A Commentary to Die For: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

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Watching a film with the commentary on can sometimes be a tedious experience, but that is not the case when it comes to Tim Lucas’ commentary on the 2005 2-disc DVD release of April’s Movie of the MonthBlood and Black Lace. Lucas is known as a highly respected film critic and founder of Video Watchdog magazine, but he’s also a fountain of knowledge when it comes to everything Mario Bava. After spending over 30 years researching Bava’s life and films, he wrote the acclaimed book Mario Bava: All Colors of the Dark, which, at over a thousand pages long, is pretty much a Bava Bible. I’m not sure who decided to have Lucas participate in the Blood and Black Lace commentary, but that individual deserves a big pat on the back for making such an excellent choice.

Lucas talks about so many different things in the commentary, but most of the information he shares deals with the background of the film’s actors. I’m definitely not going to mention everything he discusses in this article because I’m more interested in the fun facts and quirky incidents that occurred behind the scenes during production. Here are my top three favorite facts/comments from the commentary:

1. In the beginning of the film during the fashion show (before the diary fiasco occurs), there is a pretty long shot that stretches on for about a minute or so where the camera is effortlessly gliding from one end of the room to the other. According to Lucas, Bava did not have very much funding for fancy camera equipment, so he propped up the camera on a child’s wagon for this scene. Actually, the budget for the film was less than $125,000, so Bava needed to be as creative as possible. I was pretty surprised by this information. I expected Bava to have had access to the latest and greatest camera equipment during the production of Blood and Black Lace simply because the film is known for its impressive camera work, so it’s completely mind-blowing to know that this wasn’t the case.

2. As I briefly mentioned in the Blood and Black Lace Swampchat, there seems to be a color theme going on in the film. Lucas does mention this a few times in the commentary as well. He examines Isabella’s relationship with the color red (red raincoat, red diary, etc.), and he really draws attention to the color black’s connection with death, especially when it comes to Nicole. She wears a black gown at the fashion show, carries a black purse, and while the majority of telephones in the film are red, the phone that she uses has a black receiver. Spooky!

3. Mary Dawne Arden is the actress that played the role of Peggy, the beautiful model that was burned and tortured before meeting her maker. According to Lucas, she had the worst luck during the film’s production. She spent over 5 days acting as a dead body, and at one point, she almost ended up being an actual dead body. During the scene when she falls out of the car trunk, the trunk’s lid partially opened and then immediately slammed back down. When it slammed down on her, the sharp trunk lock was inches away from stabbing her in the eye. She was in such a state of trauma and shock that Bava stopped shooting to come to her aid. What a gentleman! Thankfully, she only received a wound and small scar from the episode. I have such a huge amount of respect for Arden because not only did she continue to finish her scenes after almost being blinded, but she was apparently never paid for acting in the film.

Bava was so passionate about his art. To produce a film that would become such an influential landmark in cinema with such a small budget is not something that just any director could do. I definitely respected Bava prior to listening to Lucas’ commentary, but I now value his work on Blood and Black Lace more than ever.

For more on April’s Movie of the Month, 1964’s Blood and Black Lace, visit our Swampchat on the film, a look at its Bollywood brethren, Veerana (1988), and last week’s fan art ode to the poetry of giallo film titles.

-Britnee Lombas

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