. […]

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  2. […] Cameron Mitchell is making his fourth appearance in the Chilling Classics box set with this movie, but I know that he has to be in even more. From voicing Jesus in The Robe to the 1951 version of Death of a Salesman, Mitchell had plenty of big roles in even bigger films. But we’re not here to talk about those. We’d rather talk about his appearances in movies like Night Train to Terror (his segment also appears as another stand-alone movie, The Nightmare Never Ends), The Demon and Blood and Black Lace. […]

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  3. […] There’s also an overabundance of characters, making the plot a convoluted tangle. New professor Julian Olcott (handsome Austrian actor Carl Schell) is immediately suspected when his arrival at the isolated school coincides with several mauling deaths of young students. There is a blackmail plot (again similar to a giallo) involving a creepy instructor (Maurice Marsac) who is having liasons with the female students, with a packet of incriminating love letters being the hot item it seems the werewolf will kill to protect (think of the revealing diary from Blood and Black Lace). […]

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  4. […] 1. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: All giallo past 1970 owes a blood debt to this film, a retelling of Frederick Brown’s The Screaming Mimi. The red herrings, the foreign hero who becomes involved in a murder to the point that he or she becomes a detective, the violent deaths, the music, the fashion, the lurid neon red blood and the twist endings all start here, despite the genre also finding root in the novels of Edgar Wallace and in the films of Mario Bava, particularly The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace. […]

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