Blu-ray Review: Blood and Black Lace

A fine way to start out a Giallo and Gelato Night series is Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace. Bava is the director who got the ball rolling for the genre. His first film was The Girl Who Knew Too Much about a woman who loved reading Giallo novels and found herself trapped in a real on with John Saxon. The black and white movie didn’t do well at the box office. Bava found worldwide success with Black Sabbath and The Whip and the Body. He used his new clout to return to the Giallo genre, but this time he was going to bring the blood in Technicolor and a lot of glamour. Blood and Black Lace has a killer on the loose at a fashion house. Best to serve up Talenti’s Almond Butter & Honey Gelato to feel fashionable.

On a stormy night, a model Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) roams outside the fashion house. She meets up a man and have a quick discussion about get cocaine. She goes her own way, but not for long as a mysterious man with a covered face and hat attacks her. In the morning, Isabella’s body is found inside the house. Police Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner) arrives on the scene and questions the owner Countess Christina Como (Ten Thousand Bedrooms‘ Eva Bartok) who was recently widowed. He also gets around to sizing up Max Morlan (High Chaparral‘s Cameron Mitchell) who co-manages the salon and is hooked up with the Countess. Turns out that Isabella kept a diary that dealt with the dirty dealings of those working with the Countess. Turns out there’s a lot of drugs and debt at the business. Eventually the masked man comes looking for the diary and isn’t going to stop as he abducts, tortures and kills those in the glamour profession.

Blood and Black Lace is peak Mario Bava at this stylish heights. The lighting and color schemes show an artist at work. Even as people are getting killed all over the screen, it’s hard not to be an awe of the views. The swanky score by Carlo Rustichelli creates even more of a sophisticated atmosphere. While Giallo films aren’t supposed to have police investigating murders, the characters at the fashion house are also doing their best to figure out who is the killer among them. This isn’t a police investigation film and the inspector isn’t seen as clueless. But the mystery ends up being solved without his help. While you would think that this would be the film that started the giallo film craze it Italy, Blood and Black Lace was not a hit in Italy or America. The American version was chopped up by censors in order to tone down the graphic violence. There was no R-rating in 1965 so things had to vanish from the reel. The film pretty much vanished for decades until the DVD era brought it back. Mario Bava classed up the genre he defined more elements in the cinematic version.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is a 2K scan from original materials made in 2018. It looks so lush and sharp. There’s a dazzling art house quality to the image. The audio on the Bluray is English DTS-HD mono track. The DVD has the English and Italian Dolby Digital mono soundtracks. Why both versions don’t have the Italian is a mystery, but it appears by the mouth motions of the actors that they read their lines in English. Both soundtracks were created in post production so there is no original language either way. Both versions of movie feature English and Spanish subtitles.

DVD with a version of the film in lower resolution.

Audio Commentary includes Kat Ellinger from Diabolique magazine breaking down the film and pointing out the Giallo elements. There’s a second commentary with David Dal Valle & C Courtney Joyner that talks about the film being snipped up in America. Dal Valle had a friendship with Cameron Mitchell so he relates tales he was told about the production and Bava.

American Cut vs. European Cut (27:31) demonstrates how the film had to be snipped to pass the censorship board in America. Remember that this was a time when all films had to be PG.

David Del Valle Interviews Cameron Mitchell (7:25) is from the vintage show “The Sinister Image.” The focus is on Cameron’s work with Bava. Cameron’s in fine form with a light blue Member’s Only jacket. This is only on the DVD.

Mary Dawn Arden Interview (12:10) has one of the stars of the film admits she never got to see the film until the taping of this interview for a DVD. She talks about her career since the filming. At the time she was on the faculty of NYU in the speech and communication department. She recounts her time with Bava. She had to play dead for five days on the set. Arden passed away in 2014.

Photo Gallery (5:38) has various promotional materials including posters and lobby cards for the release.

Music Score by Composer Carlo Rustichelli gives you the slow groovy theme song that’s perfect for any cocktail party.

Blood and Black Lace HD Trailer (3:21) counts down the six murders in the film. It’s a pretty bloody trailer that doesn’t want the audience to think they’ll hold back anything. This is in Italian.

American Titles (1:53) has the mannequin, blood and skulls title first used by the Woolner Bros distributor.

VCI Entertainment presents Blood and Black Lace. Directed by Mario Bava. Screenplay by: Marcello Fondato, Giuseppe Barilla & Mario Bava. Starring: Eva Bartok, Cameron Mitchell, Thomas Reiner & Claude Dantes. Rated: Rated Unrated. Running Time: 88 minutes. Released: October 23, 2018.

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