Blood and Lace [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (16th January 2016).
The Film

Despite the wealth of horror titles that have been made available for purchase since the advent of home video, it’s still amazing to find those rare exceptions that never got a proper release on any format. Perhaps it’s fitting then that after bypassing the full-frame, low resolution of VHS, and the standard definition of DVD, some of these titles are finally getting their due on Blu-ray, where all the glorious detail of film prints can be brought to faithfully-reproduced light. One of those forgotten titles, “Blood and Lace” (1971, titled “The Blood Secret” on this print), sounds like it could easily be confused with Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace” (1964), but this is no gothic romance. If anything, “Blood and Lace” can be viewed as a progenitor of the slasher era. While the film may have been “lost” for the better part of forty some-odd years, right from the beginning its influence seems apparent. In particular, the opening kill might shock fans of “Halloween” (1978) with how incredibly similar the scene plays out to John Carpenter’s now-classic introduction of a young Michael Myers. That’s where the similarity between those two pictures ends, but “Blood and Lace” does well in carving out its own niche as a weird, twisted slasher film made in the days before there really was such a thing.

After an opening kill is revealed to be a dream (or was it a memory?), viewers are introduced to Ellie (Melody Patterson), a teenage girl (who looks like she’s in her twenties) who is about to be released from a state hospital. Ellie’s mom was the town slut, and it was she who received a hammer-smashed face in the prologue. Ellie is released into the care of a home for orphan children, run by Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame) and her handyman (of sorts) Tom (Len Lesser). The duo is less concerned with the welfare of their wards and more interested in the money that comes with “raising” these misplaced youth. The existing children try in vain to escape, though Tom typically manages to catch and then torture them. Ellie, being new, doesn’t kowtow to Mrs. Deere so easily, which only puts her in the unenviable position of being the newest target. All the while, a masked man wielding a hammer suspiciously similar to the one that killed Ellie’s mother has been stalking her, too. In the third act, every nefarious goon winds up face to face, leading to some surprising revelations.

This was the only feature film by director Philip Gilbert, and if the finished quality is any indication of his abilities it’s a shame he didn’t pump out another low-budget horror yarn or two. “Blood and Lace” has an air of Italian sleaze to it, with just a hint of British horror, yet it feels patently American - probably because it’s an American International Picture. This isn’t to say it is a good movie, per se, but there’s a certain appreciable quality to this low-rent old-school schlock that had me hooked. Various subplots threaten to drag the picture down into a bog of boredom, but good ol’ AIP doesn’t allow any of their films much time to breathe between vicious deeds; this means some of the clumsier scenes are followed quickly by another hammer bludgeoning or moment of teenager torture to keep the audience invested.

I can’t recall the last time a less convincing “teenage” cast was assembled for a feature. One of the “young boys” at the orphanage looks to be in his thirties, and not a single one of the other cast members looks a day under twenty. The filmmakers didn’t even attempt to make their cast look character-age appropriate.

The special effects of “Blood and Lace” also leave a bit to be desired. The opening kill, specifically, features some of the least convincing hammer blows ever committed to film, with horribly done gore FX to match. I find myself harping on poor CGI more than poor practical make-up effects – and for good reason; at the very least the practical stuff looks like it’s on an actual person. So, while I could certainly pick apart a lot of the sight gags here the truth is it isn’t really bothersome because it looks tangible. The Hammer Killer’s mask is the film’s best work; it looks like some old deranged loon with bad skin and no hair. Moderately creepy, especially if you saw it heading your way under the cloak of darkness.

The film’s ending has a bit of a Scooby-Doo quality to it. The hammer-wielding killer’s identity is a bit of a surprise, as are his/her motivations, and a last-second revelation adds even more complexity to the mix. In spite of some flat performances and laughably bad FX work – or maybe because of them – “Blood and Lace” winds up being a mostly enjoyable viewing experience. If you just can’t ever get enough of those wonderfully bad AIP productions, then this is a title for you.

Video

The 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded picture is nothing short of impressive, featuring strong clarity, good coloration, a nice sense of depth and almost no damage to the print. Aside from the occasional (and expected) white flecks that seem endemic to every vintage film this is one beautifully clear image. Obviously any well-preserved film print has the potential to look stunning, but I was still blown away by how great “Blood and Lace” looks after all these years. A handful of shots appear out of focus and some day-for-night shots are bland and monochromatic, but overall this is definitely a winning image.

Audio

An English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track easily handles the film’s simple sound design. The score is host to some cool instrumentation, featuring a Theremin during the opening credits. Dialogue is mostly clean & clear, though one conversation around the 51-minute mark sounds like it was delivered through a tin can and transmitted via radio. Like the video, AIP’s films tend to have similarities in the audio, too, and this release is no different in that respect. Subtitles are included in English.

Extras

An audio commentary track is the film’s only substantial bonus feature, though the disc also includes an alternate title sequence and theatrical trailer.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

Film historian Richard Harland Smith delivers an informative & energetic audio commentary, piping in ell-placed humor alongside anecdotes, trivia and cast member histories.

An alternate opening title (1080i), with the name “Blood and Lace”, runs for 18 seconds.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080i) runs for 1 minute and 52 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy of the feature film.

Packaging

The two-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible, though the B-side is nearly identical to the hero art.

Overall

Although I expected a lethargic, cheesy murder mystery – which I suppose I did get – “Blood and Lace” is an entertainingly mean-spirited movie with a couple of wild twists & turns and a cast that only adds to the weirdness. This is the kind of title I love to see released by Scream Factory, namely, something unseen but worth horror fans’ time.

The Film: C Video: B+ Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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