director Mario Bava
I don’t know at what point I decided that Mario Bava was one of my favorite directors, but it definitely happened, somewhere over the past several years, working my way, unmethodically, through his oeuvre. I’ve ended up at the odd point of now semi-slowly moving through his films that I haven’t seen, holding back so that I still have some more new Bava discoveries ahead of me.
It’s amazing what Bava could do with a dark set and a few colored lights. He made gorgeous cinema vistas with budgets far below what anyone would guess while gazing upon it. In Blood and Black Lace he’s got the camera moving a lot, tracking through rooms and compartments, over and through and from behind things.
Like his film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), Blood and Black Lace was a formative film for the giallo genre and a prototype, which he would further refine in A Bay of Blood (1971) (though not as gorgeously), for the slasher films that would come in slews following.
What most struck me about this film, oddly, was the relatively violent, if mostly bloodless murders. The masked and trenchcoated figure in black gloves, faceless as it is, attacks the models of a fashion house with great brutality, whether strangling, stabbing, or burning the women. The scenes aren’t overly protracted but they are intense and emphatic set-pieces that are quite rough.
As with gialli, the story is ultimately a kind of convoluted mush, with an unlikely twist or two which it’s usually all the better to not contemplate. It may well be that Bava’s greatest strength is in his visual design, compositions, and aeshtetics, which transcend his shifts (or inventions) in genre.