Film Review: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

A while back I reviewed one of Mario Bava’s earlier anthology films – Black Sabbath. This week I’m reviewing one of his more classic Giallo films – indeed his most influential giallo film: Blood and Black Lace.

Blood & Black Lace is the Giallo film that set the archetype for the genre – a series of beautiful women are murdered by a mysterious black gloved killer – in this case also wearing a black coat and hat and a white stocking as a mask – making them a look like a villainous counterpart to The Question.

In this case, the film follows the series of murders of models at the fashion house of Contessa Christina Como (triple alliteration). The film generally does a solid job of laying out why each of the victims are killed – there’s a clear sense of progression related to why each victim died, and why the killer was drawn to the next victim. It’s clear to the audience what the next victim will be, and with a couple exceptions why each victim is targeted – and while the police detective investigating the murders is not able to keep up, it’s also clear that the audience has information that the detective doesn’t have.

What the film is not good at is laying out who the killer is. The focus of Mario Bava’s attention is clearly on the murders, not on creating a mystery for the audience to try to solve in advance. Indeed, aside from a couple lines of dialog, there’s no way to figure out who the killer is until it’s revealed to the audience. Instead, Bava has put the majority of attention on the stalking and murder of the victims. These scenes are generally very well done, with really atmospheric lighting. The killings themselves are deliberately lurid, with the victims usually in their underclothes, and some basic blood effects, with a few basic burn prosthetics of the “colored mashed potatoes” variety.

The film’s score is alright – jazzy to go with the noir lighting and tone for the film – with occasionally more suspenseful notes.

Blood and Black Lace is an engaging giallo film, and it makes for a pretty good gateway to the genre. If you dig this film, you’ll probably also enjoy later films – and vice versa.

Blood & Black Lace recently got a new release from Arrow Films, and is available from on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo.