Words: Brody Rossiter
Mario Bava’s 1965 classic, Blood and Black Lace, is one of the earliest and most influential examples of the murderous sub-genre of Italian thrillers and horror fiction adaptations that would become known as “giallo”. Today, Bava’s reputation as a godfather of the violent and overtly erotic pictures rests in the shadow of his protégée, Dario Argento, and his extraordinarily visceral filmography. However, it is Bava’s initial broad, bloody and vivid strokes that undoubtedly solidified the genre’s conventions while also shaping the modus operandi of slasher cinema for decades to come.
A far cry from the gothic horrors and monstrosities that had terrorised cinemagoers throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s, Bava’s focus upon a much gorier and exploitative (beautiful and scantily clad victims are not in short supply) form of horror filmmaking found its footing in the carnal depravity of human minds, electing interweave sexuality and unflinching brutality throughout his murderous narrative as opposed to satanic rituals and ghoulish undertakings.
Focusing much of its deceitful tale upon the models who inhabit an haute couture fashion house and their untimely demises, Bava’s flair for inventive viciousness is only matched by his evocative visual prowess. Environments are lush and colourful. Roman opulence drips from moody interiors and elegantly dressed characters as they evade a masked killer’s search for an incriminating diary and the suspicions of fraught detectives. Dynamic cinematography and elaborate set and costume design are intensified by Arrow’s sumptuous restoration, presenting Blood and Black Lace’s deviant splendour in its true unadulterated glory. A series of video essays and interviews, including a discussion with Bava’s heir apparent, Dario Argento, compound the importance and depth of the picture’s surface artistry and trailblazing content.
As the body count of the disguised “sex maniac” rises, and the plotting twists and turns of this giallo classic whip into a hallucinogenic spiral of grisly set pieces and revelations, Blood and Black Lace reveals itself as bold, confrontational, and arresting in both its thirst for blood and journey toward a new, terrifying form of scaremongering.