At the dawn of the ‘70s, the MPAA rat­ings sys­tem was a fair­ly new thing. The rat­ings board wasn’t as uptight and con­ser­v­a­tive as it would ulti­mate­ly become and would let some sur­pris­ing­ly grim and bru­tal films slip out with decep­tive­ly gen­tle rat­ings. Blood And Lace is a mem­o­rable exam­ple of this hap­pen­ing with a hor­ror film. It is rat­ed PG and to be fair, it scrupu­lous­ly avoids pro­fan­i­ty and nudi­ty… but on the oth­er hand, it’s also steeped in vio­lence, bloody shocks and an atmos­phere of sleaze as hyp­notic and eye­brow-rais­ing as you might see in R-rat­ed films.Blood&L-blu

Blood And Lace starts with young Ellie (Melody Patterson) sent to a halfway-house for teens and young adults after her moth­er and a male com­pan­ion are vic­tims of a bru­tal claw-ham­mer that kicks off the film in shock­ing style. She’s got a lot to deal with — she doesn’t know her father, her moth­er was a well-known pros­ti­tute — but her new home intro­duces more prob­lems. House moth­er Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame) is a mar­tinet and sadist who lords over her charges with the help of hard-drink­ing, per­verse handy­man Kredge (Len Lesser). They’ve got a scheme to kill their young charges, a burnt-faced killer begins stalk­ing Ellie and there’s also an unsa­vory detec­tive (Vic Tayback) who is try­ing to solve her mother’s mur­der — and may have designs on her.

From the open­ing sequence, Blood And Lace cre­ates an atmos­phere of seed­i­ness and bru­tal­i­ty that rivals films that have more overt adult con­tent. Screenwriter Gil Lasky pop­u­lates his tale with an array of sleazy char­ac­ters, most of whom are duplic­i­tous and/or dri­ven by illic­it desire. Some peo­ple have trou­ble with the film’s mid­sec­tion, which gets kind of soap opera-ish, but Lasky push­es the sleazy atmos­phere as far as a Blood&L-01PG-rat­ed film can go. He also comes up with a real pip of a final reel that piles up the dead bod­ies and deliv­ers a final plot twist that clos­es things with a final, nasty gut-punch.

Blood And Lace is also pret­ty well made for a dri­ve-in quick­ie. Philip Gilbert’s direc­tion is sim­ple but stur­dy, show­ing some inter­est­ing flash­es of styl­iza­tion in the mur­ders (a cam­era rig that shows stalk­ing from the P.O.V. of the clawham­mer is pret­ty inspired). The film also has pret­ty strong act­ing for a film at this lev­el with Patterson mak­ing an intrigu­ing­ly edgy hero­ine and Grahame play­ing her vil­lain­ous role with sub­tle men­ace.

Blood&L-02However, it is Lesser and Tayback who walk off with the top per­for­mance hon­ors. Both men were bet­ter known for their work in t.v. sit­coms — Lesser on Seinfeld, Tayback on Alice — but both men are given sor­did char­ac­ters to work with and they rel­ish every moment onscreen. Lesser cre­ates a glee­ful­ly nasty and manip­u­la­tive hench­man, using a dead­pan deliv­ery and his gang­ster-ish looks to cre­ate men­ace. Tayback is even more low-key, wise­ly under­play­ing his character’s mix of hero­ic impuls­es and sleazi­ness to cre­ate some­one the audi­ence nev­er quite knows how to feel about. They’re the kind of per­for­mances that could have fit into a vin­tage crime noir and they anchor the film’s grim atmos­phere beau­ti­ful­ly.

Blood&L-03In short, Blood And Lace is a fun relic from the era when PG-rat­ed films could pack a mean punch. Even by mod­ern stan­dards, this flick remains deli­cious­ly mean-spirit­ed.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly released this title as a blu-ray/DVD com­bo set. It’s the first time on American home video for this title and this set offers a fine ren­di­tion of it, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the blu-ray. The trans­fer does a nice job of bring­ing out the detail and sub­tle touch­es of col­or in this sim­ply-shot film — and those used to watch­ing this title on fuzzed-out bootlegs will appreBlood&L-04ciate its new lev­el of clar­i­ty. Audio for this title sticks to the orig­i­nal mono mix, pre­sent­ed in loss­less form on the blu-ray, and it sounds fine for a film of this vin­tage.

Extras include the film’s charm­ing­ly grim/sleazy trail­er and the orig­i­nal title sequence (the ele­ments used for the trans­fer are uncut but present the film under an alter­nate title, The Blood Secret). The big­gie amongst the extras is a com­men­tary track by writer/historian Richard Harland Smith that is dense­ly researched but deliv­ered in a crisp, enthu­si­as­tic style He offers up copi­ous bio­graph­i­cal and career details for the cast and film­mak­ers, reveals the inter­est­ing his­to­ry for the film’s main loca­tion and pro­vides some inter­est­ing con­tex­tu­al details about the film’s place in horror’s wild early-‘70s era. The result deliv­ers a nice mix of facts and food for thought, all deliv­ered with a play­ful, know­ing sense of humor.