Review Date: April 29, 2001
Released by: VCI
Release date: 12/12/2000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Mario Bava's Sei donne per l'assassino (Blood and Black Lace in English) has been released to DVD thanks to the fine folks at VCI. Finally, Blood and Black Lace has arrived in an uncut form here in the United States. Lets take a closer look at VCI's DVD and see if they did justice to Bava and his legion of fans.
Contessa Cristina (Eva Bartok) runs a fashion house in Italy. She has dozens of models working for her and puts on various fashion shows to display her work. One night one of the models, Isabella (Francesca Ungaro), is chased down and killed by a masked man on her way home. The next day her body is found inside of the fashion house by Cristina. Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner) begins to investigate, questioning everyone at the fashion house and all those associated with Cristina. It seems nearly everyone is a suspect in the Inspector's mind, especially Frank Sacalo (Dante DiPaolo), Isabella's lover.
During the next fashion show a model named Peggy (Mary Arden) finds Isabella's diary hidden away in a box. It seems nearly everyone wants to get their hands on it, but Peggy's keeps it, insisting she'll hand it over to the police. Perhaps there's something in the diary that will reveal the identity of the killer. The fashion show continues, but even before it can end the body count begins to rise as the masked man continues murdering the models. Inspector Sylvester gathers up several male suspects, but not knowing who exactly is the killer he decides to arrest them all for the time being.
While the men are being detained, another model is murdered. The footprints at the murder scene match those found at the other murder scenes. Now, because Inspector Sylvester had them locked away, all the men have an alibi. He's left with no choice but to release them. Once they're released the scandal behind the murders begins to unfold - and it's full of sex, drugs, alcohol, lies and betrayal. The only question that remains is who the real murderer is. But if the current pattern continues, there may not be anyone left before Inspector Sylvester can solve the case.
Another classic Bava film, filled with some genuinely tense moments and beautiful imagery. Bava's incredible use of colors, the beautiful sets and costumes, and even the way the dead bodies appear - are all part of what makes Bava's films so unique and why they have the cult following the do. This isn't some hack horror film like so many that are released today. While the story is so-so and the premise has certainly been used before, Bava's filmmaking techniques and how he implements them on the final film is what makes Blood and Black Lace stand out over others.
While Blood and Black Lace is a good horror movie, I didn't enjoy it as much as Whip and the Body. One reason is because I tend to enjoy ghost stories more than slashers, but also because I feel Whip and the Body was a better story and it has the wonderful Christopher Lee. The acting in Blood and Black Lace is certainly good, but I didn't feel any of the performances equaled Christopher Lee's in Whip and the Body.
In the end, I think many horror fans will enjoy Blood and Black Lace. It may not be particularly heavy on gore, but it is heavy on style and atmosphere. There are lots of great looking killings - making it one of the first "body count" movies - no doubt something that many of you will enjoy. Plus, VCI has presented it uncut, including scenes that have long since been missing from past video and laserdisc releases. One example being the closeup shot of one of the dead models face, with blood clouding up in the water. It's a cool shot and I'm glad VCI was able to include it on the DVD. Bava fan or not - this is another to add to your "must see" list.
VCI presents Blood and Black Lace in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Once again VCI has done a wonderful job on the transfer, which only has a few minor problems. There are a few print blemishes that appear - some dirt and a few vertical black lines showing up occasionally. The image does appear to be a tad too bright, though it's really only somewhat noticeable on black colors during the nighttime scenes. Some minor grain is visible during some of the darker scenes, and white specks occasionally pop up at various spots as well. The image is sharp overall, with only a few scenes appearing a bit soft. The strong and vivid colors on this DVD really help to showcase Bava's marvelous use of colors in so many scenes throughout the film. Flesh tones appeared accurate at all times. Again, I need to reiterate that all the problems I mention here are small problems that are not persistent or distracting. I'm very impressed with the transfer, which I'm rating a B+.
Just like Whip and the Body, Blood and Black Lace lacks an anamorphic transfer and that really ends up being my biggest complaint about the transfer. With nearly every other independent DVD company supporting anamorphic to some extent, I hope VCI decides to join the club soon.
Blood and Black Lace is presented in English, Italian and French Dolby Digital Mono. Of course, I'd have to recommend everyone listen to it in Italian with English subtitles. That way you'll be hearing it the way it was meant to be heard. No real problems on the mono track; no distortion or background noises were heard.
Labeled as a full blown special edition, VCI has included some great extras on this DVD. First up is the commentary track with Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas, a Bava expert who is actually in the process of writing a book on Bava. Just as in the Whip and the Body commentary, Lucas is reading from a prepared script so the track has an impersonal feeling to it, almost as if its a machine speaking. The benefit to this is that tons of information is given on film, including Bava himself, cast and crew, and some interesting on-the-set stories. Lucas really has a lot of information on the cast members and goes into great detail on each one. He'll explain where they were born, past works, future works with Bava (for some) and where they are now. If you can get past the impersonal feel to it then you'll really enjoy the commentary; it's packed full of interesting information that Bava fans will enjoy hearing about. Given how much Lucas knows on Bava and everything associated with Bava, his book on Bava should be truly amazing.
Two interviews are included on the DVD - one with Cameron Mitchell, who worked on 6 movies with Bava, including Blood and Black Lace. The other is with Mary Dawne Arden, who played Peggy in Blood and Black Lace. They last 7 and 12 minutes respectively. The interview with Mitchell is hosted by David Del Valle, who apparently hosts a small talk show somewhere. David and Cameron discuss Bava's abilities as a director, camera man and a makeup artist. The interview with Mary Dawn Arden was recorded in September 2000. She talks about the fact that she's never even seen the finished movie until just recently, what she's been doing for the past 30 years, what is was like working with Mario, how she helped translate the film to English, and much more. Both are interesting to watch. It was nice to see each actor so many years later and hear their thoughts on Bava.
French and American title sequences are included, which is interesting to watch and compare with the Italian title sequence. There's a small photo gallery included, and there's also an option to play the soundtrack from the movie. Rest of the supplements are pretty standard - cast/crew bios, trailers, bonus Bava trailers, and a brief bit of information on Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog. All and all a good special edition with some enjoyable extras.
Once again VCI has given us an excellent audio/video presentation, and once again their hard restoration work has paid off with Blood and Black Lace. There's some good extras on here that Bava fans will enjoy, especially the informative commentary with Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas. Perhaps more importantly, the movie itself should prove to be enjoyable for all horror fans, except perhaps those wanting to see heavy doses of gore. Some may consider the $29.99 price tag a bit high, especially when VCI's Whip and the Body DVD sells for $24.98 and only has a few less extras. I would disagree, however. VCI's DVD is a steal at $29.99 - be sure to check it out.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - A-
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Italian Dolby Digital Mono
- English Dolby Mono
- French Dolby Digital Mono
- English Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Commentary by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas
- Still Gallery
- Original main title sequence for What, the US release of this film
- Bonus Music Sound Track
- Trailers - The Whip & The Body (French), Planet of the Vampires and Blood & Black Lace (American)
- Liner notes from Jay Fenton