Movie Discussion: Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace [Sei donne per l’assassino] (1964)

  • Monthly Theme: Giallosei-donne-poster
  • The Film: Blood and Black Lace
  • Country of origin: Italy
  • Italian title: Sei donne per l’assassino
  • Date of Italian release: March 14, 1964
  • Date of U.S. release: April 7, 1965
  • Studio: Emmepi Cinematografica, et al.
  • Distributer: Allied Artists Pictures (dubbed)
  • Domestic Gross: ?
  • Budget: $150,000
  • Director: Mario Bava
  • Producer: Alfredo Mirabile & Massimo Patrizi
  • Screenwriters: Guiseppe Barilla, Mario Bava & Marcello Fondato
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematographers: Ubaldo Terzano & Mario Bava
  • Make-Up/FX: Emilio Trani
  • Music: Carlo Rustichelli
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Exploitation star Cameron Mitchell (The Toolbox Murders, The Swarm, etc.).
  • Other notables?: No.
  • Awards?: n/a
  • Tagline: “Guaranteed! The 8 greatest shocks ever filmed!”
  • The Lowdown: Considered to be the precursor to the modern American slasher film (with it’s emphasis on “body count”), Blood and Black Lace may be one of the most influential Italian films of all time. It single-handedly created the “giallo” genre that directors like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and Luciani Ercoli would go on to perfect. After the huge successes of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath, Bava began Blood and Black Lace as a West-German-funded, “Edgar Wallace”-style mystery picture (there was a mini-fad of those in Germany during the 1960s), but Bava’s frustrations with the cookie-cutter nature of the genre led him to improvise and adapt its conventions for his own purposes. He was especially interested in elaborating on the “stalk-and-kill” sequences, emphasizing both the terror and the sexuality of the proceedings. Bava often worked as his own lighting designer and camera operator (at one point strapping the camera to a red child’s wagon to get a tracking shot). The movie concerns an Italian fashion salon that is rocked when one of its models turns up murdered. But the plot thickens when it turns out the murdered model left behind an incriminating secret diary (á la Laura Palmer) and soon the rest of the models are being picked off one by one by a masked killer desperate to get his – or her – hands on the diary.

If you haven’t seen Blood and Black Lace our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Kristine: Well, I loved my first giallo. Loved loved loved.

Sean: I don’t even know where to start, there’s so much I want to talk about…

Kristine: Let’s start where my love started: the opening title sequence.

Sean: I know, right?

Kristine: Posing for your life.

Sean: Why do you think the opening credits “worked”?

Kristine: Because they were part of this over-the-top thing… the music, the lighting, the palette, the hothouse-flower, insane posing. It all worked together in some crazy way.

Sean: Yeah, I loved how theatrical the credits are and how they really establish the movie’s world as a totally constructed space that will operate by its own rules, with its own sense of decorum and behavior.

This is what happens when L.A.R.P.ers try to hold a “key party.”

Kristine: I mean, don’t you agree that contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race need to re-create that opening sequence for a challenge? It was very “drag queen” take on the game of Clue.

Sean: Yes. Ru would love this fucking movie

Kristine: She must know it. I can hear her saying the title now: “BLOODand BLACK LACE!”

Sean: I mean, just… the whole thing is so, so Euro-sleazy. The music is amazing. All of it.

Kristine: Agreed. I loved the seedy glamour and I loved the music. I also really, really loved how it was basically a Scooby-Doo mystery (especially the plot)… but super gory.

Sean: It was such a Scooby mystery. Like when Cristina pulls off the mask to reveal her face? That was a Scooby-Doo moment. Also when it turns out to be two killers instead of one? So Scooby!

Kristine: Exactly. She pulls off the mask and her hair tumbles down. Corridors hidden by revolving bookshelves? Everyone giving each other shifty looks? Tons of red herrings?

Sean: Joy. So I had described giallo films as “Eurotrash Hitchcock Gorefests.” Now that you’ve watched one, was that an accurate description?

Kristine: Yes, that is a perfect description. Though I wasn’t expecting all the glamour. All the actors were giving serious face face glamour glamour.

Sean: That’s the ‘Eurotrash” part. And also, I mean, if it’s going to be set in an Italian fashion house… Then they are obligated to serve some Italo-glam realness.

Kristine: My one teeny tiny complaint is that I wouldn’t have minded more fashionista stuff.

Sean: What do you mean?

Some needs to remind The Girl – gay chicks never go “full shoulder” in the evenings.

Kristine: I wanted to see more runway weirdness. I really loved the scenes at the fashion show, when Linda has Isabella’s diary in her purse on the table, and everyone is giving everyone else the fisheye and it’s all framed in the purse’s handle.

Sean: I thought that was so Hitchcockian and so perfect, the way they framed that whole purse sequence.

Kristine: The purse sequence was really, really great. My other teeny tiny complaint is that the men didn’t even come close to the ladies in terms of hotness… though I guess that is probably highly accurate Euro-fashion-house realness.

Sean: Yes the guys were all gross compared to the stunningness of all the ladies. Except maybe Marco was semi-cute.

Kristine: Marco was the epileptic, right?

Sean: Yes Marco was the epileptic and he was also the only even mildly cute one. I loved how his epileptic seizure was played like a psychotic break, not a medical condition.

Kristine: “My pills! My pills!”

Sean: I loved all of the Italian tempestuousness., because I constantly invoke that to excuse my behavior with my boyfriend. Whenever we watch Italian movies and everyone on-screen is going overboard with the hand gestures, my boyfriend is like, “Um, so that’s where you get it!”

Kristine: Does he tell you to drink a can of marinara sauce and get over it?

Sean: He’s like, “Here’s some anisette and a sprig of basil. Now shut it!” But Marco’s howl of unhinged madness as he was carried off? Love it.

Kristine: “Mamma mia! It’s in my blood!” He is great, but so is Cristina at the end when she reveals all of her reasons for committing murder.

Sean: Yes, Cristina going full hagsploitation was amazing. And I want to discuss the ending of the movie and Cristina’s ultimate fate.

When I was a kid I’d also hold my breath and go underwater at bathtime, though my accidents weren’t red.

Kristine: Who was your favorite lady?

Sean: It’s really hard to choose, but my fave was Cristina, obviously.  Second fave was Peggy. Tao-Lin was also cool. She was the most “retro bombshell.”

Kristine: Cristina was my fave, too. Now that I’m asking you this, I realize it’s a weird question since, except for Cristina, none of the ladies get any characterization. I mean, there is basically zero character building, am I right?

Sean: I think that’s fair to say. I think Bava was much more interested in just the pure aesthetics of the stalk-and-kill sequences more than fleshing out the characters at all. But having seen it a few times, they do have basic character traits that differentiate them. Nicole is the selfish bitch. Peggy is the good girl. Greta is the useless dishrag. Tao-Lin is the confident bombshell.

Kristine: Tao-Lin is the dyke, right?

Sean: Why would you call her a dyke?

Kristine: Because she is.

Sean: Why?

Kristine: She is the man-hating dyke. I mean, I think she is gorgeous, too, but I think she is characterized as a total lesbian.

Sean: So shorn Anna is a heterosexual symbol in Martyrs but glamorous Tao-Lin, because she has short hair, is a dyke? Real weird.

Kristine: I was going to say the same thing to you. And it’s not because of her short hair….

Sean: You are like, a secret homophobe.

Kristine: How come you can call movie ladies lezzies and I can’t?

An offshoot of the furry, the “posie” is someone who gets amorous with poseable department store mannequins…

Sean: Because there is literally nothing in the movie to suggest she’s Sapphic. She’s just not romantically paired with a man. So that means “dyke”? Weird.

Kristine: I am not saying I would think someone is a dyke for those reasons, but I do think the movie does.

Sean: Explain and convince, please.

