1964 - 6 DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO
(BLOOD AND BLACK LACE
Italy-France-West Germany. Literal Title: “6 Women for the Killer”. Released in France as 6 FEMMES POUR L'ASSASSIN, in West Germany as BLUTIGE SEIDE (“Bloody Silk”), and in the UK and U.S. as BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.
Directed by Mario Bava. Written by Bava, Marcello Fondato, and Giuseppe Barilla.
The Story: Models from a high-class fashion house are being murdered by a mysterious masked figure searching for the incriminating diary kept by the first victim.
One of the big advantages of watching these films in their chronological order (more or less) is being able to recognize and track trends - for instance, the effect Hammer’s Gothics had on Continental European producers or the changes in the Krimis, Mabuse, and Bond films as they influenced each other. It also makes it easier to recognize which films among their contemporaries broke genuinely new ground, and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is a prime example of the latter.
I first saw this about a year ago and I was blown away by Mario Bava’s use of color and camera movement – Arrow’s Blu-ray of the restored film is amazing. And now having seen it again, in context with the other movies released the same year (and earlier), it stands in even more stark relief as a bold new step forward. We’ve seen Bava’s (and also Riccardo Freda’s) use of exotic-colored gels to light what would otherwise be spare or ordinary sets and scenes in BLACK SABBATH and HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD (as well as Freda’s MACISTE IN HELL and THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK). But in BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, Bava truly “paints with light” to create a dazzling and almost psychedelic series of images, whether in a brightly-lit fashion studio, a dark maze of rooms and corridors, or a windy and rainy park. It’s one of the most beautifully-shot movies I’ve ever seen. The RED SHOES of European horror.
And compared to what had come before, it seems amazingly modern and new - far more violent and shocking than any other movie in this journey so far. The murders are very, very brutal for 1964 and, of course, in full, lurid color, mixed with a delirious sexual element that even Hammer Films wasn’t reaching for at the time. It would be interesting to study exactly what must have been trimmed by the censors in various countries. Is it misogynistic? Maybe…probably…it certainly set the stage for many a movie to follow that would primarily consist of set-piece murders of beautiful women. It’s credited by some as the first “Slasher” movie, and that just might be true. (Bava would go a lot further a few years later with BAY OF BLOOD / TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE which was basically remade as the first FRIDAY THE 13TH movie).
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE also virtually invented the template and style of the Giallo as a cinematic genre – the above-mentioned mix of eroticism and graphic violence along with a masked killer who prefers a black hat, black coat, and black leather gloves. The killer even wields a straight-razor at one point. Women are stalked as if by an animal in search of its next meal. There’s a mystery to be solved over the course of the story (who’s the killer?) but it takes a back seat to the series of shocking murders. While some say that Bava’s THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH from the previous year is the first true cinematic Giallo, I’d say it starts with BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (with the “Telephone” segment of Bava’s BLACK SABBATH as a teaser - in a nice touch, the same telephone shows up more than once in this film).
But it’s also sort of Gothic at the same time, with the wind-swept tunnel of trees that’s the site of the first killing, the labyrinthine antiques store for the second, and a couple of other large, dark, menacing locations.
Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell headline an ensemble cast featuring several newcomers alongside familiar folk like Dante DiPaolo, Luciano Pigozzi, and Harriet White Medin. Bartok runs a high-end fashion house in Rome with the help of right-hand-man Mitchell. One of her models is murdered by a masked killer who is apparently after her diary, which is instead soon found by one of the other models. Everyone in the fashion house – models, designers, even Bartok and Mitchell – seem to be worried about the contents of the diary, and all the men immediately begin acting as nervously and suspiciously as humanly possible. Sounds like Victim #1 kept a lot of secrets.
But, again, all that just provides a background for the lengthy chase-and-murder scenes. Bava had a hand in the script, which was primarily written by Marcello Fondato, who had co-written BLACK SABBATH. American actress Mary Arden (Victim #3) reportedly worked on the dialogue in the screenplay to make it more natural. The script was in English and the film was shot in English, but the original English audio track with the actors' real voices was thrown out in favor of one featuring Paul Frees voicing most of the male roles.
Cinematography is officially credited to Ubaldo Terzano, who worked on several of Bava’s films as camera operator (and cinematographer on this, BLACK SABBATH, and THE WHIP AND THE BODY) – but the lighting is Bava all the way. Carlo Rustichelli’s music score is not what one would expect in this kind of movie and it’s been stuck in my head for the last 48 hours (he has some 270+ music credits on the IMDB, including a boatful of genre films).
Arrow’s Blu-ray is of a restored print and looks amazing. It offers the Italian audio track with subtitles as well as the English-language track and an audio commentary by Tim Lucas. Below is CineSavant/DVD Savant Glenn Erickson’s in-depth review, which does a better job describing the experience than I can: