By Jerome Reuter
Mario Bava was one of the most influential horror directors of all time. His 1964 Giallo film, Blood And Black Lace is no exception. In my opinion, this one broke the mold of the traditional Giallo picture. It would even go on to become a huge influence on some of Dario Argento’s earliest work. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, and even Suspiria owe a great deal to this one, as do American filmmakers John Carpenter and Joe Dante.
Bava sets the stage for his masterwork in the world of fashion. Much like he would do in Hatchet For The Honeymoon several years later. Unlike that entry however, he leaves the supernatural element completely void from the picture. Instead, he utilizes a story that’s more based in reality. He paints a visually striking picture of what we now know the fashion industry to be like behind the scenes, with its cutthroat competition, drug use, and shady characters. This isn’t the Rome of Fellini, this is the underbelly of the city, where fast fashion turns into a quick death.
Our story follows a young group of fashion models, who are being picked one by one off by a mysterious masked killer. Much like Argento would do in Deep Red, Bava places more emphasis on the murders than the mystery. Unlike The Girl Who Knew To Much, the whodunit is a part of the story, not the entire focus. Having scenes where bodily harm comes to a victim, resinates more with a viewer due to its familiarity. In a sense, this is one of the foundations of the body/extremity horror we know of today. Not everyone’s been shot, but we have burned or cut ourselves at some point. One thing’s for certain, we can’t resist the mystique of the black gloved killer. In a time where there was no chance of showing penetration, the blade takes its place, and becomes a phallic extension of the murderer.
The films stylistic atmosphere is one you’d come to expect from a Bava picture. He utilizes his trademark quick camera zooms, and slow boil pace to set the tone. It’s also the color schemes he uses to catch your eye, and draw your attention in at full focus. With the use of of bright 35mm Technicolor cinematography, he uses color like a brush, and celluloid as his canvas. Years before Argento would use it in Suspiria, Bava would utilize it to its full potential.
If you’re a veteran of the world of Giallo, you’ve seen this quite a few times. If you’re a rookie, sit down with this one in the near future. This could possibly be one of the biggest game changing moments you’ve ever had. Dive right in, and swoon at the erotic fixation of the blade.