The Orphanage – Rediscovering ‘Blood and Lace’ (US 1971 – 87 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 05, 2016
The Orphanage – Rediscovering ‘Blood and Lace’ (US 1971 – 87 mins)

Mildly shocking at the time, though tame by todays standards, the low-budget yet highly watchable ‘Blood and Lace’ is an interesting and entertaining fright-flick notable for its abundant use of POV shots, and its strong adult cast.

Following the brutal murder of her prostitute mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson) is sent to a creepy orphanage run by the sadistic Mrs Deere (Gloria Grahame). Although she has social worker Harold Mullins (Milton Selzer) and detective Carruthers (Vic Tayback) looking out for her, Ellie finds herself being terrorized by both the Orphanage’s caretaker; Tom (Len Lesser) and a mysterious figure in a creepy mask. What the authorities don’t know however is that both Deere and Tom are going to extreme lengths to keep the funding of the orphanage coming in, by returning any rebellious runaways, dead or alive!

The interesting adult cast was led by 1952 Oscar winner Gloria Grahame, who was excellent as the sadistic Mrs Deere. Tough guy actor Vic Tayback was the mysterious detective Carruthers, and future “Seinfeld” star Len Lesser was perfect as the twisted handyman Tom Kredge. Milton Selzer had a good part as Ellie’s social worker, and 22 year old Melody Patterson had her best role as Ellie, although she remains better known as Wrangler Jane from TV’s ‘F Troop’ (’65-7). There was some wooden support from the younger cast members, although a young Dennis Christopher does well as Ellie’s new boyfriend.

This was director Philip Gilbert’s sole feature, and he does a fine (though not flashy) job. The decent script was by Gil Lasky, who also wrote another twist-filled shocker that year, ‘The Night God Screamed’ with Jeanne Crain. There are a handful of bloody moments, including the opening hammer murders of Ellie’s mother and her ‘client’, and an escapee’s hand being lopped of by a hatchet. It’s just a shame that the blood looked too much like paint though, as this lessens these violent moments somewhat. It’s also worth noting that, by the movie’s end, you realize that just about every character in the film was disturbed to some degree.

An obscure oddity, the chase-filled ‘Blood and Lace’ is worth watching for its twisty plot and the performances from both Gloria Grahame and Melody Patterson, who makes an appealing damsel-in-distress. With its secret rooms and occasional shocks, there’s plenty to enjoy, and the perverse punchline in the dying moments was a memorable touch to end on.

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