Blood and Black Lace Blu-ray Review

The grandfather of all giallo films ushers in a new cinematic language for Italian thrillers

Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is one of the seminal movies of the giallo genre. A widely influential film with its baroque style and unique aesthetic, its impact can still be felt today. Setting the blueprint for later Italian slashers, the 1964 thriller crackles with energy as a masked killer stalks the models of a glamorous fashion house. While not strictly considered the very first giallo, Blood and Black Lace’s sinister tone and stylish visuals are the first landmark entry in the genre, leading to the careers of such names as Dario Argento.

One of the most recognizable names in Italian cinematic history, legendary director Mario Bava crafts a murder thriller built on a distinctively garish color scheme aided by his keen understanding of innovative cinematography. It’s considered some of his finest work in a long and distinguished movie career. Many filmmakers have directly cited this movie’s visual approach as a huge influence on their work.

It’s easy to see why the film stood out so much from its era.

Like the more refined giallo examples that would come along later in the 1970s, the plot is almost a secondary consideration to the pervasive mayhem and swirling suspense. Brutal murder scenes, a litany of questionable characters with shady morals, and a bevy of usually female victims are all key elements in giallo films. Bava ratchets up the tense atmosphere with a dense mystery that begins simply and ends in utter chaos.

Part of Blood and Black Lace’s undeniable appeal to giallo fans is its colorful setting which suffuses the entire narrative. A fancy fashion house owned by Contessa Cristiana (Eva Bartok) is the home to several models. When one of the models, Isabella (Francesca Ungaro), meets with her lover Franco, a known junkie, little does anyone know that soon after a masked killer will brutally end Isabella’s life. The police are called in to investigate and soon suspicion falls on Franco. When Isabella’s diary surfaces, its possible secrets could pose trouble for several people inside the fashion house. The winding narrative will touch on practically every person working at the fashion house, casting doubt on their motives and placing suspicion on everyone. As the bodies continue to mount, the police mistakenly pursue the wrong suspects.

This is powerful filmmaking ahead of its time by Mario Bava. The noted horror director influences a whole generation of early slashers and giallo films with Blood and Black Lace. It’s easy to see why the film stood out so much from its era. The visceral level of storytelling shows a completely different approach to the usual thriller structure that dominated before the 1960s. Some of that power has been slightly lost to history as so many latter films ripped off its formula and actually improved on it. This is essential giallo viewing for those wishing to see the genre’s origins.

Video

Arrow Video has once again proven they are a best friend to the classic restoration of vintage Italian film. This is a beautiful, exclusive remastering effort by them from the original camera negative. Impeccably scanned at 2K resolution in conjunction with Deluxe, it’s a superlative restoration and a revelation.

Bava’s Blood and Black Lace simply could not be improved in 1080P video. It breathes with authentic film texture and wonderful, accurate color saturation. This is a top-notch presentation of the original, uncut Italian version. It runs 88 minutes and fluidly encoded with perfect AVC video. It retains the proper theatrical aspect ratio 1.66:1 intended by Bava himself.

Bava made his mark on cinema with a crafted, highly unusual visual approach and it looks absolutely stunning here. Blood and Black Lace’s vivid color palette comes with crisp black levels and a classically deep contrast. The unfiltered transfer shows incredible levels of fine detail and flawless grain reproduction, transparently preserved by the stout compression.

The negative remains in fantastic shape and Arrow Video did everything possible to bring out its inherent beauty in a perfect, faithful transfer. This is the identical transfer used on Arrow Video’s UK edition and remains one of the best catalog releases available today. It receives my highest possible stamp of approval.

Audio

Arrow offers both the original English and Italian soundtracks in fine-sounding 1.0 PCM options. There is no definitive “original” dub in this case but I strongly recommend the English dub. It’s one of the best English dubs I’ve heard from this period and the script was actually written in English. Both offer decent fidelity in smooth quality with clean, intelligible dialogue. Apparently the audio was remastered as well in this restoration.

The English dub comes with optional English subtitles in a white font. The Italian dub comes with a completely different set of English subtitles, likely a translation of the Italian dialogue.

Extras

Arrow Video loads this set up with a newly recorded commentary by Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas and a knock-out, new documentary on Bava and gialli that runs nearly an hour in length. It’s an impressive offering and essential viewing for horror fans. Michael Mackenzie offers up a 38-minute documentary on giallo films with a heavy focus on ones from the early Seventies.

Even as someone that has seen most of Arrow Video’s prior giallo releases, much of this content was completely fresh and interesting. This is one of the better, all-around packages put together by them in recent memory and offers an attractive value. It is coded for Regions A and B.

Steelbook fans should know that option is available to them for pre-order, but I recommend getting in your orders as soon as possible. Arrow Video’s steelbooks have a nasty habit of going out of print very quickly. The combo pack includes most everything on DVD as well.

  • New audio commentary by Mario Bava’s biographer Tim Lucas
  • Psycho Analysis (55:08 in HD) – A new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre featuring interviews with directors Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Lamberto Bava (Demons), screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark) critics Roberto Curti and Steve Della Casa, and crime novelists Sandrone Dazieri and Carlo Lucarelli
  • An appreciation by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (10:35 in HD) – The creative duo behind Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
  • Yellow (26:02 in HD) – The much-acclaimed neo-giallo by Ryan Haysom & Jon Britt [Blu-ray exclusive]
  • Gender and Giallo (38:01 in HD) – 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 (56:25 in SD) – An episode of David Del Valle s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and presented in full
  • The alternative US opening titles, sourced from Joe Dante s private print and scanned in 2K especially for this release
  • Original theatrical trailer (03:24 in HD)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes, author of Cinema Italiano and Mario Bava: Destination Terror, an interview with Joe Dante, David Del Valle on Cameron Mitchell and more, all illustrated with archive stills and posters

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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  • Koroshiya1

    Thanks for the review. I became a giallo-fan since I started collecting Blu-rays and this is one of the few I still haven’t seen. After reading your A/V portions, I now can hardly wait for it to arrive in june. Looks like it will most definitely will be worth it.

  • It’s less lurid than the giallo films of the 1970s but Bava’s distinctive visuals make up for it.