The 13th Floor

The Pre-Slasher Lunacy Of Scream Factory’s BLOOD & LACE!

Picture this opening scene to a movie.

We are the POV of a “killer.” Slowly, we make our way into the kitchen and open a drawer with utensils and other tools. We end up pulling out a hammer. We move upstairs to the bedroom and find a couple quietly sleeping in bed together. Hovering just above them, we lift the hammer, then flip it to the back side. And boom, it comes down again and again and it’s us committing this ghastly murder.

Sound vaguely familiar?

I’m sure it does because dozens and dozens of horror movies have this scene, but most notable is John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece HALLOWEEN, which opens with a variation of this. The shocker there is that the culprit is an angel faced 6 year old boy. But the opening scene I just described is actually from the 1971 feature BLOOD AND LACE (not to be confused with Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE), now available as a Blu-Ray / DVD combo from the fine fiends over at Scream Factory.

While the rest of the movie doesn’t play like a traditional “slasher” movie, it does pre-date HALLOWEEN and even 1974’s BLACK CHRISTMAS! (Although credit needs to be given to Michael Powell’s 1960 feature PEEPING TOM for planting the seeds of voyeuristic horrors like this.) And the rest of the movie’s plot is so bonkers, you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of or seen this one before. OK, let me see if I can get this straight.

That opening murder is a nightmare and the girl having it is Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson). Turns out the victim was her mother, a prostitute and one of her “clients” that she witnessed. Now, she’s being forced to move into an orphanage run by Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame) and her creepy handyman Tom Kredge (Len Lesser). It seems their orphanage isn’t exactly what it seems as they work the kids to the bone, barely feed them and collect all the money from the state to look after them. If any try to escape? Well, they’re taken care of and put in the freezer. Whenever social services comes around, they’re thawed out and put in the infirmary, just to insure they make their kid head count. But wait, there’s more!

So, Ellie ends up at this place, but not too far behind keeping a close eye on her is Detective Calvin Carruthers (Vic Tayback), someone who “knew her mother” if you know what I mean and has a strange infatuation now with her daughter. After all, as he’s telling the social worker earlier in the film while having drinks at a bar, “she’s good breeding stock.” (No, really! He says that!)

OK, so at the orphanage, Ellie makes enemies almost immediately with her 16 year old roommate (really probably a 27 year old), because they both have their eye on the same boy, who just turned 21. (In actuality probably 32.) Then there’s the girl tied up and being tortured in the attic. Ellie’s recurring nightmares. Tom Kredge blackmailing Mrs. Deere into a partnership. Mrs. Deere regularly sleeping with the social worker to get him to turn a blind eye. Oh, and did I mention the hideously burned man hiding in the basement that occasionally hovers over Ellie while she sleeps?

On top of all of the above madness I mentioned, the flick also has one of the most screwed up, amazing endings of a horror movie ever. It’s like…. PIECES good, the ending! And while the music and score seem a bit over-dramatic for the majority of the film, the person I was watching it with recognized it as primarily stock music & scores from other productions. Hell, the music that plays over the menu screen is apparently from THE OUTER LIMITS! It also seems that this is the sole directing credit for Philip Gilbert for reasons unknown. Would have loved to have seen what other lunacy he could’ve given us with other movies, because the group I watched it with couldn’t stop talking about it for an hour after it was over.

Look, I’d never heard of this crazy movie, and part of the reason is it’s never gotten a proper home video release. I’m not even sure if it came out on VHS in any of its various titles, including THE BLOOD SECRET, which is the title card that comes up in the opening. But I love that there are companies like Scream Factory that manage to find these oddball little gems that somehow have avoided me all these years. Now it’s your turn to see this crazy flick for yourself!

Buy it directly from Scream Factory right here!