A masked killer stalking beautiful young women. An ineffectual police investigation. Drugs. A fatal fall.
No, it’s not Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace but rather Roberto Mauri’s Night(s) of Violence, co-scripted with Eduardo Mulargia and also known by the immediately dated title Callgirl ’66.
With a listed running time of 91 minutes, the version under review is shorn of about 14 minutes, mostly dealing with the drug smuggling subplot and thus playing up the film’s horror and thriller aspects.
Despite the elements outlined at the start, I would hesitate to identify the film as an early giallo except in a roundabout krimi / shocker / pulp way. Yes, Bava was undoubtedly inspired by these sources as well, as indicated by Nora Davis’s acting like the heroine of one of the pulp thrillers she compulsively reads, but it’s near impossible, I would argue, to imagine Blood and Black Lace in particular working as text or fotoromanzo.
This is not the case here, with lots of static, talky police procedural scenes and not much in the way of set pieces, the maniac having a tendency to savagely attack with little or no build up or use of suspense devices.
While his motivation and back-story are suitably outlandish and grounded in a traumatic experience they also have a distinctly 1950s feel to them. Rather than wearing a stocking mask that serves to hide his features, he also wears a Phantom of the Opera / V for Vendetta type mask, tellingly modelled on the face of a Grand Guignol actor. If the inclusion of this character affords the filmmakers a degree of reflexivity, they don’t make particularly good use of it, the actor also having an iron-cast alibi for the night in question that fails to really establish him as obvious red herring or suspect.
This backwards rather than forward looking feel is further compounded by the black and white realist / noir / traditional expressionist visuals and the associations these further strengthen with the likes of The Embalmer, Eyes without a Face and – given the presence of Alberto Lupo there as well – Seddok.
Marilu Tolo has an early appearance as the girl investigating her sister’s murder.