Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blood and Black Lace

Blood and Black Lace
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Giuseppe Barilla, Marcello Fondato, and Mario Bava
Starring: Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok (no relation to the albino bat from Anastasia)

She killed her victims with rabies.
And sub-Disney showtunes about togetherness.

A glove-wearing murderer (or two) stalks and kills beautiful models throughout some Italian city. All the victims are connected to a fashion house run by a recent widow. One of the victims has a diary of all the shadiness going on in the company…

…and everyone wants to read it or destroy it. As the victims pile up, innocent people are arrested and more secrets come to light. In the bloody climax, the killers have to fight for their lives… not from the police, but from each other.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Italian horror films, even when they’re nonsensical, misogynistic, and crazy-boring. You show me ballerinas swimming through barbed wire (by accident and in stylized lighting) and I’ll be your fan for life.

Or at least until you make something like this.

That said, I’m much more familiar with the directors that “borrowed” from Bava than I’m familiar with Bava himself. Sure, all these movies feature killers that apparently shop at the same glove store, but I just assumed that the 60s-era stuff would be a little less insane than what came after.

Like magic heads.

So this blog is my opportunity to sample some old school giallo.

Also, there’s a great blog called The Moon Is a Dead World that’s encouraging other bloggers to review this film. So bring it on.

“The thought that a sex maniac is prowling around your fashion house… well, I don’t like it.”

“Now listen to me, you little idiot.”

“You loved everything I had. Everything but me.”

“Look at him. He hates women. Look at him. He’s the killer.”

“Goodbye, Clarisse.”

“If only the men would come back. We’re all women left alone.”

Lots of female flesh (mostly getting cut up and whatnot), but nothing on the male side of things.

Blood and Black Lace may not have Argento levels of blood, but it’s surprisingly brutal for a 47-year-old film. Women get burnt, strangled, stabbed, and generally tortured by the killers. The models are so freaking killable, in fact, that it’s almost a comedy.


Like most Italian horror movies, most of the tension dissipates when the detectives are on screen talking in dubbed-over voices about suspects and motives and whatnot. But when the scene calls for a single woman to wander around a dark room… Well, it’s pretty special.

Did anyone notice the bright red mannequins in every scene? Those are going to haunt my dreams.

See that horrible red demon in the background?
Why would you buy clothes off of that thing?

Did I ever mention the lighting and the cinematography? Because damn…

I want to live there. Well, after the murders stop.

Did anybody else notice a Disney quality to the colors and backgrounds? Some of the sets looked like fairy tales. With strangulations.

Snow White, anyone?

Cameron Mitchell’s final acting role is “Dr. Cadaver” in Jack-O. Sad.

The slasher film about a mutant first lady
rampaging through Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

I wonder if the creators of Modern Family named their gay couple after the actor Cameron Mitchell.

Cameron and Mitchell. Coincidence?
Yes, yes it is.

Well, I’m conflicted. This is a film about the Italian fashion industry, and yet there are no gay people. That’s pretty far-fetched. However, it was the 60s, so I can forgive a movie for being a product of its era.

As if the crap from my generation
is going to stand the test of time.

And I do admire this film for being a pre-slasher slasher with plenty of artistic integrity.

But some of the violence and contempt against women is a little hard to stomach. Sure, the female characters burn evidence and hide bodies and, you know, kill people, but the film is called “Six Women for the Murderer” for a reason. The ladies walk in, they flail around helplessly, then they die.

Further, I could take a whole gender studies angle on this film and discuss the weird sexual politics at play. (Let’s just look at the last scene: the central couple both succeed in killing each other, in addition to previous lovers, in a very psychosexual way. The woman dies because she falls off this big phallic pole, but not before kissing the man in a clearly sexless way. Then the movie ends.)

As a gay man, I’m fascinated by the gender roles at play here, and the next time I watch it, I’ll pay even closer attention to the relationship between the two killers. I can’t tell if the main villain is a coded gay character… or just a jackass.

This film is like a little time capsule of 60s attitudes. It’s definitely not gay, but it’s not exactly well-adjusted and hetero. On a gayness scale, I’d give this an old-school Burgess Meredith, whatever that means.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analysis of the phallic symbols at the end of the film. Didn't even notice that! I also love the lighting of the film, it's so intricately placed.