Blood and Black Lace (1964)

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I like giallo film. While I know I don’t really dream in bright colors, there is that surreal, walking underwater during a rave feeling when one watches these movies.

I would have to cite Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) as both my introduction and personal favorite of the genre however over the top arty and gory as it is.

I liked director Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. I have it on a DVD pack that I should talk about in another post. For Blood and Black Lace, Bava wanted to step away from horror and try his hand at a crime thriller, though with a little extra than your average whodunit.

Our movie takes place at an Italian fashion house salon run by Countess Cristina Como (Eva Bartok), and her boyfriend, Max (Cameron Mitchell). It appears he was at least co manager of this place for some time, and a fairly recent boyfriend. The countess wasn’t necessarily a new widow, but once you start watching, it seems pretty fast.

On the other hand, when managing models, dresses, accessories and fashion show audiences, why not have another guy around. Turns out, there is more to this salon than beehive hairstyles and colorful sequined evening wear.

Our movie begins with one model talking to her boyfriend, who appears a little short on cash. The girl promises to get a little before meeting him later tonight. A short while later, an assailant wearing a long coat, hat and a blank mask to cover his face.

The assailant in question made me think of DC’s The Question. Now, I wonder if he hung out in swinging sixties Italy prior to the Justice League….

While a fun prospect, our killer had far more ordinary motives. The first model killed left behind a diary documenting nasty little secrets about everyone that model and boss alike would prefer hidden, everything from secret pregnancies to blackmail to a spouse taken out of the way. One by one, each model is taken out in a variety of colorful ways.

I say colorful because giallo loves colored lighting and I have to say, that made the atmosphere in certain scenes, particularly where one hapless and nosy model finds herself wandering through a dark storage room lit in bright greens, blues and purples as she knocks into dress mannequins and makes herself a target as the Question, I mean the villain searches for that diary.

The reveal, while convoluted, didn’t give off much in the way of a twist, even with betrayal. I really didn’t see the point of the Inspector on the scene (Thomas Reiner) beyond looking pretty and eventually sort of unraveling things. The way this movie resolved itself, he could have hit a cafe and called it a night.

All in all, if you are a fan of the genre or Mario Bava, it’s worth a watch. If you want a little extra with your thrillers or a different take on the fashion world, that works as well. I liked this movie, but not my favorite of the lot.

It Came From The Best Video Gen X Film Series: Repo Man (1984)

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More than a few movies that I reviewed on this blog came from Best Video in Hamden, CT. Over the years, the video rental that housed, “Forever Evil” on VHS as well as many gems from criterion collections, foreign film and finds obscure enough to put a feather tat on the snobbiest and most discerning hipsters, opened a coffee bar and its doors to live performers and film screenings.

One screening that caught my eye right away was called Gen X Film Series, and the first on the list was Alex Cox’s “Repo Man.”

Like others in the punk and/or goth subculture, I’ve seen “Sid and Nancy.” I have only caught bits and pieces of “Repo Man” and only when it was shown on channel 11, back when it had marathons of franchise horror movies that I would tape, not always cutting off the commercials we would fast forward. Needless to say, on cable television, there was a lot of editing for language.

Nevertheless, I was aware of the soundtrack before I even heard of Circle Jerks, or learned that the band’s bassist, Zander Schloss, played the nerdy yet clueless friend to our story’s hero.

The story is set in 1980’s Los Angeles. This isn’t a glitzy and moneyed Hollywood version of L.A. Rather, this is a trash filled dirty and grim setting where we first meet punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) scowling through his shift at a generic grocery store stocking generic brand food, named ‘Food’ and ‘Beer.’ His mood could have been attributed to his shitty job in a shitty neighborhood, but I can’t imagine his coworker, Kevin (Schloss) singing a generic soda jingle over and over again helped. Otto punches Kevin, leading to further altercation with his boss and the goofy looking security guard. Nevertheless, Otto shows up at a party hosted at Kevin’s house where he runs into his friend, Duke, fresh out of juvenile hall. It seems that juvie got to Duke because it isn’t long before Otto catches him with his girlfriend.

The dirt sprinkle on the shit sundae that was Otto’s day took the form of his aging hippie parents toking up and turning his college money over to a televangelist.  While he had no intention of college, that money would have helped him leave town. On a walk in an especially bad neighborhood, he happens onto a repo man named Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) who feeds him a story about how his pregnant wife needs to get her car out of a bad neighborhood and would he drive it for him for twenty-five dollars? Soon, the real owners of the car see what’s going on and it becomes apparent that Otto is not just doing a stranger a favor. After some back and forth, Otto embraces the high flying life of automobile repossession and the work methods of it’s various characters.

As Otto is settling into his new line of work, a scientist is carting around something glowy, green and making him sick enough to swerve on the highway as it disintegrates anyone foolhardy enough to open the trunk, including a friend of Otto’s that hooked up with Duke and his former girlfriend to form the kind of crime ring that declares that they will order sushi and not pay. As the mystery trunk makes it’s way to L.A., Otto is subject to random crime, conspiracy theorists, government agents and the glowing green prize is in the trunk of a 1964 Chevy Malibu and guess who gets caught in the middle?

“Repo Man” kicked off the Gen X Film series and what a kick it was. Against the backdrop of a grimier L.A. that Hollywood would gloss over, it gives way to a realism that even the glaring generic quality of the store brand food that became one of many running symbols and subplots can’t deny. It has a few stories merging into one glowing trunk full of something unknown and dangerous, not unlike the cold war and Reaganomics of the period. I was a kid through a lot of this, and seeing the parallels with our current economic climate made this movie scary and by some turns, plausible.

I’m glad that my first time seeing “Repo Man” all the way through was on a large screen and followed by a brief discussion in such a great venue. I don’t visit Best Video nearly enough, but it’s a warm and cozy space surrounded by any movie you can think of and so many more you need to see. I only hope that I can make it to see the next installment in this series.

ichratesrepo