Halloween Endurance Test: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

A model, on her way back to the agency, is murdered one night. Mario Bava’s cinematography and set design deserves much of the credit here. Upon opening the viewer is immediately confronted with bizarre, deep blood-red mannequins and one of the most haunting wooded murder scenes seen yet.

Walking through a cove where all the trees slope upwards, illuminated from the back, you immediately realize Bava’s reveling in what the Girl… lacked: color film stock. As a heavy wind blows, the killer hits the model with the force of a hurricane; knocking her towards a tree and choking the life out of her. Deposited in a closet, her corpse is found at the next day’s fashion shoot.

The story is another mystery in the vein of the Girl Who Knew Too Much; only this time with decidedly less humor. If the Girl… was cinema’s first giallo, then this was filmdom’s first “body count film.” Drugs play a large role in this film; oh, to be as innocent as the detective here, shocked that models are abusing cocaine!

As with most mysteries, no one is to be trusted. They either hate the dead model due to her success, boyfriend, or access to drugs (via the boyfriend). They all have something to hide: an abortion, debts, outright chemical dependance.

The killer comes dressed as the Blank from Dick Tracy. Sporting a black trench coat, wide-brimmed hat, leather gloves, and no face. Surprisingly physical and spry for a horror movie villain; always running and jumping around to reach the victims, but also always in close proximity. This is an important ingredient in the “body count” genre’s recipe that would be lost in just 15 years.

The film is literally a “body count” film in its original European configuration, with the (translated) title of 6 Females for the Murderer. Letting the audience know, before the film even starts, how many are going to die!

During the police lineup one suspect becomes so agitated that he falls into an epileptic seizure. That’s brilliant! Showing all the stress taking its toll; why hasn’t other mysteries picked up on it?

I love how the director is so nonchalant about her models being murdered. I don’t care that two of my models were killed. I understand you live out in the country, alone. But you know we have a big day tomorrow; so quit complaining about being scared and go out there and get murdered! I’ve worked for bosses with that same attitude.

Cameron Mitchell and Udo Kier: separated at birth?

“Perfect… perfectly awful.”

Okay, I know the film is European, but did the villain have to be so European? It’s as if I’m looking at a Udo Kier doppleganger. He works hand-in-hand with his girlfriend; the costume’s panty-hosed blank face allowing either gender to perform the murders. It also strengthens this film’s mental connection to Dick Tracy/Blank/Madonna in my mind.

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