BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964), is the second Mario Bava directed horror film I've revisited in the last few days (thanks to TCM) and it's a good one. In fact, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE was one of the earliest and most influential of all of the Italian giallo films that proliferated in the '60s and '70s. Those films also served as templates for the American slasher films of the '70s and '80s. But Bava got there first and if he wasn't the greatest giallo filmmaker (I give the nod to Dario Argento), he wasn't far behind.
Known in Europe as SIX WOMEN FOR THE MURDERER, the title was changed to the appropriately lurid and titillating BLOOD AND BLACK LACE for release in the United States. The action takes place at a high fashion dress design salon which is curiously isolated and removed from any major urban area. The salon is owned by Christina (the lovely Eva Bartok), who has inherited it from her recently deceased husband. The business is managed by Max Marian (American actor Cameron Mitchell). The salon employs a number of fetching young models and an assortment of bizarre men. One of the models, Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) is brutally murdered early in the film, a slaying that sets in motion a string of gruesome murder scenes as more women meet grisly ends at the hands of a masked assailant. The killer, whose costume echoes that of the Steve Ditko created comic book character The Question, is forced to commit the murders in an attempt to regain Isabella's stolen diary, a diary full of secrets that could blow the lid off of the salon with the scandalous secrets contained within.
The murder sequences are well staged for maximum impact, combining suspense with brutal, sadistic violence. Several women are slain before the identity of the masked killer is revealed and although it won't come as a surprise to most horror film fans, there is a nice little twist that goes along with the unmasking.
Bava, as usual, drenches the screen with a palette of ultra vivid colors. A stalk and kill sequence in an antiques store is punctuated by a pulsing green neon sign from outside, along with a rainbow of other colors. The film looks rich and lush which shows just how good Bava was even when working with a relatively small budget ($150,000). BLOOD AND BLACK LACE wasn't the first film to combine sex and horror but it did so in an unforgettable, visually stylish way that influenced a generation of both European and American filmmakers. The film's influence is seen in a story entitled BLOOD AND BLACK STOCKINGS that I recall reading in an old issue of Warren's CREEPY magazine. The story had art by Mike Royer, if I recall correctly, but sadly, I don't recall the author of the piece.