Blood and Black Lace
Film: Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l’assassino)
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Marcello Fondato
Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok and Thomas Reiner
This was a movie that I got turned on to when I was working through an Fangoria’s Top 300 Horror Films of all time issue. The first time I watched this I thought that it was alright, but it wasn’t until I learned more about the giallo films that I started to appreciate this more and more. This third viewing was for The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Where to Begin With… series as Duncan McLeash, the host, is telling people where to start when it comes to this subgenre. The synopsis here is a masked, shadowy killer brutally murders the models of a scandalous fashion house in Rome.
We start this with seeing our cast posing with mannequins before cutting to a sign informing us that we’re at a salon/boutique and it becomes unhinged. A woman named Nicole (Ariana Gorini) comes outside to meet Frank Scalo (Dante DiPaolo). He asks if she has any stating that another woman took all that he had. She scolds him and tells him to leave before he’s seen. Marco (Massimo Righi) comes out to fix the sign.
The model they were worried about gets out of a taxi, she’s Isabella (Francesca Ungaro). As she approaches the house, she is attacked by a masked person. She is strangled to death.
We then meet the woman who is in charge of this house, Countess Christina Como (Eva Bartok). She is upset that Isabella is no where to be found. They have a show to prepare for and she tells Max Morlan (Cameron Mitchell) about her absence. It is decided that her pay will be docked and then she’ll be fired if it happens again. Christina ends up finding her dead in the closet though, freaking everyone out.
Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner) shows up to investigate. The only one who is taking it hard is Peggy Peyton (Mary Arden), who was Isabella’s roommate. Through this initial query, we meet the rest of our cast. Greta (Lea Lander) who is another model and she’s engaged to Marquis Richard Morell (Franco Ressel). The guards watching the gate bring him in like he’s guilty of something. Another model we meet is Tilde (Claude Dantes) as well as a dress maker Caeser Lazar (Luciano Pigozzi). They decide to go on with their show despite what happened.
Inspector Sylvester learns more about those involved including Frank and his relationship with Isabella. We then see what he was worried about, he is addicted to cocaine. Inspector Sylvester also seems to notice something about him that isn’t right.
At the show, Christina is looking for someone to wear a dress that Isabella was supposed to wear. No one is willing to until Nicole states she will. They notice the dress is missing a broach to which Christina states that she put it in one of the boxes. They find it inside of a box along with Isabella’s diary. Nicole offers to take it to the police the following day.
She then slides off to call Frank first. At first he agrees to come to the boutique, but then calls back to tell her to come his shop. She borrows Peggy’s car. She goes to Frank’s antique store and we see a hand turn off the lights. She is then attacked by a masked person. The killer is looking for something and takes the car when they can’t find it.
When it was revealed there was a diary, we saw quite a few people show interest. Is one of them the killer? They all seem to have different reasons and are all suspects, but who could it be?
Where I want to start first is with the historic significance of this film. I’ve already lain out that this is a giallo and the first one to be exact. I at some point learned this information, but to be honest, it didn’t mean a lot to me. I had seen probably one other before this one and a movie not from Italy that paid homage to it. To be honest, this was probably my third Mario Bava film as well, but again, I knew the last name just not necessarily what it all meant. It was really podcasts that helped me to learn more and appreciate these aspects.
The first thing that I really should delve into here is that I love the concept and story to this movie. This one has gone up for me after every viewing, but it really this time around that I can fully appreciate it. I knew it was good though even after my first couple of viewings. What I think I like about this though, not just establishing this subgenre, but how it puts the story together. We get there’s something off about Nicole and Frank. We see what happened to Isabella, but when the diary is exposed, we see multiple people show interest. The movie then strategically picks off these suspects in a similar vein to a ’10 Little Indians’ and there’s even a swerve that I liked. This last viewing I knew who the killer was, so it was more of putting things together and I didn’t notice any cheats.
That’s not to say there aren’t flaws. I really only had one and it was when someone discovers a body and tries to hide it. This character has no reason to do this aside from just panicking. It happens twice, but one of them makes sense with this character where the other didn’t. Something I will say, I find this interesting that the police aren’t bumbling and don’t have someone doing the investigation that isn’t a cop. It is just people that are trying to cover up what they think will get them in trouble or cause scandal. It is interesting the giallo film didn’t start off with that motif.
Now I want to shift this over the pacing of the movie. I’ll admit the first two times I thought this movie was boring, but that’s not the case anymore. Now that I fully understand the story and what’s going on that helped. I almost think that watching this with subtitles on also helped so I could fully put together everything that is being said. This is dubbed in English, which most of films from Italy in this era did, but I like to make sure I don’t miss anything regardless.
Moving this over to the acting of the movie, I think it is strong across the board. We really don’t get a main character, which I did find a bit interesting so I’ll work my way through the cast list. Mitchell I thought was a solid character. We really don’t get much of him until he becomes a suspect in the murder, but he just has a screen presence. Bartok is quite attractive and I like that she has somewhat of a checkered past. I like that Reiner is a good detective and quite thorough in his investigation. There’s not a lot he can do without the evidence. The cast of woman are beautiful and I think the men do a really good at making themselves red herrings. If there’s any issue here, it would be that Marco extremely overacts when having a seizure. To be fair, the cast really does a solid job overall.
Something that I’ve been waiting to talk about is the cinematography. I could tell after that first viewing that Bava shot the heck out of this movie. One of my favorite films is Suspiria and I can see Dario Argento was influenced by Bava. He has some vivid contrast with colors, especially with how red the phone is along with some of the mannequins. There’s not a lot in the way of effects here, but I do think that blood we get looks fine. It might be a bit bright, but that was more of the era. There’s a burn effect on a character that I liked. The look of the killer is good as well and the killers are pretty diverse, especially one of them with a primitive weapon.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. I knew that it really had a jazz sound to it with horns. The theme song is one that I listen to quite a bit when I’m writing actually and have it on a playlist. I think that it fits for what was needed and helping to build tension throughout the movie for sure. Not my favorite, but one that I do revisit from time to time.
Now with that said, I really enjoyed this movie and glad I gave it another rewatch. I’ve heard people talk highly of it and hearing what they pointed out, seeing again makes sense and brought my rating up. There are interesting concepts here and it works well with the story. I didn’t find myself getting bored. The movie is shot beautifully, the acting for the most part is solid and the soundtrack fit for what was needed. I found this to be an amazing movie that kicked off the giallo subgenre and would recommend as one of the first places to start if you want to get into it.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10