Sunday, July 30, 2017

7/30/2017: Black Lace, Black Room

Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava, 1964)
After the baroque Gothic horrors in black and white and vivid color, respectively, of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath, Bava went full swingin' 60s for Blood and Black Lace. Set in a high-fashion design company, Black Lace is about a mysterious figure in faceless white balaklava, hat, and trench coat murdering the company's catwalk models, one-by-one, possibly because of a diary written by the first victim containing scandals and secrets. Everyone living is a suspect; hidden alliances and rivalries form, disperse, and reconstitute; the diary moves from person to person, all with his or her reasons for hiding it, destroying it, or turning it over to the police. The body count stacks up, in colorful, stylish, suspenseful, and creepy ways. Bava's film is a rush of pure entertainment, color, suspense, humor, violence, and style, with a great opening credits scene. I liked it a lot.

The Black Room (Elly Kenner & Norman Thaddeus Vane, 1982)
Here's a weird, weird take on both the vampire and voyeuristic killer stories, and a West Coast companion film to Andy Milligan's Blood, reviewed here a few months ago. I'm going to try to describe the story in one sentence. Here goes. A married Los Angeles businessman wants to spice up his sex life, so he secretly rents a room (a black room lit only with candles) in the Hollywood Hills from a creepy brother and sister and uses it for his one-night stands (or one-afternoon stands), while the brother takes photos from behind a one-way mirror (which the businessman knows about) and then kidnaps the women with his sister in order to drain their blood and infuse his diseased blood with their youthful essence (which the businessman does not know about). Things heat up when the businessman's wife, a woman whose life is devoted to serving her husband and children, finds out about the room and starts expanding her own sexual and societal boundaries there, much to the chagrin of her sexist husband. (OK, two sentences.) The film is low budget but doesn't look cheap, and the actors aren't slick but they serve the material well. (The film features early-career roles for Linnea Quigley and Christopher McDonald.) It's not entirely successful and has a handful of clumsy or awkward moments, but overall, the movie is creepy and unusual and has its own style and point of view. I was pretty fascinated by it.
The Black Room is mostly unknown today, but in the '80s, it was singled out by decency crusaders in England as a "video nasty," one of my favorite British expressions. Much like Tipper Gore and company's crusade against explicit lyrics in pop music in the States, England's wealthy prudes with too much time on their hands targeted violent horror and exploitation movies on VHS, dubbing them "video nasties" and trying to get them banned. There's even a Young Ones episode about it. It goes without saying that this is a pro-video nasty web site. See you next month, and stay nasty. 

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