Lace [1984]

Though the original Italian title translates to "Six Women for an Assassin," the American title, Blood and Black Lace, is far more evocative of the psychosexual nature of this elegant slasher picture. The thin plot concerns a respected Italian fashion house, a murdered model, cocaine, and a tell-all diary that seems to implicate just about everyone connected with the house of style. The disappearance of the diary initiates a wholesale slaughter of the remaining models. Mario Bava's stylish exercise in mayhem lovingly delivers every elaborate killing with dreamy assurance. As the stalker, a faceless figure wrapped up in a trench coat, makes a move for his next gorgeous victim, Bava's prowling camera snakes through sets, rushes down hallways, and generally takes off like a low-budget Hitchcock flick on speed. By contrast, Bava runs through the police investigations with a perfunctory air--the lifeless scenes, which aren't helped by the flat English dubbing, feel like he's marking time between the murders--and when the identity of the black-clad killer is revealed it almost seems beside the point. As the narrative melts into a near abstract display of choreography and color (with an often troubling misogynist edge), exposition and psychological explanations seem oddly out of place in this elaborate dance of death. As a traditional thriller it lacks any genuine thrill, but as a piece of cinematic spectacle it has moments of dreamy, disconnected beauty. --Sean Axmaker

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