Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Bava put Italian giallo movies on the world map with this ominous serial-killer mystery, packed with solid scares and features the breathtaking use of colours and shadows.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,457

Dir. Mario Bava
1964 | Italy | Mystery/Horror | 88 mins | 1.66:1 | Italian
Not rated – likely to be M18 for violence and some disturbing scenes

Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner
Plot: When fashion house model Isabella is murdered by a masked assailant, an investigation begins and her diary is found, detailing the vices of the fashion house and a complex web of blackmail and secrets.

Source: Arrow Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Serial Killing
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

It’s safe to say that without Mario Bava’s influential work here with Blood and Black Lace, Italian giallo movies wouldn’t have gotten the attention they deserved that quickly. 

An antecedent of what is now known as the ‘slasher movie’, which was all the rage in the late ‘70s and ‘80s in Hollywood, Blood and Black Lace is an example of how to render a serial-killer horror film with artistic nous. 

On one hand, it recognises the need for kitsch and campiness; on the other hand, the B-movie-esque elements are dressed in a more sophisticated fashion. 

“Perhaps the sight of beauty makes him lose control of himself, so he kills.”

As a result, we get a strong emphasis on using colours (e.g. reds and greens) as well as light and shadow, not to mention an array of cinematographic techniques and creative camera movements that enhance the visual qualities of the film. 

Bava has a solid grasp of his mise-en-scene which does wonders for creating an ominous mood from the get-go.  Women are being murdered in a small town by a masked killer, all of whom are connected with a fashion house that is hiding scandalous activities. 

While there are some twists and turns, plot-wise it is pretty much standard fare. Don’t expect anything elaborate or substantial, but do expect solid scares and a consistently ominous mood, well, except for its opening and closing credits, which are accompanied by a feel-good jazzy main theme by Carlo Rustichelli that would have you thinking you were seeing a romantic comedy instead. 

Grade: B+



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