Some cult movies suffer an ironic fate: they are easy to find on video in multiple versions from multiple sources yet never get an ideal treatment. Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace is such a film, which has had more than one DVD edition from VCI that never quite managed to capture the glory of the film’s candy-colored look. Arrow Films has recently thrown its hat in the ring with a blu-ray edition of Blood And Black Lace and it’s a stunner.
The transfer used on this blu-ray was taken from original Italian negative and the results are truly eye-popping. The bright primary colors used in the lighting leap off the screen, the details are rich and the overall quality of the mastering is impressive. No American edition of this film can compare to Arrow’s release. Both English and Italian mono dubs are included in lossless form for this transfer. Subtitles are provided for the latter. Both sound great but Schlockmania recommends the Italian track for the most authentic experience.
Arrow has also done impressive work with the extras. First up is a new commentary track from Video Watchdog publisher and Bava specialist Tim Lucas. He puts his scholarship to good use here, discussing the film in the context of how it revolutionized the giallo. Along the way, he offers mini-bios for the cast members, shares production anecdotes drawn from his interviews with the cast and other Bava associates, provides some interesting analysis of Bava’s use of color and also confronts the issue of whether or not the director eroticizes female death in the film. The track is dense with information but nicely structured and paced, making it a worthwhile listen for anyone interested in the director.
Next up is “Psycho Analysis,” a 55-minute retrospective on Blood And Black Lace that includes interviews with such notables as critic Roberto Curti, Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava. They discuss how this film set the template for the giallo and make a case for Bava as a master stylist with a flair for ironic humor. They also touch on the film’s controversial mixture of sex and violence as well as how the giallo film allowed Italian filmmakers to create their own distinctive variant on the detective story.
An appreciation of the film by giallo-influenced filmmakers Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani follows. They discuss their love of the fetishistic approach of this cinematic style and pay tribute to Bava. Along similar lines, Ryan Haysom’s short film Yellow is included. It pays tribute to the giallo, with nods to Bava and Argento as well as Fulci thanks to a little New York Ripper-inspired splatter.
“Gender And Giallo” is a video essay by Michael Mackenzie: essentially, it is a thoughtful lecture on the titular topic set to a well-edited mixture of stills and film clips, sometimes using multi-panel imagery for the latter. He analyzes several key examples of the giallo, breaking it down into two gender-oriented variations that have their own archeypal elements. He reveals the giallo film to be a vehicle that filmmakers used to express their unease about social change in Italy, particularly in how it dealt with women. The results are brainy but accessible, offering fresh food for thought that provides an ambitious new slant on several classic examples of this Italian cinema style.
“Blood And Bava” is a sound recording backed with some appropriate stills. It features Argento and Lamberto Bava paying tribute to Mario Bava, with some nice tales about how he used his photographic talents to create simple yet striking visual effects for Argento’s Inferno. Fans of Cameron Mitchell will appreciate the inclusion of two episodes of David Del Valle’s Sinister Image interview show. Mitchell proves to be a gregarious subject as he discusses several of his credits with Del Valle. Fans of Bava will appreciate the heartfelt tribute he gives to the director when Blood And Black Lace comes up.
The disc extras are rounded out by the U.S. opening titles and an Italian trailer. The former was taken from Joe Dante’s 16mm print of the film. Though Bava didn’t create them, they fit surprisingly well with the film thanks to their colored-lighting scheme and creepy use of mannequins. The trailer sells the film’s mix of melodrama and shocks nicely. English subs are included for this trailer. The final touch is an extensive booklet full of liner notes by top genre journalists like Howard Hughes, Alan Jones and Del Valle (his fond remembrances of Cameron Mitchell are a nice inclusion).
In short, Arrow has done a great job with this set. If you’re a Bava student or interested in Eurocult cinema in general, this is well worth picking up.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Blood And Black Lace, click here.
Note For U.S. Readers: Arrow intended to release this in both the U.S. and the U.K. but the U.S. release was hung up by a rights dispute. It may be released here when this matter is settled. However, it should be noted that the U.K. version can be played on both Region A and Region B players some American fans may want to pick up an import copy.
Full Disclosure: this review was done using a check-disc blu-ray provided by Arrow Video U.K. The disc used for the review reflects what buyers will see in the finished blu-ray. A PDF of the liner notes was provided by Arrow for this review.