Monday, January 26, 2015

Blood and Lace (1971)



Entertainingly awful, this kitschy horror picture combines abuse at a home for wayward girls with a serial-killer storyline to create a stew of intrigue, murder, and sex. As a result, the movie’s not boring, per se, but it’s meandering, tonally inconsistent, and underdeveloped. Watched with the right wink-wink attitude, however, Blood and Lace feels a bit like a grimy exploitation flick crossbred with a soap opera. The movie begins with the gruesome killing of two people sleeping in bed after sex, a scene that features a shot taken from the point of view of the murder weapon (in this case, a hammer), years before John Carpenter perfected and popularized that particular camera angle in Halloween (1978). The opening murder makes an orphan of pretty teenager Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson), who gets sent to a home run by Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame). Alas, Mrs. Deere is a cruel weirdo who violently abuses the young ladies in her care, even killing some of them. Concurrently, Mrs. Deere uses her sexual wiles to persuade a male social worker to ignore problems at the home. In similarly sexed-up subplots, middle-aged cop Calvin Carruthers (Vic Tayback) monitors Ellie’s case—presumably because of his inappropriate lust for her—and the mysterious individual who killed Ellie’s mother remains on the loose. Blood and Lace contains a few enthusiastically trashy elements, including a catfight, but it’s nowhere near gonzo enough to work as a go-for-broke shocker. (The movie’s rated PG, after all.) Instead, it’s closer to so-bad-it’s-good territory, especially with actors Dennis Christopher, Grahame, and Tayback playing the tacky material straight. Of these players, Grahame comes closest to rendering respectable work, since she channels bitterness and regret with singular clarity, even though her acting is a bit on the stiff side. Then again, considering the shabby nature of this project, who can blame the onetime Hollywood star—Grahame won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1951 behind-the-scenes melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful—for seeming disinterested?

Blood and Lace: LAME

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