Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 12th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1964
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Marcello Fondato, Giuseppe Barilla, Mario Bava
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Claude Dantes, Luciano Pigozzi, Lea Lander, Massimo Righi, Francesca Ungaro, Giuliano Raffaelli
BluRay released: April 13th, 2015
Approximate running times: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region AB / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: £17.99 (UK)
Synopsis: In ordered to cover up a previous crime a masked psychopath must track down the person who is in possession of a diary that has incriminating evidence against them.
Blood and Black Lace was co-written and directed by Mario Bava whose other notable films include, Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Danger: Diabolik and Rabid Dogs. Key collaborators on Blood and Black Lace include camera operator Ubaldo Terzano (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Deep Red) and composer Carlo Rustichelli (The Whip and The Body, Kill Baby, Kill).
The thing that immediately grabs you while watching Blood and Black Lace is its spectacular use of colors. And this extraordinary use of color continues throughout as he uses colors to evoke the mood of what is unfolding onscreen. With this film’s murder set pieces being the prime example of just how potent colors can be to the grander scheme of things.
It should not come as surprise that one of this film’s most durable assets are its murder set pieces. Which for their time were considered extremely brutal. With one death in particular taking center stage and that death would be the scene where the killer presses Peggy one of the models face against a scolding hot furnace.
If the film’s narrative gives you a feeling of Déjà vu that is because it would lay the groundwork for what is now known as a body count film. And from a pacing stand point there is never an issue as this film does a superb job letting the moment of terror settling in before unveiling another shocking revelation. Also when it comes to red herrings this film is arguably one of the best examples of keeping the killers identity under wraps for as long as possible.
Performance wise the cast are all good in their respective roles with the most surprising performance coming from Cameron Mitchell (The Toolbox Murders, Silent Scream) in the role of Max Marian, the manager of the fashion house where the initial murder takes place at. He gives an understated performance that perfectly suits that character he is portraying. Another performance of note is Eva Bartok (The Crimson Pirate) in the role of Contessa Cristina Como, she is the co- manage of the fashion house and Marian’s lover. She gives a superb performance that is in direct contrast to Mitchell’s performance. Also the cast features several recognizable faces like Mary Arden (Kriminal), Lea Lander (Rabid Dogs) and Dante DiPaolo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much).
Where Bava’s previous giallo The Girl Who Knew Too Much, helped usher in a new era in regards to Italian made thrillers. With his next giallo Blood and Black Lace, he would make such a quantum leap that there have been very few giallo’s that have even come close to scratching the surface of what this film was able to achieve.
Blood and Black Lace comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. There is a detailed text piece that details that restoration work that went into this release and this precedes the main feature. For this brand new 2k transfer the film’s original camera negative was used and the end result is breath taking. There has been extensive restoration work done that includes thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches. Also is other areas regarding this releases restoration, image stability and density fluctuation has been improved upon with this release. Colors have never look more vibrant, black and contrast levels look excellent, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound great. There are no issues with distortion or background noises. Range and clarity wise the differences between he two are minimal. Dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. The film’s score sounds appropriately robust and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented throughout. Also included with this release are two subtitle options, English and English SDH.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 24 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), the alternative U.S. opening credits for the film (1 minute 56 seconds), a panel discussion on Mario Bava featuring Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa, recorded at the 2014 Courmayeur Film Festival (11 minutes 21 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), An Appreciation by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani who directed by Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tear’s (10 minutes 35 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles), a Giallo themed short film titled ‘Yellow’ directed by Ryan Haysom (26 minutes 2 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen), The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell – an episode of David Del Valle’s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and presented in full (56 minutes – 25 seconds), ‘Gender and Giallo’ a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo’s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s (38 minutes 1 second), ‘Psycho Analysis’ a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre featuring interviews with directors Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, critics Roberto Curti and Steve Della Casa, and crime novelists Sandrone Dazieri and Carlo Lucarelli (55 minutes 8 seconds – in Italian and English with English subtitles) and a brand new audio commentary with Mario Bava’s biographer Tim Lucas.
Topics discussed in the ‘Panel Discussion’ with Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa include, Argento – talks about their collaboration on Inferno and being impressed with Bava’s filmmaking method’s, Lamberto Bava – remembers a onset moment from Inferno, he also talks about how Italian cinema has always been more cost effective to make then American cinema and how modern Italian would flourish if they had the same resources that the golden age of Italian cinema did and Casa – art-house verse commercial cinema filmmakers and how Bava’s film’s should be held in the same regard as art-house filmmakers like Fellini and Antonioni.
Topics discussed in An Appreciation by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani include, what makes a good giallo and the place of Mario Bava’s within the genre.
The extra titled ‘The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell’ is essentially a career retrospective. They discuss the three films, Erik the Conquer, Blood and Black Lace and Knives of the Avenger that he collaborated with Bava.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Psycho Analysis’ include, logical verse illogical and the importance the answer of the mystery being related to the madness, black gloves and other items that have become staples of the genre, the origins of giallo, it’s meaning and how the word and genre has evolved over the years, notable films and key directors that have worked in the genre, the use of subjective camera shots and they also discuss in depth Blood and Black Lace and it’s influence on the genre.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Tim Lucas include, the look of the film and its striking use of color, the screenplay and how it effectively uses red herrings, the cast, the film’s score and how the runway music featured in this film was actually composed for another film, how the violence depicted in this film was well ahead of its time and other production related stories.
Also Included as part of this combo release are two DVD’s, one DVD contains, the main feature Blood and Black Lace, a trailer for the film, the alternate U.S, opening credits, An Appreciation by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani who directed by Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tear’s, a panel discussion on Mario Bava featuring Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa, recorded at the 2014 Courmayeur Film Festival and an audio commentary with Tim Lucas. The other DVD contains ‘Gender and Giallo’ a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo’s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell – an episode of David Del Valle’s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and ‘Psycho Analysis’ a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre. All of the content of the DVD is in NTSC.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a forty page booklet with cast & crew credits, five essay’s, the first essay titled ‘The Glamour House of Horror’ written by Howard Hughes, the second essay titled ‘Whodunnit? The Usual Suspects’ written by Howard Hughes, the third essay / interview titled ‘Joe Dante Remembers The Genius of Mario Bava’, the fourth essay titled ‘Bava’s Avenger’ written by David Del Valle, the fifth essay titled ‘Yellow: a Neo-Giallo’ written by Anton Bitel, a review for Yellow and information about this films transfer / restoration.
Over the years Blood and Black Lace has had a lackluster history on home video. With the previous best home video release being a German DVD from Anolis Entertainment that was released in 2003 and is now long OOP. This brings us to Arrow Video who has done extensive work on the audio / video ensuring that this is the best this film has ever looked and sounded on home video and if that were not enough there is wealth of extra content included with this exceptional release.
Overall Arrow Video delivers the goods once again with what is arguably the forerunner for the best home video release of the year with their definitive release of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, highly recommended.