Blood and Lace (1971) aka The Blood Secret
Warped, bizarre, a seventies flourish and an ending so demented it just has to be seen to be appreciated.
Low budget and resonating with that grungy seventies drive in feel is exactly what we get when a point of view camera with a clawed hammer in front of it approaches a bed with a sleeping man and woman. Down comes the claw intermingled with quick cuts of ketchup smeared on the faces of the intended victims. The room is promptly set on fire before we awake from this nightmare with a screaming Melody Patterson coming to in a hospital bed. It turns out this was no nightmare but in fact the murder of her Mother and one of her many lovers.
Never knowing just who her Father was and now a ward of the state, Melody hits the road running only to be picked up by the detective in charge of solving her Mother’s murder, Vic Tayback.
Vic has a creepy presence this time out and there’s an uncomfortable hint of a sexual predator lingering in the air. Vic sees her off to the Deere Youth Home that is overseen by a nutty Gloria Grahame. Miss Grahame is a long way from the pouty Noir dames she so excelled at in the fifties. Something just doesn’t seem right at the youth home and when a youngster steals away in the night only to hunted down by Gloria’s handyman, Len (Uncle Leo) Lesser wielding a hatchet, secrets are to be unveiled that are sure to cause a few nauseating grimaces.
Gloria has an arrangement with a shady town doctor that she receives an allowance for each child under her care. She just can’t have them running off as it will cost her money. It’s better to keep corpses on ice and when the monthly inspection takes place, thaw those kiddies out and put them in the infirmary passing them off as sick in bed. I’m not making this up. Gloria and Uncle Leo really are that demented.
When Tayback turns up at the home to speak to Melody, he’s beginning to wonder if something isn’t quite right. More so when Uncle Leo makes some sexual remarks about the under aged Melody. Melody in turn runs afoul of Grahame who firmly believes the girl is trouble and could bring an end to the money making scheme she has going with her alcoholic handyman with the roving eye.
Meat cleavers, hammers, scarred face masks and freezers will figure prominently in the final reel but it’s that ending that is a gut turner and not to be missed.
Our one time Oscar winner Gloria Grahame has admittedly hit rock bottom with this low budget flick from director Philip Gilbert. At times it doesn’t seem like much more than a Herschell Gordon Lewis production minus the stomach turning bloodletting. Sure it’s a horror film but Gloria was only 48 at this time and appears to have lost that sex appeal she seemed to ooze at one time. Len Lesser sure looks the creep here and I have to think if it wasn’t for his role as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld, I’m not sure anyone would know who I was referring to when I say his name in this write up. This despite an incredibly long career in film and television.
With a few twists and turns along the way, Vic Tayback’s police detective fits right in as he goes about unveiling the killer and divulging his own personal demons and hang ups. It just adds to that warped sense of fun leaving you feeling like you might need a shower after ejecting the disc from the DVD player. Vic is known to many as Mel from the long running Linda Lavin sitcom Alice.
Horror films quite often equal teens and sex. A growing trend through the history of horror films and this one is no different. This might be a home for wayward youths and orphans but there doesn’t look to be an actor under the age of 18 enlisted here. So expect bikinis, girl fights and two young ladies bubbling with excitement over the leading jock on the premises.
Describing this film with one word is easy. I’ve already used it twice so why not a third time…….. demented. Thankfully it’s been rescued from obscurity and released on blu ray by Scream Factory.
Now here’s an item from the vault and a scary surprise.