Today I watched Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1964)
With Halloween upon us, I celebrate with a film that is arguably the first Giallo and thus the most influential film in modern horror. This film takes the structure of a murder mystery whodunit and twists it into a bodycount thriller. The story circulates around a fashion house, the models under whose employ form the pool of victims for a killer who wears a blank mask and wears all black. While this film follows the basic structure of a mystery, it pulls the focus completely away from the investigative procedure, nor does it provide a plethora of clues for the audience, instead it focuses on the murders themselves, setting a template for many, many horror films to follow.
The kills are truly horrific here, the visual style that Mario Bava is known for is at peak form here. All of the interior spaces in this film are these post modern show pieces that seem as much like museums as they do homes. Bava takes these hyper detailed spaces and bathes them in lurid, saturated lighting. The camera work is truly a thing a terrible beauty and an early kill scene in an Antique store is wonderfully frightening. The film creates this intense and violent mood with the clashing colours and cluttered spaces.
If you have read many of my reviews you know that I really enjoy it when film’s have strong, likable protagonists. This film has no such protagonist because of its mystery nature, anyone could be a horrible murderer and there is some evidence to finger most of them. But it is still enjoyable because of how the mystery unfolds and because of how the film is paced. The kills come with a good deal of frequency and their intensity has a real impact; getting from one murder to the next is easy because of how the film strung me along with it’s great mood.
While some people may argue that there are earlier Giallo films, I would argue that this is the true true Giallo and Ur-Slasher. I say this because it is the film that brought colour to the mix and really got the lurid violence to be center stage. Colour is such an essential component of the Giallo genre that the name itself mean “yellow” (because of the labels on pulp murder novels). The influences of this film can be seen everywhere, because since this film, most horror films have focused largely on the kills. One can argue the merits of this kind of film making, but here in it’s original form, it is quite provocative and exciting. In the hands of a master like Mario Bava, cinematic murder is high art. 5/5