Blood and Black Lace - A Mario Bava film

Blood and Black Lace – A Mario Bava film

Filmed in Technicolor by cameraman turned director Mario Bava, Blood and Black Lace is an influential film in the horror genre. As well as being one of the earliest examples of the Giallo, an Italian name for films with elements of mystery and violence, Blood and Black Lace is also one of the first slasher films.

Mario Bava Directs Blood and Black Lace

Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) laid down the blueprint for this kind of movie with its costume-wearing killer though Norman Bates was fairly restrained with only two onscreen killings during the course of the movie. The murderer in Blood and Black Lace is more prolific taking out a fair portion of the cast. Their costume is also more elaborate, a film noir style outfit with a chilling featureless mask apparently modelled on The Blank from the ‘Dick Tracy’ comic books.

Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell Star in Blood and Black Lace

Blood and Black Lace is set in a fashion house located within a mansion. The owners, Contessa Cristina (Eva Bartok) and her husband Max (Cameron Mitchell) are in financial difficulties. Somebody starts killing the models in a variety of inventive ways. The plot is fairly simple, with everybody either becoming a suspect or a victim.

Bava’s mastery of the technicalities of directing and his ability to use a camera means the brilliance of Blood and Black Lace lies in its visual style. Bava is less concerned with coherence than with creating a mood, usually one that haunts the viewer.

Blood and Black Lace has all these elements though it is more of a technical exercise than some of Bava’s best horror films. Lisa and the Devil (1974) and Kill Baby Kill (1966) are genuinely haunting, but Blood and Black Lace is mostly style, though admittedly it is a style few directors in any genre can equal.

None of the performances stand out and as a consequence there is nobody to care about. The success of a great slasher film involves having a Laurie Strode or a Sidney Prescott, somebody the audience wants to survive. Blood and Black Lace is admirable but curiously empty.