Thursday, August 12, 2021

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

During the 50s and 60s, krimi films were all the rage in Europe, showing somewhat lurid thrillers, from a typically police/procedural angle. It was in the 60s when that subgenre began to fade and its successor emerged-The giallos, so named after the yellow whodunnit paperbacks that were popular in Italy. As with most things the bits and pieces of genres come slowly from many places, but it was Mario Bava who singlehandedly laid the groundwork, with an earlier film, which was soon followed by the film that would truly signal the beginning of the Giallo, Blood and Black Lace...

An Italian fashion house is rocked by the brutal murder of model Isabella. A pall instantly falls over the establishment, and many of the girls are afraid they'll be next. As the police conduct their investigation, it seems many of the house's denizens have something to hide, and the body count rises quickly...

Blood and Black Lace, known in Italian as Six Girls for a Killer, is a neat film! It's fairly simple, but in the best way, and it establishes a great atmosphere from the get-go. The story really wastes no time in getting started.

The plot is decent, and does hit all the bases it needs too, although one problem I had was that a few of the characters looked too similar, and weren't given enough time to be developed. The film is never confusing, and people die too frequently for you to ever be too lost, but some people did blend together, especially the men.

The mystery is fun. It's not exactly easy to solve, and we don't have all the clues that a proper whodunnit would have, but the solution is satisfying, and makes sense. Which all leads to a great climax.

Blood and Black Lace is a visual treat. The film is often awash with multicoloured lights, in the same way that we'd see in the films of Dario Argento years later. This lighting adds to the atmosphere, and  It's aided by a lot of the set design too, including the starkly coloured mannequins and phones, and the other detailed objects and trinkets littering each room. When a film's main setting is something like a fashion house, it needs to sell this place to us, and this succeeds very well. There's one scene in particular, shot all in one take, where we go through the various pockets of the main room, watching everyone get ready.

The murders in Blood and Black Lace are brutal, all without feeling gratuitous. We have a good variety of attacks, from strangulation, stabbing, drowning, and more. The effects all look neat too! Always convincing, and the movie doesn't skimp either. While not a gory film by any means, the murders can get pretty gnarly.

Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell are good leads, shifty enough that you suspect they might be up o something, but never overplay it, so it's also possible they may be innocent. Mary Arden gives a nice   she was a real trooper behind the scenes too, wearing her burn scar make-up for days on end (and spooking her mother in the process), suffering an injury from all the dragging around, and also contributed to the film's English translation after the original translation was found to be too stilted.
The always welcome Luciano Pigozzi has a nice role, though a little small. Claude Dantes is memorable visually as model Tao-Li, but doesn't appear as much as I'd have liked. Everyone else does fine jobs, whether victim, bystander, or investigator. Goffredo Unger does a great job as the killer, really selling their brutality.

I especially liked the non-verbal acting, such as the scene where model Nicole finds Isabella's diary, and everyone in the room promptly shits themselves. Even the killer is able to effectively do this at times. Despite wearing an expressionless mask, you can still tell exactly what he's thinking when he starts rummaging through the handbag and finds nothing. His sudden frustration and desperate search is conveyed splendidly.

The score is neat, with plenty of groovy tracks, as well as suspenseful. The film uses natural sounds to enhance the mood, to great effect, such as a spooky wind.

Blood and Black Lace is the perfect film you could think of when creating a genre comes to mind. Even if it's not the best in the genre, it contains all its hallmarks, and does them all so well that it's an admirable picture, not to mention entertaining...

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