Dir. Mario Bava (1964)
When models start dying around a modeling agency, the question becomes not who the murderer is but how many there are.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Blood and Black Lace is Mario Bava’s best film, full stop. It’s also one of the best Giallo films ever made and is arguably the first actual slasher film. I’ve made it no secret that I’m a huge Halloween fan, as it tops my list of all-time greatest horror movies. However, there’s a better than decent chance that Halloween never gets made if Mario Bava doesn’t make Blood and Black Lace in 1964. It’s a proto-slasher that was made only four years after Psycho, and it’s a much more engaging film than it’s predecessor, with blood, color, and a body count that approaches double digits.
Plus, a creepy mask-wearing killer.
Stealing from the American crime drama and infusing it with their own brand of Italian horror, Giallo films hold a unique place in the horror canon, and with this film’s unique blend of violence and style, it’s got touches of Argento while displaying every bit of polish that he usually does not. Bava is perhaps a better filmmaker than Argento, though he varied much more wildly in quality and subject matter. Argento knew how to make Argento movies in a way that no one else has even approached, but Bava seemed to have a better hand at making movies. His influence is also arguably as great, with some of the kills in B&BL being echoed through Halloween and other slashers. It’s also a gorgeously shot thriller with a ton of outstanding kills. It’s moody, fast-paced, and an excellent film besides.
The film is made in a much more “Hollywood” style than many of Argento’s films as well. It’s got the tight closeups on actors’ facial expressions, the “better looking than they probably should be” casting (though this film does largely revolve around a fashion agency, so that’s fair), and a taut pacing and non-wandering plot that is unfortunately not the hallmark of the Giallo genre. At a quick hour and a half, it’s a very digestible intro to classic Italian Giallo and a foundational film in the history of slasher movies and horror in general.
I also found it particularly interesting, while watching this film, that you can trace the direct lineage between the old gothic Universal horror films to the new-generation horror movies directly through this film. This was a period where filmmakers were pushing the limits of what they could get away with and helping to bridge the gaps between those films of olden times and the ones we see being made today. Hell, even the lineup scene in the film could’ve been directly lifted from The Usual Suspects. The film is also focused much more on the killers than many other films of its ilk, and after the last of the victims are dispatched, we get to take a look into the killers’ motivations and the driving force behind them. Hint: it’s always money.
One of the more stylish kills.
Who this movie is for: Giallo fans, Slasher fans, Black glove fetishists
Bottom line: A foundational film for horror history nerds, Blood and Black Lace is a fantastic movie even if you disregard its importance. It’s beautifully shot, filled with Old Hollywood style while being distinctly Italian at the same time. While the film definitely dragged at times (though much less frequently than Italian cinema fans would be used to), and the dubbing and vocal audio was not always performed with the utmost care, it really is a fantastic film and is a must-see for horror fans of all stripes.