|Probably too late for the 10 victims in this movie, though if you have bleeding issues, consult an online medical dictionary to see if you need to visit a doctor - that's better than just standing there while Jason finishes the job ... Find a doctor, find out about first aid products - it's all there!|
Unfairly obscure - and not to be confused with Mario Bava's rather better known giallo, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE - it's easy to see why this early 70's trash epic has often been described as the 'sickest PG movie ever made'.
Now, does this sound familiar? ... At night, the camera (in that now familiar POV shot) looks up to a illuminated upstairs window; it prowls around the side of the house and into the kitchen. The camera pans down to a row of draws, a hand pulls one out, reaches in and grabs - no, not a knife - a hammer. The POV continuing, but now with the hammer outstretched in front of an unseen someone as they climb the stairs towards some seriously funky music and into a bedroom where a middle-aged couple are sleeping. We see the hammer slowly rotate, until the claw end hovers over the woman's face and eventually slams down repeatedly. Blood splatters up the walls, amongst screams. The bloody hammer is eventually tossed onto the shagpile and the room set alight. ... Now, the first time I saw this I was dumbstruck. The parallels between this opening scene and the one in John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) are obvious.
The murdered woman, it turns out, was Edna Masters (Louise Sherrill), reportedly the town's tramp; her bedfellow one of her tricks. Although unseen in the opening moments, her teenage daughter, Ellie (Melody Patterson), awakens in hospital with a blood-curdling scream (an untypically bitchy nurse, somewhat hilariously, tells her social worker, Mr Mullins (Milton Selzer), "You've got to get her out of here!" - charming!). It turns out that Ellie was at home during the murders and glimpsed a man fleeing. However, the stroppy teen doesn't seem too concerned over the deaths: "I was an orphan the day I was born!", she pouts; nor did she hold her late Mother in very high esteem, "Every traveling salesman; every schoolboy over sixteen knew my Mother!". Rather than waiting to hear what Mullins has in mind for her she legs it after telling him she wants to find her natural Father. However, she is picked up and sent back by a local detective, Calvin Carruthers (Vic Tayback), and warned that, "The killer might come back looking for you - and not because you have a pretty face!".
What Mullins has in mind for Ellie is sending her to an isolated orphanage, the Deere Youth Home, which is run by the sinister Mrs Deere (Gloria Grahame) and her twisted handy man, Tom (Len Lesser). Little do either Ellie or Mr Mullins know that the orphanage is run with more than a steel rod, rather a steely meat cleaver! In a jaw dropping spot of tough love - which outdoes anything the nasty Mother Superior gets up to in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) - the kids that try and escape usually end up dead, but because Mrs Deere doesn't want to loose the revenue that they bring, the couple stick the bodies in the deep freeze and then thaw them out, and stick them in beds in the infirmary when Mullins comes in for a head count!
At first Ellie is blissfully unaware the unholy goings on, as she takes a fancy to the hunky oldest boy, Walter (Ronald Taft), which royally pisses off her room mate, Blanche, who says he's *her* boyfriend. However, Ellie soon gets a taste of what's going on when she's forced to polish the whole orphanage by Mrs Deere (doing her best barmy Joan Crawford - "It's not you I'm mad at, it's the dirt!" impression). Whilst buffing away she discovers a door that leads up to the attic where she finds Jennifer (Maggie Corey), a girl who has been tied up to a pole, a relatively lenient punishment for trying to run away. Things go from bad to worse, and she is soon fearing for her life when she awakens to find a man with a horribly scarred face, clutching a claw hammer, leaning over her bed ...
BLOOD AND LACE is one helluva fun movie. It's got unintentional humour, high camp, a teenage cat fight, a few lashings of gore and a bucketful of sleaze. It's hard to believe that little kids would have been allowed to sit through this twisted tale that takes in the murder of children, pedophilia and incest! Certainly this isn't hard-core horror but neither is it a Disney flick, either.
Gloria Grahame's performance is probably better than the movie warrants. Quietly insane, Mrs Deere keeps her dead husband in a wheelchair somewhere in the attic; she chats to him and seriously believes she'll be able to rouse him from the dead (she tells a confused Ellie, "What you call death, Ellie, may only be the temporary absence of life!"). It also seems she thinks the dead kids that she stuffed in the freezer are only sleeping (switching from the sadistic to the maternal, she's quite clearly nuts!).
The film is arguably marred by the stock music used throughout, which must have come from some 1930's pot-boiler. On the other hand, it does add to the overall strangeness of the film. It's quite unlike any other movie I've seen; it almost has a Grimm's Brothers feel to it. There's one surprisingly poignant moment, when the other children in the house are alerted to the fact of what's really going on there by Ellie, they decide to stay and take their chances; as they point out, they have nowhere else to go. Also, it has to be pointed out that it ends on one of the most tasteless and cynical notes possible - quite an achievement. Oh, and that great poster image (a copy of which currently hangs on the wall next to me) doesn't really bear any resemblance to what goes on in the film, well, apart from the falling hammer, of course!
Strangely, the film remains pretty much unavailable anywhere in the World, especially in its uncut form (I eventually scored a Greek pre-record of it a while back). I would have thought this trash classic - which so clearly inspired John Carpenter, and maybe even Wes craven (this film had a crispy faced villain 13 years before A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)) - would have been a prime candidate for rediscovery on DVD. I sure hope someone is listening.
female:3 / male:7
1) Female whacked to death with claw hammer
2) Male whacked with hammer and burnt in fire
3) Male has hand cut off with flying meat cleaver
4) Male frozen body seen
5) Female frozen body seen
6) Male frozen body seen
7) Male body glimpsed in wheelchair
8) Male whacked in the back with meat cleaver
9) Male knocked out and frozen to death
10) Female frozen to death