I Saw A Film!
As soon as you see Cameron Mitchell’s clean-shaven and already well-aged face (man he was around for a long time!) you know he’s up to no good in this “giallo” (I had to look that up, Italian horror/thriller) shocker from Mario Bava.
Lovely lady models are being murdered by a masked character looking like a student’s depiction of the Invisible Man. The murders are all staged in flashing lights and stagey candy colors. The victims wander aimlessly like adult Red Riding Hoods. Their make-up, and nail paint impeccable, their outfits exquisite. The fetishistic aspect of these killings borders on mania, but Bava is following in a tradition also strongly exercised by Hitchcock. Bava does add some elements that bring a certain flavor of shining fantasy to the drama. The ladies struggle, but not too much, their deaths are beautiful (much like Desdamona in Othello), especially the very unbelievable drowning sequence. Disturbing though it may be, the action is always played for showing off the ladies-teasing our senses of both arousal and a desire to rescue. The victims are gorgeous and generally speaking, are killed nearly bloodlessly. Even when the weaponry is unique and the finale shocking, we’re not meant to see gore.
Of course, there are other elements in the story, cocaine comes into the mix, and the fashion show clearly has several threads of shady business going on wrapped up in a shocking diary that the players attempt to retrieve. The whodunnit aspect, mostly a secondary plot point to the staging of the murders, soon coalesces around the fact that the masked killer isn’t a very big person, but then we’re offered a couple of smaller possibilities. Mitchell himself isn’t very tall and another Peter Lorre look-alike character seems a good fit, but then couldn’t it also be a woman? By the time we’ve been through a line-up and some revealing character dialogue we’re lead into the mechanics of the dynamic between Mitchell’s character and his accomplice.
Compared to the straight up murder/torture porn filmed these days (namely the Saw series, but there are others as well) this is almost quaint stuff. Created to get your date’s blood up and likely to get you lucky (as has oft been bandied about going through a cathartic play trauma). And so the point of these films and the fact that they don’t go away but continue to be made and continue to compete for ultimate horror ride is less about whether or not they really are the ultimate horror ride and much more about elevating our inner amines and leaving us feeling as though we’ve been through a kind of emotionally charged experience. The toughs play tough, those who allow themselves to be involved with a story or character can experience that drama, and in the end everyone bites down on that popping boba of getting their money’s worth.
In other words, friends, we do love a good horror perpetrated on some lovely lasses and this film is a grand contrivance of a bevy of gorgeous victims for our appetites to feast on. Do we care in the end if the guilty parties are not who we expected and are apprehended? Possibly not. Bava understands the journey is the fun of these wicked teases.
For free on Prime, and I might be all wet with my assumptions, but watch it before you judge me. Blood and Black Lace, or Murder and revealing panties, or are you aroused watching these beauties get killed? Huh? What’s up with that, you weirdo!