Kristine: She has no romantic partner, as you said. She is physically strong, while all the other ladies are weaklings. She is not scared. She is glad the men are gone when all the other ladies are being like, “Why can’t our men be here to protect us???”

Sean: Uh, Greta is the only one who says anything close to that.

Kristine: And I do think she is styled to appear strong-looking, and not girly like the other ladies. Also her general exoticness codes her as “other.” I am 1,000% convinced.

Sean: Ugh. I mean, I guess I have no problem with her being a lesbian in theory, but it is homophobic.

Kristine: Of whom?

Sean: To add up all those reasons as to why she’s a dyke.

Kristine: Well, the movie does it, not me.

Sean: I mean, that line of thinking is literally being so strict about the bounds of gender that any deviation means you’re a clamdigger.

Kristine: She was also clearly the outsider. It seemed like she was innocent of all the shenanigans that the others were ensnared in, which was why she was not on the murderer’s kill list for most of the movie. She was only killed in order for one killer to frame the other. Her death is the most circumstantial of all the murders. And I just want to add that at one point I really thought the killers were going to frame Tao-Lin because, oh, she did it because she was a homicidal dyke who was in love with all these other models or something.

Sean: I guess I could agree that there’s something queer about her, but she’s not definitely a lesbian. Do you agree that she’s the most “rockabilly/Kat von D/indie rock burlesque” of all the girls?

Tom Cruise’s personal assistant when he found out his wifepet got her own NYC apartment

Kristine: Oh, absolutely. Her look is “retro-bad-girl realness.”

Sean: She is the kind of mid-century icon that certain kinds of women today want to re-appropriate. She’s little bit “Rosie the Riveter,” a little bit European underwear model.

Kristine: I agree. She’s very Betty Page. And I do think she was the most beautiful. Her face when she is being drowned? Stunning.

Sean: Big, curvy, feminine but strong. I agree that she’s the most “beautiful” of all the girls, with Cristina a close second.

Kristine: I agree.

Sean: But I do love Peggy. I love how she’s a little firecracker. But damn does she get her ass beat…

Kristine: She’s the one who gets her face melted right?

Sean: Yes. Peggy steals and burns the diary, is the only one who is sad that Isabella was murdered, and is the one Marco is in love with. She loans her car to Nicole, the two-timing bitch.

Kristine: That face-melting scene was cray-cray. It sounds so cheesy but when she pulls off the mask and sees who her killer is and her terror is redoubled… that was great.

Sean: Yes that was great, her recognition. I found the violence against women in the movie to be pretty shocking actually. Very brutal and rough.

Kristine: They are really thrown around like dolls, which makes little sense when you realize what a little weasel the killer is. I also was mad when Tao-Lin couldn’t fight off Cristina… There isn’t a whole lot of fighting back in this movie.

If you had a red phone like this in the ’80s, you were sexy. If you had a red phone that was also a giant pair of lips in the ’80s, you were a future cat lady. How are your cats?

Sean: It was weird how they cut right in to Tao-Lin already being killed. You’d think they would milk Tao-Lin in her underwear for all it was worth.

Kristine: But they did manage to get every victim in a bra shot which is… impressive, I guess.

Sean: Hilarious. Is this movie sexy?

Kristine: Hmmm. I mean, the house itself is seductive. But I do not think it is sexy.

Sean: Wow. I think it’s like, incredibly sexy.

Kristine: Well, let me rephrase. You remember right after we watched it and I texted you that I wanted to put on a fedora and trenchcoat and slink around Italy?

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: It certainly is seductive in it’s mood, and it makes you want to be there. I guess what stops me from saying it is sexy is that I don’t find any of the characters that compelling. The whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Does that make sense?

Sean: Sure, it does. I was deeply envious of Greta’s car… That dashboard?

Kristine: It was groovy, for sure.

Sean: I also really admired the movie’s focus and point of view. It restrains itself to behind the scenes. Like, in the “purse sequence” we were talking about earlier, I love that the camera doesn’t follow Nicole out onto the runway, but instead stays in the back of the house with the rest of the models and designers.

