Blood and Black Lace (1964) Blu-ray review

Out April 13th / 1964 / 89 minutes / 18 rating / Arrow Video / Italian with English subtitles / Dir. Mario Bava

The Cristiana Haute Couture fashion house is a home to models… and backstabbing… and blackmail… and drug deals… and MURDER.

A stunning film by Italian master of cinema Mario Bava, this movie is credited by some as the archetypal giallo. A giallo is a crime thriller or detective story, taking its name after the Italian for the colour yellow. The term had been used for popular (and trashy) crime thriller novels that were churned out, all featuring a yellow cover. When the movie industry started making features based on these books the term giallo was re-appropriated for said movies. It was then used to describe any flick with crime thriller or film noir tones. After some years, giallos started to take on a more hyper realistic tone and the visuals within a feature became highly stylistic, too.

But Blood and Black lace stands out amongst the countless giallos because Bava is a director that mastered any genre he turned his hand to. He took the Italian crime thriller genre and packed his movie with so much more than what was required that it acted as an example of what can be done when pushing genre tropes and constraints.

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Arrow Store steelbook edition

While a crime movie, it has undertones of something else at work. The use of a masked killer allows for scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie. The intrigue around the killers identity lends itself to a ‘who-dunnit?’ approach to the story. Both of these elements would become key parts of the giallo genre.

The story isn’t overly complex, although it is entertaining and exciting despite this. The masked killer that attacks several beautiful women does so in ways that are hi-octane and powerful.

Arrow Video have taken great efforts to restore Blood and Black Lace for this Blu-ray release, it shows. The almost neon colourful flourishes that Bava favours in some scenes look fantastic in high definition. The image is sharp and vivid.

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Special features.
Psycho Analysis (55 mins) – A highly informative feature that examines the giallo genre and Mario Bava’s influence. Experts, writers and directors offer their thoughts on the subjects. Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava (Mario’s own son, himself an accomplished film maker) will be well known to those that regularly purchase Arrow Video releases.

Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani talk Blood and Black Lace (10 mins) – The writer/director combo behind Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, modern day giallos, share their thoughts on the genre. They have some interesting ideas on what makes a typical giallo and Bava’s influence on those movies.

Gender & Giallo (38 mins) – Michael Mackenzie narrates a ‘visual essay’ on the genre, talking about some of it’s key films and social issues of the 1960’s and 70’s. This is an enlightening extra, recommended for anyone wanting to learn more on giallo’s.

Sinister Image (56 mins) – An episode of the film historian David Del Valle’s late eighties series that examined some big names in cult and horror cinema, this episode featuring Blood and Black Lace star Cameron Mitchell. The image quality isn’t brilliant but this adds to the charm of such a quirky extra. It’s also full of clips of Mitchell’s past works.

Yellow (26 mins) – This is a real treat of a special feature. Yellow is a 2013 shot film homage to giallo cinema, directed by Jon Britt and Ryan Hayson. The story is set in Berlin, a serial killer that targets women is at large. Not much is said, the directors allow the rich imagery to do the talking. Fans of the genre will be in heaven viewing this, it is crammed with the style and power of classics such as Blood and Black Lace and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

Verdict.
A stunning piece of cinema that is greatl compliment by some fantastic extras, Blood and Black Lace is a must see.

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