With the recent remake of Suspiria, I’ve been rewatching many of my Italian Giallo films. Although this distinct film style originates in Germany, it was the Italians who really took it away, and in no short thanks to Maria Bava and his film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) – a not so subtle nod to Hitchcock. The word “Giallo” translates as “yellow” and was inspired by popular paperbacks that were Italy’s version of American pulp. These murder/mystery novels often featured lurid covers with women being terrorized by a masked killer. Though the stylish influence of Giallo films can still be glimpsed today. e.g. The Neon Demon (2016), their finest examples were in Italy from the mid ’60s to mid-’80s. Rather than just go back and watch my favorites such as Deep Red (1975), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Tenebrae (1982), and New York Ripper (1982) I decided to track down ones I’d never seen before. Thanks to Arrow Video and their recently restored issue of Mario Bava’s colorful follow up to The Girl Who Knew Too Much, 1964’s Blood and Black Lace.
One of the more obvious signals that this film is a Giallo film lies with its title. With the exception of the great Dario Argento. who often used single word titles, most were rather wordy and included animals, colors, or numbers – or a combination of the three such as Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). From the moment I popped Blood and Black Lace into my Blu-ray player (yes, this man still loved physical media) I was awestruck by its stunning cinematography. This, coupled by its percussive bossa nova soundtrack, let me know early on that this brand of horror would be anything but subtle.
The story, filmed over six weeks in Rome, centers around the Christian Haute Couture Fashion Salon where beautiful models are being slaughtered by a masked maniac. This movie has all the greatest features of Giallo such as vivid Color, a fast pace, gore, gliding camera shots, and moody lighting. The killings are also indicative of the genre as the killer wears gloves (in this case, a taloned gauntlet) and many of the murders happen via his/her own point of view.
In 2016 Arrow released Blood and Black Lace on Blu-ray in the form of a stylish looking Steelbook as well as a splashy 2-disc Special Edition. But which is better? Let’s break it down…
The movie itself – In both releases, you will receive the new 2K restoration of the film (and it’s stunning) along with both the Italian and English soundtrack and newly translated subtitles. Winner: A Tie!
Cover Design – Both are attractive but I actually prefer the more colorful plastic version. Winner: Special Edition.
Bonus Features – In the case of the limited edition Steelbook, you only get the movie. I should mention that despite being listed as “limited,” it’s still readily available at this date, a full two years after its release. The additional disc offered in Special Edition version has all the extras you can’t see if you buy the Steelbook. This includes a brand new documentary on the film called “Psycho-Analysis,” colorful booklet, as well as the alternative US opening taken from Joe Dante’s private print (and restore-scanned for this release). Winner: No doubt about it, fans looking for the goods must go with the Special Edition! There is currently only a $5 difference between the two, with the Steelbook the more expensive. Assuming you haven’t purchased both releases (like I did) I believe the Special Edition is the right choice. Not only is it cheaper but it will help you become the master of your film discussion group.
And Blood and Black Lace is one movie worth discussing.