Kristine: I agree (though I didn’t think about it until now). We only see the POV of the world of the house… and a tiny bit of the police. That is so cool. It really makes everything feel insular and claustrophobic. There is no external element of threat, it’s all internal.

Sean: I also love how like they’re all roommates and stuff, and just the whole world of the movie is so…

Don’t you know, Daphne? Men want to see the whites of your eyes, not your vile disgusting PUPILS!

Kristine: Roommates and lovers…

Sean: …I mean, can we talk about the set design and the interiors? The antique house, the old villas…

Kristine: Certainly, but one more thing first, relating to what you were saying. When Tao-Lin says she feels safe going back to her apartment because all the men from the fashion house were locked up, and therefore there was no threat? I liked how there was never any pretense that the killer was some stranger. You knew it was one of them. So ScoobyDoo Mysteries, but also cool and much more menacing than a random maniac.

Sean: Yes. God I have so much to say. Just from a stylistic point-of-view, I was really struck by how Bava’s camera stays on the killer after Nicole’s death in the antique store and we are forced to watch him like, rifle through her purse and drag her body away and throw the suit of armor on her (!). This is so important to the feel of the movie, and what separates it from the American slashers that came later, which of course would never “reveal” so much about the killer. I think this feeds into how I actually found the masked killer in this movie to be more creepy and unsettling than the “classic” American slasher-killers (Jason, Michael, et al.).

Kristine: Can you explain what you mean?

Sean: I mean that in U.S. slashers, the camera is always hiding the killer from us. We are often forced into the killer’s P.O.V., like in The Burning or Friday the 13th (and this almost never happens in Blood and Black Lace), as a way of blurring our sense of identification (between victims and killer) but also as a way of postponing the moment when we see the killer. But I actually found it scarier to be able to see the masked killer, in this movie, doing things, having a motive, having a goal.

Kristine: I agree that this killer was scary. The “no-face” mask is scary.

Sean: Right? So creepy and awesome and Scooby-Doo. American slashers work to make their killers less human, almost like predatory animals. Like, Jason kills because he is Jason, and any other attempt at assigning him a motive (revenge for his mother’s death, etc.) is really just slapdash and besides-the-point. In the giallo, the killer has a motive, a reason for killing, it’s just that we’re not sure what it is. That is what will come to be revealed by the end – not just what the killer looks like, but what drives them. I found that to be much more effective here, watching the killer commit crimes and wondering – God, what does he want? What is he doing? Like, when the killer writes in the like elegant notebook to Peggy? The presence of “an intelligence” behind the mask, that wants something, that is thinking, is very creepy to me. Much creepier than the blankness that radiates off the killer in, say, Halloween or the sequels to Friday the 13th.

She’s pretending her chin is the TOP of her head.

Kristine: Well, sure and that brings the giallo more in line with the iconic “murder-mystery” or police thriller, the sub-genres that the giallo most obviously comes out of. We get to see the killer be frustrated, deal with unexpected problems with their plans, work towards a goal, etc. American slashers do seem to be defined by the killer having no motive or that old chestnut: revenge. Ho hum. I liked this killer having a goal.

Sean: Did you also notice that when the killer writes “Where is the diary” on his pad to Peggy, he writes in German?

Kristine: Yeah, what the hell?

Sean: I think that’s just partly because this movie was financed by West Germany and was intended to be released there to cash in on the popularity of Edgar Wallace-style thrillers. But yes, you’re right that this is a blend of police procedural, whodunit and slasher gorefest and I love that.

Kristine: It’s all those things plus soap opera. Super grimy fashion soap opera.

Sean: I mean, my other basic description of giallo is “slashers for grownups.” All the characters are adults and this takes place in a world of adults. But also a world of elegance and “maturity,” not adolescent slasher milieus like the “summer camp” or the “prom” or the “babysitting job.”

Kristine: Yes. Cocaine and adultery and fashion.

Sean: Right, and how Greta’s boyfriend is like, a penniless Marquis?

Kristine: Ha ha, right.

Sean: Fucking total European “Old World” decadence.

Kristine: This movie is basically perfect entertainment.

The killer’s nickname is “Panty Shield,” though some fans call him “Control Top.”

Sean: I want this to be a tv show.

Kristine: Yeah. This is what Aaron Spelling’s Models Inc. should have been.

Sean: So I really want to talk aesthetics with you… One of the main differences between this movie and the slashers that we watched is just the whole milieu right? Slashers are so grimy, but this is all about bourgeois splendor.

Kristine: Yes, and this was so lush and decadent. Absolutely.

Sean: It’s all beautiful, old, lavish, almost rococo interiors. And the whole world of the movie is aged.

Kristine: I mean, compare this shit to the Martyrs dungeons, or Leatherface‘s lair.

Sean: Well, Martyrs was like slick, clinical, sterile. But I’m thinking of the world of Maniac vs. this movie.

Kristine: And just the expanse of this world… I loved Isabella running along the extensive grounds.

Sean: Right? Isabella and her amazing red coat.

Kristine: And when Nicole is murdered in the antique shop – those scenes were crazy, with the candy-colored light from outside? That light makes it quite terrifying.

Sean: That is my absolute favorite sequence in the entire film. The lighting is amazing. The pulsing green from the strip club next door, the patches of pure violet and pure fuchsia…

Kristine: I also liked the crazy, creepy painted mannequins everywhere in the fashion house.

Sean: Those red mannequins with severe bangs.

Kristine: Yep.

Sean: And then one of them tumbles over for no reason when Cristina is alone and it is like, never explained.

Kristine: I bet Karl Lagerfield’s salon is creepy as fuck. And Versace’s. Seriously! I mean…

Italian models are wont to stand about group-reading Tolstoy before they give runway.

Sean: I also want those red phones.

Kristine: Oh god I loved the red phones, too. Cristina had the best outfits, I thought. And she was Barbarella gorgeousness.

Sean: So that actress, Eva Bartok, was Hungarian and was like forced by fascists to marry a Hungarian officer during WWII, when she was only like 15.

Kristine: !!!!!!!!!!

Sean: Then she got the marriage annulled after the war.

Kristine: Are you serious?

Sean: Then she had a daughter in 1957, while married to her fourth husband, and 20 years later she was like, “Oh, fyi your dad is Frank Sinatra, we had an affair.”

Kristine: I love this woman. Who is the daughter?

Sean: Just a lady. Nobody famous.

Kristine: Wowza.

Sean: She also got ovarian cancer in the 1950s and claimed that her cancer was miraculously healed during a trip to an Indonesian New Age cult. Anyway, Blood and Black Lace was one of her last movies. She quit the biz to raise her daughter.

Three-pronged breadstick grabber accident.

Kristine: How was this movie received?

Sean: It was a bomb in Italy, but did decently in West Germany. It had trouble getting released in the U.S. because A.I.P. (the company that funded and distributed Witchfinder General) refused to distribute this in US/UK markets because it was “too perverse for the kiddie trade.”

Kristine: Interesting…

Sean: Yeah so some other little distribution house released it in the U.S., but it sort of just came and went. Bava had had two huge hits, and thus had total creative control over this movie and it didn’t do very well…

Kristine: Well, having complete creative control definitely allowed Bava to create an entire world. Everything works together so well to create a strong, almost suffocating mood. Were his previous hits giallo movies?

Sean: No because this is one of the the first giallos remember?

Kristine: Right. Duh. Is Cristina a feminist hero?

Sean: Well, that depends on how you read the ending. But let me say this. The Italian title is Sei donne per l’assassino. “Six Women for the Murderer.” But the ending really twists that title around and reneges on the sixth woman. Cristina appears to fall to her death in the fountain (which, remember, is the first thing we see after the credit sequence, when the sign for the salon falls down and reveals the fountain) but then she doesn’t die and manages to kill Max. We have two possible ways to read the very ending. 1) Cristina is overcome by her injuries and indeed dies draped over Max’s body or 2) Cristina has merely passed out and will be revived by the paramedics and pin the whole thing on Max and live on as a fabulous fashion diva.

