Blood And Lace (1971)

JANUARY 31, 2011


The weirdest thing about Netflix Instant is how many movies they have that aren’t even available on DVD. So if I was a disc purist, I couldn’t even watch Blood And Lace, which was apparently never even released properly on VHS, let alone DVD. Yet Netflix has a pristine, OAR copy? How does that work? There’s an MGM logo at the very end, so I guess they must have some deal with them (I noticed a few other non-DVD streaming titles were also MGM). Glad MGM has its priorities in order. Release Cabin in the Woods? No, it’s all about getting Blood And Lace onto Netflix Instant!

Anyway, it’s kind of like an “early demo” of a slasher film. You know when a band releases demos of songs that already exist, and they sort of sound bad and have different lyrics that you don’t like as much, but it's still worth a listen for comparison's sake or just plain curiosity? That’s what this movie is. A die hard slasher fan (as I am) will enjoy seeing early versions of the POV opening murder (not unlike Halloween and Friday the 13th), and a killer in a mask chasing our heroine around the woods, but it also lacks suspense and the body count is too low (lower than Halloween’s even), rendering it hard to recommend to casual slasher fans who just want the boobs and blood.

Hell even I got annoyed at the lack of nudity at one point (the movie was originally rated PG!). One of the girls is the insanely cute Terri Messina, and there was a scene where it became clear she was going to get it on with a guy. But when they get to the scene, she’s always obscured or covered up in some way! What the hell! According to the IMDb, she was 24 during filming, so even though she was playing a 16 year old, there’s no need to hide it. Especially in a movie that’s as occasionally sleazy as this one – there’s an attempted rape, a lot of talk about the heroine’s mother being a prostitute, and a final twist that gives the girl an option of either going to jail or marrying her father.

But despite the lack of “action” (any kind), I still dug the flick. It reminded me of other offbeat slashers like Silent Scream and Pigs (aka Love Exorcist), and the villains’ plot was both realistic and fairly chilling. Basically, they got 150 bucks a month for each kid in their orphanage, but since they were so tyrannical, the kids would often try running away. If they ran away they wouldn’t get the dough, so they would chain them up (or kill them) to prevent them from running off, and would make excuses if someone came snooping around. Like when a cop comes by, they tell him that three of the kids are sick and are in the infirmary, and talk up the risk of contagion, so he opts not to actually look in the room. It’s the type of plot that could never work today, and that’s sort of what I liked about it – it’s somewhat ripoff/homage/remake proof. Part of why the 70s and 80s were the best decades for horror was because they were nestled in between the period where they couldn’t show much due to limitations of FX (or the Code), and the period where communication options rendered a lot of plots invalid. Take Halloween 4, for example – Loomis has to drive out to Haddonfield to warn them in person about Myers because a phone line was down, which of course was too late. Now it would be a cell call or email away. OR, they have to go through the generic motions of explaining why no one can call. So it’s always nice to go back to when the isolation and lack of communication was just a face of life, not a contrivance.

Back on track, this movie has one of the weirdest kills I’ve ever seen in a horror film, possibly any genre. There’s a runaway being chased by one of the asshole orphanage owners (Uncle Leo from Seinfeld!), and the kid’s suitcase falls apart. Rather than be like “screw my ugly clothes”, the kid stops to pick them up, and when he realizes that he’s allowing the guy to gain too much ground on him, he stands back up and... hugs a tree? I don’t know how else to explain it – it’s almost like he’s trying to hide behind it (which makes sense) but he wraps his arms around it (which doesn’t), thus providing the killer with a clear target. But it’s the only kill in the movie in between the first and last 5 minutes, so I won’t complain.

Anyway, if you liked those other movies I mentioned, you’ll probably enjoy this one, but otherwise I’d steer clear. It’s different, and of better quality than I expected (the lady that runs the orphanage is an Oscar winner!), but the strange approach of exploring exploitative/Grindhouse plot elements with a PG attitude keeps it from being a true lost classic.

What say you?

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