The words “Perfect” and “Essential” don’t often get tossed around here, but both describe Arrow Video’s stunning Blu-Ray of Mario Bava’s influential horror masterpiece, 1964’s Blood and Black Lace. If you consider yourself at all a horror fan, this one’s a no brainer BUY for your library or a great gift for that horror fan in your life who’s never seen Bava’s beautiful ballet of brutality.
From the eye-popping 2K restoration to every single bonus feature on the Blu-Ray, this set’s great for anyone who wants to see a truly great pre-giallo work that inspired many directors to play with elements found here and in Bava’s earlier The Girl Who Knew Too Much, a lesser, but still important work from a year earlier.
When models start getting killed in and around the Cristiana Haute Couture fashion house, the hunt is on for the masked killer and pretty much everyone is a suspect… that is, until the suspects start getting killed off. The film throws around its gorgeous use of color, stylized violence, rich soundtrack and a bottle full of vintage bubbly paranoia quite well, cooking up implausibilities as a good giallo should.
Somehow, the killer is in more than one place! Explained! How did that one person know so much about the SECRET diary? Explained! What’s up with the fuss over one girl having a shady boyfriend into drugs? EX-PLAINED! Well, sort of. Anyway, the film hits you with a lot of information at a mostly rapid-fire pace and Bava’s assured direction gets his vision onscreen at full tilt guaranteed to keep you glued to your seat until the bitter end.
The list of suspects ranges from a few of the models, the head of the modeling agency (Cameron Mitchell), his assistant (Eva Bartok), and a few creepy looking guys who work with or know the lovely ladies outside of work. The police seem to always be a few steps behind the murderer, who manages to commit a few gruesome killings that, while VERY tame even by today’s network standards, are still shocking for their sheer ferocity.
Bava draws out stalkings to keep suspense high, but once our masked madder gets to work, it’s fierce and final for a few. The reveal and finale, along with few coincidence-stretching bits here and there may make those too intent on not cutting loose and enjoying the ride raise an eyebrow when all is said and done. But, such is the life of the horror genre, right?
This is a film to watch at least twice in the original Italian (subtitled) and dubbed versions just to see what was changed back in 1964 for US audiences. The subtitles have been redone to closer reflect what’s actually being said, while the US version is somewhat awkward in spots with overly histrionic dubbing that adds a bit of camp value. Another thing to watch are the two VERY different title sequences. The original is phenomenal and weird, posing the cast in colorful pairings with a bewigged red mannequin, while the US titles, sourced from Joe Dante’s private print and scanned in 2K especially for this release, are also weird, button a tamer level. Animated by Filmation Associates, the sequence is about as far away as it gets from the studio’s more family friendly Saturday morning cartoons as you can get.
As for the rest, yes.. just stay on that couch, you. creeping up just out of sight are the following:
- Brand new audio commentary by Mario Bava’s biographer Tim Lucas
- Gender and Giallo – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo’s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s
- An appreciation by Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, the creative duo behind the neo-gialli Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
- Yellow – a neo-giallo by Ryan Hansom & Jon Britt
- The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell – an episode of David Del Valle’s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace
- Original theatrical trailer, with optional English and Italian audio
As noted, everything on this disc deserves that finely toothed visual and aural comb-over you’ll give it and then some. Even better, this set just might make you seek out some of Arrow’s other gialli, a few more of which will get reviewed here. Of course, you’ll need to drag yourself out from under the bed to get to your mailbox or brick to the face and mortar retail emporium first. But I’ll let you deal with your fears on your own, as I’ve got enough on my plate as it is.
Score: A+ (100%)
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Ballet of Brutality!!! love that… love Bava… I think it’s time I thought about getting a DVD player for Blu-Ray I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of great films… thanks for the great review and suggestion… Cheers Joey
Oh, it’s worth it just for all the horror coming out of the woodwork, MG. I have a bunch of gialli here to sift through, some nice remasters of classic US flicks and even some not so good stuff if getting the HD re-cooking treatment. Bava’s work is quite amazing when it’s right, but he’s also got his lovable lumps here and there, lol…