In lesser hands, Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace could easily have been a stagey and stiff whodunnit. The plot's premise is simple: a model is killed by a mysterious masked figure on her way to a fashion house show and leaves behind a diary that could potentially incriminate her employers, colleagues and former partner - further intrigue and a murder spree ensue. The film is instead credited with genre innovation (it established a number of Giallo conventions) and has influenced many an auteur, including Martin Scorsese.
Murder scenes (ludicrously elaborate and yet strangely attractive set pieces) become a focal point, almost like production numbers in a musical, while the figure of a masked and black-gloved killer lurks in the background of a chic and somewhat debauched contemporary setting. As with many of Bava's creations, in Blood and Black Lace the narrative plays second fiddle to the opulent cinematography: every frame bursts with a range of breathtaking reds, blues and purples, and with moody, atmospheric lighting. With so much investment in visually exciting work, the background murder mystery dissolves and mutates into something else; the plot doesn't unfold in a linear manner (allowing us to pick up clues as we go along) but instead takes all sort if twists, turns and reversals. In Bava's world, nothing is ever certain, and nothing can be taken for granted.
Arrow Video have truly outdone themselves with this new release. The film (available here in its uncut Italian version) has been lovingly restored to its original, almost delirious Eastmancolor glory. A timely reminder that Blood and Black Lace is truly a feast for the eyes - and the ears too, as Carlo Rustichelli's score matches the visuals with a swanky and seductive accompaniment. The DVD comes with a bundle of insightful extras: audio commentary by Bava expert Tim Lucas, a documentary with contributions from directors Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava, a visual essay on gender and the Giallo genre, and a feature-film (Yellow, a neo-noir thriller set in Berlin).