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.