Retro Review: ‘Blood and Black Lace’

The Italian film genre, the giallo, has a major fandom among film lovers across the world. These thrillers, named in honor of a series of yellow-covered pulp novels Giallo Mondadori from the 1920’s, combine elements of crime and horror for an intense movie experience. These films struck a chord with audiences of the era and would become an influential force in cinema as a whole. For outsiders it can be a daunting task to delve into these films so fans have pointed out a entries of this style perfect for newcomers. One such films is a 1964 picture from one of the great Italian filmmakers Mario Bava, Blood and Black Lace.

The night before a major event at the famed fashion house run by Massimo Morlacchi and Countess Cristiano Cuomo, the body of a model is discovered having been violently murdered. This draws Inspector Silvestri to the mansion where he starts looking through secretive world and dark world of the fashion industry. As he navigates an industry filled with drugs, sex, and greed, a masked killer in trench coat and fedora continues to claim victims through sadistic means.

Before Blood and Black Lace it was obvious director Mario Bava had the pieces of something incredible in his arsenal. With films like Black Sabbath and The Girl Who Knew Too Much showcasing a mastery in striking visuals and creating suspense. It was here when the pioneering filmmaker put everything together into a tense and shocking thriller. With a budget smaller than he was used to, Bava managed to build a compelling world populated by an international ensemble cast. Once this was set he could turn his detective loose in an unfamiliar and dangerous environment filled with countless possible suspects. The film is a paranoia-filled mystery where little is what it appears to be on the surface and just when the inspector thinks he is onto something the rug is pulled out from under him. It is violent, sexy, and scary but still undeniably cool. The use of color and shadow is captivating and composer Carlo Rustichelli provides a brass-heavy smooth score which amplifies the style and atmosphere.

For its early contributions to the giallo, Blood and Black Lace laid the foundation for so many films which followed the dark suspenseful trail it blazed. So many elements of the movie from the mysterious killer to the eroticism to the violence to the striking cinematography are all staples of the overall movement. Beyond Italian cinema Blood and Black Lace made an impact on further media from comic books to the American slasher genre.