January 15, 2024

BLOOD AND LACE: Not-So-Glorious Gloria

1971 / 87 min
Available at MovieZyng.com
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Shortly after discovering the dark pleasures of film noir (relatively late in life), I developed sort of a retroactive crush on Gloria Grahame. She acted in other genres, of course, but that inherent sultriness made her one of the quintessential femme fatales. Watching Grahame seduce the screen in such classics as Crossfire and The Big Heat always had me thinking I was born a few decades too late.

Not having seen any of Grahame’s latter career work, I was understandably (perhaps morbidly) curious about 1971’s Blood and Lace. This lurid exploitation film is typical of the low budget junk many former starlets ended up doing in order to stay gainfully employed. She was in her late forties at the time, so I don’t know if this quite qualifies as “hagsploitation,” though her role is similar to those played by the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and Bette Davis…an aging human monster. Still, Blood and Lace is cut from the same cloth.

But unlike such campy classics as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, cheap production values, drab direction and an overall sleazy tone make Blood and Lace a depressing endurance test, exacerbated by a picture so murky that a decent Blu-ray transfer can't save it. I’ll give Grahame this much…as Mrs. Deere, the greedy, sadistic purveyor of an orphanage, she gives the film’s best performance. That may not be saying much since most of the young cast - led by protagonist Ellie (Melody Patterson) - are uniformly awful and look way too old to pass for orphans.

"Well, you ain't exactly Glenn Ford, are you?"
The story itself has Ellie being dropped off at the orphanage following the brutal murder of her prostitute mother. Mrs. Deere runs the place with an iron fist, subjecting kids to all kinds of physical and psychological abuse while local social worker Mr. Mullins (Milton Selzer) looks the other way. Meanwhile, there’s a masked killer on the loose, presumably the same person who killed Ellie’s mother. However, the lead detective on the case, Calvin Carruthers (Vic Tayback), seems more obsessed with Ellie than catching the killer (yeah…yuck). 

Though pretty violent for a PG-rated film, thrillseekers unfazed by the narrative’s nastier aspects would still probably find Blood and Lace a chore to sit through. Even by hagsploitation’s lowly standards, this is cheap, dull and poorly assembled. It's sort of sad to think this was the only work Gloria Grahame could get at the time.

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