Kristine: I agree. I loved when the gun went off and you weren’t sure who was dead.

Sean: So how do you read the ending?

The Easter egg hunt goes awry when Greta finds…. really bad acne.
Kristine: I think even if she dies, she is still, in a way, the winner, because she sees the truth about Max and is no longer fooled and kills him. He won’t get the fashion house or any of her wealth. So I read it as a victory.

Sean: Yes, I love how she wins over Max. But isn’t the movie, overall, a bit afraid of women? I feel like Cristina is also a kind of “black widow” character – a doomed woman marked by her husband’s death.

Kristine: Absolutely, her killing her husband makes her doomed from the get-go. I also think the movie depicts all of the ladies as being willing to screw each other over for men.

Sean: True, except for Peggy, remember. She’s devastated by Isabella’s murder. I don’t know, there’s something about how the movie beats and brutalizes women in their silky underthings that feels like… this movie is afraid of women’s sexuality.

Kristine: The ladies put themselves in jeopardy because of their sexuality, that’s for sure, because of their ties to these men. Well, except for Tao-Lin, of course. This movie certainly isn’t complimentary about the mechanics of heterosexuality. But I think it is interesting that the police never even consider that the killer could be a lady. When the menfolk are locked up and then Greta is murdered, they are dumbfounded. “How can this be?” Cristina is able to keep on killing when Max is locked up because she is a lady, thus not a suspect.

Sean: Who did you think the killer was?

Kristine: I didn’t know. Except I knew it wasn’t epilepsy boy, because I have watched Scooby-Doo before.

Sean: Well here’s the thing about the gender politics of this movie, for me. The killer is actually weirdly hermaphroditic. For almost the whole movie, we don’t know the gender of the masked killer and it turns out it was “both.”

It’s hide-and-go-seek, not hide-and-go-commit-domestic-violence.

Kristine: Right.

Sean: Like, remember when Peggy and Marco arrive at her apartment, and the housekeeper is there but it is shot so that for a minute we think she could be the killer because she is in a trenchcoat? The trenchcoat masks gender in the movie. It is equally masculine and feminine (long and flowy like a dress, angular and tailored like a suit).

Kristine: Yes, right. Also the featureless face of the killer is genderless.

Sean: I mean, the BIG difference between gialli and all other slashers/thrillers is how often the killer is a woman. I mean that is unheard of in slasher-land.

Kristine: That also reads as really soapy to me, where the villains are often ladies. Susan Lucci…

Sean: This is like, total proto-Almodóvar.

Kristine: Oh yeah. Totally. Between the ladies and the use of color and interiors… Brilliant call. The scene where Cristina was drunk and wanting to kiss Max and he was dismissing her – that was so Italian melodrama to me, and you’re right, it could also come straight out of an Almodóvar movie.

Sean: But what’s crazy here is we have a very feminine killer (Cristina) depicted in masculine or at least powerfully androgynous ways. She “moves like a man.” I mean, I think we assume the masked figure is male right from the get-go, and it often is, but then sometimes…. it isn’t. I love that genderfuck.

Kristine: I agree, though I do think the movie cheats a bit. Like I said, Tao-Lin would have been able to fight Cristina off, I think. I mean, in Friday the 13th, when the killer is revealed to be a woman, it still makes sense since she is a big, strong woman.

Sean: Yes but Mrs. Voorhees is also “post-sexual” (ie. an old maid).

Kristine: Cristina as a brutal killer is a little harder to buy, but I do love the conceit.

Hello, and welcome to my gathered fabric.

