Night #16: Sei Donne Per L’assassino (1964)

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Directed By: Mario Bava

Perhaps the sight of beauty makes him lose control of himself, so he kills.”

You didn’t know I could speak Italian, did you? Well ok, that’s technically not the right title for the movie. Even the translation, Six Women For The Murderer isn’t what it’s often known as. Instead, this is most commonly known as Blood And Black Lace and it was the first in Italy’s most popular export, the Giallo genre.

One stormy night outside a fashion salon Isabella, one of the fashion models, is murdered by a masked figure and her body stuffed left for all to discover. What follows is a mystery and…well six other murders. In this we have the early birth of the slasher genre. As I noted before, Mario Bava’s later Bay Of Blood directly inspired Friday The 13th and it was arguably that, not the superior Halloween which launched the slasher boom of the early 80s. All that had to do was toss out the artistry in place for cheap budgets and serviceable camera work and they could reap the benefits. It’s a hell of a long way from this or Suspiria to Sleepaway Camp III.

Also born along with the genre is the misogynistic tendencies that these movies tend to have. It’s exclusively women that die here and they’re all beautiful women who die too, often being disfigured either before or after their death. I can’t say that it’s going to pass the Bechdel test anytime soon (I’m joking, but I think it actually does pass that test). However as flimsy as a defence as it is, it suits a theme. More than once Bava in his movies revisits the idea of destroying beauty and surely having a cast of fashion models was no accident. He wouldn’t be the only male filmmaker to explore this idea (Whereas someone like Hitchcock seemed more interested in the idea of possession by any means, including murder). Granted, it isn’t the strongest reasoning but at the very least it’s not entirely devoid of context.

What can’t be overstated is how downright gorgeous the movie is. It’s not just the use of light and shadow but the unnatural splashes of colour too. This is a shot from the incredibly stylish opening credits of the movie (Which has the cast posing with various mannequins and was bizarrely cut from the original American release).

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It’s unnatural and stagey, but it is rich and stylish and a reminder of how vital the use of colour is in movies. A current trend I hate is the washing out of colours, which is just as unnatural as the use of colour is in that screenshot. We don’t see the world in muted colours so I’m not sure why movies suddenly decided that we had to.

Anyway, the movie is great although one thing I can’t explain is why the Inspector working the case decides that it’s the work of a sex maniac. There’s nothing sexual about the crimes at all but the authorities seem pretty confident in their assertion. Perhaps it’s the idea that all the victims are young beautiful women but to be honest it wouldn’t be a Giallo if there wasn’t one thing in it that made no sense. Also, another thing that doesn’t make sense; at one point a murder victim is put in the boot of another model’s car. When she discovers it she doesn’t call the police, instead she brings it into her house all while hiding it from the house staff. Given that she’s also killed soon after and clearly had nothing to do with any of the murderous shenanigans going on, her subterfuge makes no real sense.

This rockets right up there in the recommendations list. It’s largely pretty bloodless by modern standards and if you’re sensitive to it then the parade of murdered women might be a bit much, but I can guarantee you haven’t seen anything that looks like this.

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