Netflix streaming is blowing my mind as of late. I keep stumbling across movies not available on DVD and in the case of BLOOD AND LACE, never released on VHS either. It was probably nearly a decade ago that I went on a mad search for this vaporous movie. I eventually ended up with a bootleg tape whose image was so gray and vague I couldn’t even watch it. That was then and this is now. The version I just witnessed, thanks to Netflix, is widescreen and as crispy bright as an acid flashback. Can you believe that once upon a time Netflix and I hated each other? Now look at us! I totally understand why dogs hump legs.
So besides unavailability, what’s so special about BLOOD AND LACE? (Not an especially helpful title by the way!) Check this out….
It opens with a P.O.V. murder. The killer enters a kitchen, opens a drawer and yanks out the weapon of choice. They then proceed to go upstairs to complete their nasty chore. How can you not think of HALLOWEEN?
A young girl wakes up to find a man looming over her with a burned face and a shocking red shirt. Everyone tells her that it was only a dream. I’m telling ya, it’s straight out of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Human bodies are treated like meat and stored in a freezer sort of like in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
The big crazy is a woman of a certain age played by a Hollywood veteran just like a little movie called FRIDAY THE 13th!
What’s so fascinating about all that is that BLOOD AND LACE is from 1971! (The copyright on the actual film is 1970.) Now, I don’t want to accuse anybody of copying anybody’s homework so let’s just say the collective unconscious works in mysterious ways. In any case, this movie couldn’t be more ahead of its time and it can’t stop doing the Nostradamus boogie!
Of course, BLOOD AND LACE is not for everybody. It’s acting is amateurish in spots, the story and the character’s behavior push credibility often and the whole business is drive-in trashy. The soundtrack, which comes across as random records being played, is the biggest drawback and could possibly be blamed entirely for this movie missing the appreciation that it deserves. Personally, I don’t mind any of those factors too much and I don’t think any other fans of seventies cinema will either. This is the type of movie that would never get off the ground today; it’s grim, sleazy, gory, startlingly perverse and believe it or not, PG (well, GP to be exact).
After Ellie Masters (adorable yet sturdy MELODY PATERSON) witnesses her by all (and I do mean ALL) accounts whorish mother’s brutal bludgeoning via hammer, she is sent to a group home (apparently specializing in rather old-looking kids.) The orphanage is ruled over by a sadist named Mrs. Deere (a fantastically off-putting GLORIA GRAHAME) and her knuckle-dragging goon of a handyman, Kredge. It’s the kind of place where escape is discouraged with cleavers chopping off hands, starvation-torture and being frozen alive in a meat locker. Ellie, no chump, knows something’s fishy and every revelation she comes across is more lurid than the last. Look for appearances by ALICE’s VIC TAYBACK, SEINFELD’s “Unkle Leo” LEN LESSER (as Kredge) and a young DENNIS CHRISTOPHER (IT, FADE TO BLACK). You’ll thank me later for not revealing much more.
The way I see it, BLOOD AND LACE shares more than just a freezer in common with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in that the tune it’s humming seems to be a requiem for the idealism and hopefulness of the sixties. The trapped teens we find throughout dream of a freedom just beyond reach but ultimately wake up to the odious conclusion that the callous constructs created by the previous generation are impossible to scale over. In one of the films most lingering moments the youth, when presented with an actual chance to flee, stand motionless and passive. It’s as if they’ve come to the conclusion that there really is no escape and that the outside world offers them nothing more. Similar to the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, adults are consistently shown as corrupt, covetous, cruel and predatory. The evil Mrs. Deere even taunts Ellie with the ultimate curse that one day she will be like her.
This is some gritty dark twisted material and yet it’s sometimes filmed like a bright sparkling seventies Coke commercial. If you’re a fan of grindhouse and cult cinema, you’re sure to snuggle up fast. It’s quite an unusual mix of innocence and salacity and though it’s on the surface crude and exploitative, I think it ends up saying something pretty interesting about how one generation goes about limiting and crippling the next. As blunt and brutal as BLOOD may be, the real nightmare here is the woebegone pessimistic dread that the young can never free themselves from the enslaving patterns they inherit from the old. Well, that’s the movie I saw anyway.
BLOOD AND LACE is the one and only film directed by PHILIP S. GILBERT which is a real shame. Even though its low budget impedes, its soundtrack is atrocious and it’s sometimes unintentionally comical, I’m head over heals with how unabashed it is about rattling its ribald chains. Its slip may be showing but its flirty attraction to the grotesque is inspiring. If you ask the person named me, this is one genuine lost classic so forward-thinking that it’s able to predict the future of horror both on and off the screen.