By Eric Polk-
In my recent Horror Manifesto, I proclaimed 'Italians do it better...horror wise'. As far as visual beauty, graphic violence, etc. I can't think of any genre better in these aspects then the giallo. The roots of this stylized form of film can be traced back to Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace. It's a prototypical slasher though unlike others, this takes place in the world of high fashion.
Isabella (Francesca Ungaro), one of many beautiful models employed at a fashion house, is walking through the grounds that lead to the establishment one night when she is attacked and violently killed by an assailant wearing a white featureless mask. Police Inspector Sylvester (Thomas Reiner) is assigned to investigate the murder and he interviews Max Marian (Mitchell), the manager who co-manages the salon with his lover, the recently widowed Countess Cristina Como (Bartok). Max attests that he can not provide any information whatsoever that can assist the inspector, but as the investigation continues all of the fashion house’s various sins, including corruption, abortions, blackmail and drug addiction, begin to come to light. It is revealed that Isabella had kept a diary detailing these vices, and suddenly almost every employee becomes nervous.
Nicole (Ariana Gorini) finds the diary, and she promises to provide it to the police, but Peggy Mary Arden) manages to steal it from her purse during work. From there the body count rises as the killer becomes obsessed with the stolen diary.
Unlike Psycho and Pepping Tom, Blood and Black Lace establishes the masked killer and the ever-piling body count. Unlike the first two movies I mentioned, Blood and Black Lace, despite the fact it set the stage for future slashers, isn't quite as good. Too many drawn-out sequences for my tastes, slow, plodding pacing and the fact killer is revealed way too early gives me a sour taste.
If you are an aficionado of movie history, however, I do recommend a viewing. It did inspire directors such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Dario Argento to perfect their craft, and open the door to new horror vistas.