Sean: I also was thinking about how much of the movie is focused on ruminating about how all the men are potentially the killer. The entire movie, every single man is made to look hella guilty. Then I was thinking about Italy as a place, and how women are more vulnerable to being objectified there. Like, catcalled at in the street, groped, etc. I mean, remember how you were a bit put off from Maniac for basically threatening women that the world was out to get them?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: I think this movie, for most of it, seems like it’s predicated on the same idea: Men are dangerous and want to hurt you. But then it turns all that on its head right?

Kristine: I agree, but I still think the movie says that Cristina’s “badness” is caused by an evil male force: Max’s influence.

Sean: Right. Remember when the detective is trying to figure out the murderer’s motive and says “Perhaps the sight of beauty makes him lose control of himself and kill!”

Kristine: Ha ha, that’s right. Oy vey.

Sean: But he’s so wrong. That’s not at all the motive.The motives are very banal and pragmatic actually.

Kristine: Money.

Sean: That and keeping the original crime a secret, the murder of Cristina’s husband.

Kristine: After all that sexiness, such an ugly and base motive. I like that, it’s like no amount of glamour and beauty can cover up human nature, which is gross.

Sean: Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard this honey but… money is sexy. I mean, this brings us back to those baroque interiors, all the signs of wealth, the lavish décor, the expensive artifacts…

Kristine: That salon is lust-worthy. Would you kill for it?

Sean: Yes. And for the Marquis’ country house where Greta gets murdered.

Should I stab you with my bangs or my cheekbones?

Kristine: That place was amazing.

Sean: Can I just say: how fucking useless was Greta? She was hilariously, campily useless.

Kristine: Greta sucked. I loved when she begged the “strong” ladies to stay with her, and they were like, “Nope!” and kicked her out and made her go to the country home to get killed. Ha ha on Greta.

Sean: And Cristina was like, “I killed her because she was alone. Duh!”

Kristine: Yep.

Sean: What about when the killer is chucking all the fucking antiques at Nicole? Like, hurling Mesopotamian spears. Pushing over crates of Ming dynasty china. That like, medieval glaive that he kills her with? First off, those three prongs were so obviously not sharp at all…

Kristine: I know, right??? That is seriously what it looks like where I work. That is what working in an auction house is like. I almost cut my co-worker Ralph’s face off with a spear the other day.

Sean: I love imagining you in the Texas version of that antique store fondling spears.

Kristine: Well, it happens on a daily basis. I don’t work in that department but they are on my floor so I have to like, push racks of spears out of my way to get to the Xerox machine.

Sean: I love it.

Kristine: And, like, crates of Ladybird Johnson’s china and Marilyn Monroe’s underwear.

Sean: And…. Mario Bava’s tube socks.

Kristine: Yep.

Sean: Can I just say that Bava was a true battlefield grindhouse filmmaker. He did all the lighting, all the set design, all the camera work, everything. He did it all.

It is an Italian custom to pass masticated food back and forth between the mouths of lovers.

Kristine: I was really impressed, like I said, with the unity of his vision. Very impressed.

Sean: He had no budget for a dolly so he fucking strapped the camera to a child’s red wagon and pushed it along for tracking shots.

Kristine: Was he all giallo or did he do other genres of film?

Sean: Have you ever heard of peplum?

Kristine: No.

Sean: Poliziotteschi?

Kristine: No.

Sean: Macaroni combat?

Kristine: No.

Sean: Spaghetti western?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Well those were all big Italian genres back in the day and directors often worked in all of them. Some specialized in one, but still played around in others. And so, Bava did it all: sword-and-sandals (that’s peplum), crime movies (poliziotteschi)… But his three big classics are Gothic horror. Then he made like two or three classic giallos. I mean, he fucking invented the giallo with this movie and then made a couple more in the late 1960s and 1970s. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Barbara Steele, but he made her an International star.

Kristine: She’s beautiful.

Sean: Yeah. And she was a fucking maneater.

Kristine: Love it.

Sean: The movie that made her a star was Black Sunday.

Kristine: Men love witchy women. Truth talk.

Hello, I am old.

