Blood and Black Lace (Italian: Sei donne per l'assassino) is a 1964 Italian horror / thriller / Giallo film directed by Mario Bava, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Giusseppe Barilla and Marcello Fondato.
The film, starring Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok, concerns the stalking and brutal murder of several fashion models by a white-masked killer who is desperately attempting to recover the diary of Isabella, one of the models and the first victim, containing potentially scandalous information on the fashion house's various indiscretions, including forced abortions, blackmail, and drug addiction. It soon becomes a race against time as the diary changes hands repeatedly, separately pursued by the police investigating Isabella's murder, and the mysterious figure who is willing to kill to prevent its secrets from being revealed.
It is regarded as one of Bava's finest films and a shining example of what a Giallo is.
Blood and Black Lace contains examples of:
- Artistic License Biology: Tao-li is totally dead, Christina having drowned her in the bathtub, but when Christina slits Tao-li's wrists to make it look like suicide, somehow the bathtub rapidly fills with blood as if Tao-li's heart were still beating.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: The kills have been orchestrated by Max and Contessa Cristina, who turn on each other in the end.
- The Blank: The killer wears a featureless white mask.
- Bookcase Passage: there's (inexplicably) one in the fashion studio.
- Clothing Damage: Nicole gets her dress torn off, revealing her bra, as she runs from the killer.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: a part of the standard Giallo villain fashion.
- Deadly Bath: Tao-li is drowned by pushing her face into a full bathtub, then her corpse is dumped into it.
- Decoy Protagonist: The film follows Nicole around in the early scenes, making it seem like she is our protagonist in the aftermath of Isabella's mysterious murder, but then the murderer kills her as well, and the film starts bouncing around between characters as they, too, get killed off.
- Dies Wide Open: All of the murder victims die with their eyes wide open. One shot emphasizes Greta and Peggy's corpses lying slumped together, their eyes rolled back and staring into a mirrored table.
- Dramatic Irony: When Nicole reads from Isabella's diary, the entry foreshadows Isabella's death. Depending on the translation, the diary either reads that she met a man she would die for, or that he inflames such passion in him that afterwords she feels "limp... empty." The audience has already seen Isabella murdered and her limp body dragged away.
- Drop Dead Gorgeous: Nicole, Peggy and Tao-li all die in varying states of undress and continue to be shown off in a sexual manner even after death. Isabella and Greta get to have their shapely, garter-belted thighs shown off as they're being smothered (Greta) or dragged off after having been strangled (Isabella).
- Ensemble Cast: there is no main protagonist. The story jumps around between the (quickly shrinking) group of people who work at the studio and Inspector Silvestri.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: All of the characters have something to hide that might get revealed in Isabella's diary, so everyone is a suspect in the murders that follow.
- Freudian Excuse: it's speculated by several characters that the killer is enraged by the sight of attractive women due to some form of sexual inadequacy.
- Giallo: A killer with black gloves, a mask, and a black trenchcoat slaughtering beautiful women, mountains of Fanservice, enough plot twists to baffle Hitchcock, and a useless detective on the case, all set against disturbingly gorgeous scenery shot in eye-searing Technicolor. Blood and Black Lace is effectively the prototypical Giallo film, bringing together all the narrative and stylistic elements that define the genre.
- Kill 'Em All: Every major character including the killers is dead at the end of the film except for the useless detective.
- MacGuffin: Everyone wants the diary because it exposes all of the shady stuff they've been up to.
- Mood Lighting: Seemingly every room in the film is lit with surreal, unnatural pools of red, blue, yellow, purple, and green light. Franco's antiques shop is next door to a huge neon sign that flashes on and off every few seconds, causing a pattern of pitch blackness and blue lighting that basically serves as Hollywood Darkness.
- Never Suicide: Tao-Li's death is arranged to look like a suicide. We never find out if the police fell for it or not.
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse:
- Isabella turns up in a cabinet in the fashion studio.
- Peggy's corpse keeps falling out of things. First it spills out of the trunk of Greta's car. When Greta pulls back a dressing screen to check on the corpse, it collapses onto her, knocking her over.
- Police Are Useless: The main detective is no closer to solving the case the last time we see him than he is when we first meet him — he spends his screen time generally working in the right direction, but not pressing hard enough.
- Punk in the Trunk: Greta is unpleasantly surprised when she opens the trunk of her car and Peggy's corpse falls out.
- Reaction Shot: When Isabella's diary is discovered, everyone in the room gets a reaction shot of alarm, showing that Everyone Is a Suspect.
- Samus Is a Girl: The masked killer is revealed to (sometimes) be Cristina in spite of the killer's masculine shape and ability to overpower a number of women. She's the one we see actually remove the costume.
- Slasher Movie: While the film predates slasher films, the plot is effectively just a string of attractive young women being brutally murdered, so it predicts the slasher genre.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: a movie about a masked killer butchering woman, set to...lounge jazz?
- Translation Convention: As per standard in giallo films, all the actors speak in their native languages, and their dialogue is dubbed over with the language of the country the film is released in. Isabella's diary is written in Italian, but in the English language version, it's read as English, so it seems as though English stands for Italian. The murderer writes out a message in German, however, so it's unclear if he's supposed to be speaking German at times.
- Trope Codifier: For the Giallo genre. It wasn't the first film to feature all the main narrative elements, but it was the first to combine them all in color and with the level of sexuality and graphic bloodshed the genre would come to be known for.
- Vehicle Vanish: The purse with the very important diary is sitting on a table. Some people bring a rack full of clothes by. When they pass, the purse is gone.
- Vorpal Pillow: In true Vorpal Pillow fashion, it takes about ten seconds for the killer to smother Greta to death with a cushion.
- White Mask of Doom: The killer wears a white mask that covers the entire face.
- Yellowface: Claude Dantes, a blue-eyed white woman, wears a Romulan-esque haircut and a ton of eyeliner to play the supposedly Chinese Tao-li. Apart from her name, you would be forgiven for not even realizing that she's supposed to be Asian.