First things first, let's get one thing out of the way. This film is directed by Mario Bava. Kids wait! Don't run! Come back! Yes I know he directed a movie in 1977 called Schock! Yes I'm aware he's an Italian director that favors horror! But - he was also responsible for 1960's Black Sunday starring scream empress Barbara Steele! Ahhhh...that's better. Now take a seat and we'll talk about this.
Blood and Black Lace, or Sei donne per l'assassino is a well-executed giallo, which literally translates to the word "yellow" in Italian. This color reference is a result of cheaply-made murder mysteries published in the 1920's that contained yellow covers. The common usage of the word giallo in terms of horror mostly involves a sadistic string of murders with an interesting final act that explains the motives behind them. In this particular film, Bava manages to deliver stylish camera work and a stunning layout. Imagine a cross between Roger Corman's set design during his Poe adaptation lineup, and pair it up with a composition that bares a striking resemblance to Dario Argento's artistry. Bava actually served as a huge inspiration for Argento which completes a nice little trivia circle. We've discussed Argento - he's responsible for 1982's Tenebre, another favorite giallo of mine.
The plot of this film concerns a deranged madman who is killing off young fashion models. In typical giallo fashion, red herrings or false leads are thrown at you to build an exciting climax. One of the main problems I had with Blood and Black Lace is how dull the result was - which is the best part of ANY murder mystery! The character depth was a bit shallow causing the final act to lose some of its intended luster. All of this irrelevant, however, due to the film aesthetics Bava exercised. I mentioned a likeness to Argento and that's precisely why Bava served as a point of influence - there are several scenes that act like mood triggers; exploring the palette in terms of lighting to generate a certain atmosphere. And while Bava wasn't partial to just one color, the selection he chose from coordinated seamlessly with the environment. I really appreciate this artistic approach and the cultural differences in film making. I enjoy a good art house flick from time to time but Bava manages the feature's run-time wisely by expressing himself and maintaining relevance simultaneously.
Fans who are familiar with Italian giallos come to expect that many of them are dubbed in English...especially from this era. Luckily, I had the privilege of watching the uncut version of Blood and Black Lace in Italian with English subtitles; upholding cinematic integrity flawlessly. If you love an entertaining giallo, or maybe you're curious about the sub-genre, Bava's classic is undoubtedly high on the list - just make sure you grab the version in Italian!