Some women want to strangle models, but most people don't actually go that far. That's not the case in "Blood and Black Lace," where models run, scream, and die in all sorts of gruesome ways. Mario Bava's classic giallo has some monotonous moments, but mostly it sticks to stylish slayings.
Just before a fashion show, the model Isabella is found dead in a wardrobe. The police investigate the fashion house's various models and managers, but can't find any solid evidence. And during the show, one of the other models finds Isabella's diary, which is loaded with scandalous information about drugs, lovers, abortions, and debts.
But then the diary is stolen, and trenchcoated killer waits until the models are alone -- and then he burns, strangles, drowns, and claws them. The police suspect the men -- designers and managers -- at the fashion house, but even detaining the suspects won't stop the gruesome murders...
At first glance, "Blood and Black Lace" seems like just another bloody slasher movie. Well, giallo is to slasher movies as fine cheese is to Velveeta, and "Blood and Black Lace" is a perfect example of a giallo, with the arty lighting, graphic violence, colourful sets, and of course those black gloved hands.
The plot is a pretty straightforward whodunnit -- it's not blatantly obvious who the killer is, but seasoned movie fans can probably guess. And while there are gruesome slayings, the killer doesn't just jump out and kill. Bava builds up the tension and fear (which the characters also demonstrate) until it's almost a relief when someone dies.
But one of the biggest necessities for a giallo is visual style. The fashion house is lushly palatial, and the murders are elaborately choreographed chases, with weird lighting and lots of luxurious surroundings. The second murder, for instant, is like hide-and-seek in an antiques store. The only problem is a misogynistic edge, such as when the women have their shirts ripped halfway off.
None of the characters really stand out much -- they're the Models, the Creepy Boyfriends, the Skeptical Police, the Weird Landlady, and a handful of others. So it's a credit to the actresses like Mary Arden and Eva Bartok that they are able to make us feel sorry for their characters.
"Blood and Black Lace" is a beautiful, bloody guilty pleasure, and a perfect example of a giallo horror movie. Good stuff.