Sean: So are you more excited for your trip to Italy now?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: So I want to ask you just a couple questions. Was this anything like you thought? What did you expect a giallo to be like?

Kristine: I didn’t have a ton of expectations, but I guess I thought less soapy and more grim. I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was.

Sean: Interesting.

Kristine: I liked the glam-ness and the lady-centric-ness and the histronics. You know how the non-stop soundtrack of ladies screaming bugged me in Witchfinder General? Well, in Blood and Black Lace it worked.

Sean: Right. Do you prefer this genre, at least so far, to the slasher?

Kristine: I do prefer it to slasher. I can’t get fashion and interior design tips from slasher movies.

Sean: I seriously want to show an architect this movie and be like, “So build me a house like this movie.”

Kristine: Just move to Italia baby. The Euros are in a crisis so you can scoop one up cheap.

Sean: So there are three “masters” of the giallo, and Mario Bava is the first but not the foremost. The foremost is Dario Argento. We’ll be watching his first giallo later this month. It is called The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Aren’t these names to die for?

Kristine: Love it.

Sean: Have you ever heard of Argento?

Kristine: Yes. He had his own section at Casa Video.

Sean: He is infamous for filming rape scenes starring his daughter, Asia.

Kristine: Um. Wow.

Sean: They’re European. Just fyi, Asia Argento is fascinating and fierce woman, and she’s been very candid in interviews being like “Yes, my dad’s a freak and our relationship is odd. I had a miserable childhood.” It’s like a barely more functional Ryan/Tatum O’Neal situation.

Kristine: Interesting…

Ratings Roundup

The Girls Rating: Masterpiece!

The Freak’s Rating: Masterpiece!

11 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace [Sei donne per l’assassino] (1964)

  1. This is one of my favourites. Love your take on it.

    It’s interesting that you compare it to Almodóvar, because there’s actually a clip of Blood and Black Lace (specifically the murder of Tao-Lin) at the beginning of Almodóvar’s movie Matador. I won’t give away the context, because it’s gold.

    Are you guys planning to watch any Jess Franco movies?

    1. I can’t believe I missed the Almodóvar/Bava connection! I’ll have to rewatch Matador – its been years… I am a huge, ravenous Almodóvar fan.
      In terms of Franco – I don’t know his stuff very well and would LOVE any recommendations on where to start. I’d like to do a Eurotrash month eventually and watch some Franco, some Jean Rollin, some Paul Naschy… For Franco the only ones I know are The Diabolical Dr. Z and The Awful Dr. Orloff…..

      1. I’ve been meaning to write something on Franco since he died a couple of weeks ago. He is my guiltiest pleasure. You’ve already seen the best two of his early gothic horror movies. I usually recommend Vampyros Lesbos as entry-level Franco. It’s sort of an inverted version of Dracula with a female Dracula & Jonathan Harker, set in bright sunlight instead of night etc, and it’s a good introduction to how his movies can be stylish and slapdash at the same time. Other good Franco movies to watch early include A Virgin Among the Living Dead, Venus in Furs (if you can tolerate ’60s “hip” dialogue), Eugenie De Sade (from 1970 and starring Soledad Miranda – not to be confused with his numerous other Eugenie movies) and maybe the late-period Faceless, from 1987. You might also want to check out Franco’s only slasher movie, Bloody Moon, as that’s also excerpted in Matador. Franco is very much an acquired taste, so be warned.

        1. This is great insider info – thanks! I think Virgin Among the Living Dead is streaming on Netflix… I’ll start there. But Vampyros Lesbos sounds kind of amazing. I actually have Bloody Moon somewhere but just never watched it and I had no idea it was Franco.

        2. I just watched Vampyros Lesbos… It was, um. Something. I have to admit I was profoundly bored watching it, though there occasional moments of brilliance in the visuals or the staging of some weirdo moment. I also loved the old vampire hunter begging Nadine to turn him. But dear lord those endless burlesque performances…. I might need to be drunk to appreciate this.