Thursday, January 12, 2006

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE

VCI Entertainment has just released a 2-disc upgrade of Mario Bava's influential proto-giallo, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (SEI DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO, 1964), and it's a marked improvement over the company's previous release of a few years ago.

The term "giallo" (Italian for "yellow") refers to a type of suspense novels popular in Italy during the Sixties. Such novels were almost always published with bright yellow covers, and were therefore commonly referred to by the public as giallos. The term was soon applied to films that resembled the paperback thrillers.

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE follows many conventions of the giallo genre, and was one of the first to bear the label. The plot revolves around the sexy models of a high fashion house, their secrets, and the faceless murderer who is killing them off one-by-one. Stylishly directed by maestro Bava, and starring American character actor Cameron Mitchell (GORILLA AT LARGE, RAW FORCE), the colorful and suspenseful film rivals the best of Hitchcock.

VCI's new disc is properly framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and unlike their previous release, is anamorphically enhanced. Overall picture quality is good, although the contrast is a bit softer and colors seem a little muted compared to the earlier edition. The 5.1 English language soundtrack is clear and strong, but there are occasional pops. The original Italian language track and a French track are included, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles.

The first disc of this new two-platter set includes the feature film and a commentary track by Bava expert Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog magazine. It's highly informative, fascinating and well worth a listen. Lucas knows his Bava, and has a long-anticipated book dedicated to the director coming out soon. The disc also includes a brief profile on Lucas, biographies for Bava and several cast members, the American trailer, and trailers for other VCI releases – specifically: RUBY, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, CITY OF THE DEAD and THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (which is also now available with fantastic transfer from Blue Underground).

Disc 2 includes a 2000 video interview with American actress Mary Dawne Arden, who plays one of the murdered models. There's also an interview with star and Bava admirer Cameron Mitchell, from a public access talk show, THE SINISTER IMAGE, several years before the actor's death in 1994. Other features include the French title sequence, the original American theatrical title sequence (produced by Saturday morning L.A. animation company Filmation), German, French and Italian trailers for the film, trailers for other Bava films, and a still/photo gallery. Additionally, VCI provides a bonus soundtrack of Carlo Rustichelli's jazzy score, culled from the original record album, and a comparison of scenes from the American version and the differently edited European version.

VCI's double-dip on this title is a genuine upgrade from the original release and highly recommended.

BUY: Blood & Black Lace