Blood and Lace (1971)

“Blood and Lace” (not to be confused with Bava’s unrelated “Blood and Black Lace,” though most likely a ripoff of that title) follows teenaged orphan Ellie Masters, whose prostitute mother has been clobbered to death with a hammer alongside a john in bed. When she arrives at Mrs. Deere’s bizarre foster home, however, things go from bad to worse.

An indisputable oddball of the early seventies, “Blood and Lace” has the unique character of occupying the space of both a whacked out splatter film, as well as a demented familial drama with Freud written all over it. The film opens with a double hammer murder straight out of any B-slasher flick, but while you’d anticipate the unfolding of a slasher film from thereon, the film does something of the opposite.

Instead of opting for a straightforward slasher framework (which arguably didn’t even exist at the time of this film’s production), the narrative runs straight into an even more morbid situation at a foster home run by a strict sadist and her hired help. What is perhaps most striking about the film is the disparity between what the opening sets out to do, and what the film actually ends up doing; there is a strange lack of synchronicity between the two, but the hybrid nature is perhaps what makes the film memorable. The bulk of the picture unravels the twisted goings-on at Mrs. Deere’s orphanage, and draws sparse links between them and Ellie’s ordeal, which are never entirely fleshed out, yet the film never really demands enough of the audience for it to matter.

The cinematography in the film is surprisingly lush for being such a low budget picture, and there are some great scenes focused in and around the large, eerie foster home. Melody Patterson is likable as the tortured heroine, while Hollywood classic Gloria Grahame plays the sinister Mrs. Deere remarkably well. Vic Tayback is also fantastic as the investigator with a pressing interest in Ellie’s case. The film’s conclusion is implicatively disgusting, and there is an absolute resistance against any happy resolutions, but this falls in tone with the rest of the film in all its cynical glory.

Overall, “Blood and Lace” is a fine piece of early seventies sleaze. It’s well-shot, well-acted, and in some ways sophisticated in spite of all its morally disreputable engagements. You may be surprised to find the film landed a PG rating in 1971, which is hard to believe given the sheer amount of wickedness inflicted on the underaged. Not a perfect film, but a fine example of lurid exploitative horror from days past.