Terror and Black Lace (1985) - "Terror Y Encajes Negros" is what some call a Mexican version of a giallo. It is not quite that but it is a story that is heavy on moral message wrapped in a thriller. Isabel (Maribel Guardia) is a young wife of an older man, she is a kept woman safely ensconced in her penthouse apartment she longs to interact with the world. Her husband Martinez (Gonzalo Vega) likes to know where she is, to know what she is doing, as well as controlling her access to money. It is always great when a scene sets up a character without exposition about that character and there is a great simple one to show how Martinez thinks. He comes home and there is a service truck in front of the entrance, he gets out of his car and rips off the wipers from the van before it can speed away. When upstairs with his wife she is doting on him, calming him with a drink and dinner. She tells him she made him pork chops and rice. He says he already had something like that today and then proceeds to take her in the kitchen and explain how she will make him a "tortuga" totally ignoring the work she did in preparing him a meal. He is bit of a dick but it sets up both her and him. His overbearing behavior is going to drive Isabel to do things she probably not do. Of course the moral lesson is hers to learn and through her the audience gets the message.
Little do the residents of the apartment building know that there is a deviant in their midst. Cesar the instrument maker has a compulsion that will blow up into murder later in the film. The movie does a good job hiding his predilection with a bit of misdirection. The opening scene has the creeper Cesar (Claudio Obregon) in a mall following a woman onto an escalator. He stands really close to her and after he gets off we continue to follow the woman. Suddenly people notice that her dress has been cut up on the back. Did that creeper really just cut pieces off her dress in public? Later we see Cesar in the elevator of the building fighting the urge when women enter. He says to himself, not at home not where he lives. You get the picture from this that his urge is strong and it takes all of his will power to restrain himself. Still though it is surprising when you see what his real deal is. If you pay attention to his interaction with the cleaning girl Coquis (Claudia Guzman) you can figure it out but this viewer was a bit slow. We cut to scenes of Cesar and his mistreatment of women throughout the film. We really get the full picture of his fetish and know that at some point it will come into play with the main story.
That main story about a kept woman romanticizing about a different life is a bit mundane. It is well developed if not particularly interesting. Isabel decides to change her life by getting out more and in so doing she meets another man. The black lace outfit she initially thought would get her husband back to treating her like more than a useful piece of decoration is now a way to break from her boring life. She meets and flirts with Ruben (Jaime Moreno) on a few occasions. So her husband was right all along thinking that if he gave her too much freedom she would soon stray? She decides to meet Ruben at his apartment on a weekend when Martinez is going out of town Ruben for his part is thrill with the idea of finally getting this woman in bed and who wouldn't Maribel Guardia is a former Miss Costa Rica and a beautiful women. Ruben is exactly the reason Martinez is so protective of his wife. He is a single man who thinks nothing of trying seduce another man's wife. His smarmy coolness makes the viewer cringe and thus he is the perfect foil for the moral tale being told here. So when he gets Isabel to agree to join him at his apartment we are set up for the lesson.
Isabel for her part will have to make a decision before the night is out. She sees her husband off and gets ready for her night out at Ruben's. She knows what she is getting into dressing in the black lace outfit she is beautiful and then puts her blue dress over it and heads out. It is sort of a shame really what happens to her. Martinez with a chance to impress his boss and possibly get a promotion has some really bad luck. A flat tire and a bad car jack make him miss the opportunity of a lifetime. He heads home a broken man. His scenes are really played almost for comedy with every one of his reactions a real exaggeration. Isabel has equally bad luck, even after making her decision at Ruben's she is punished for even thinking about cheating on her husband. As she rides the elevator back to her apartment she has the misfortune of coming in contact with Cesar.
He has been having his own bad night and it has spun completely out of control. An argument with Coquis turns fatal and it is poor Isabel's fate to be in the elevator just as Cesar is trying to get rid of the body. This starts the rather good final sequence of the film where Cesar does all he can to get Isabel and make sure no one ever knows about his crime. It is a long sequence and Isabel has several very close calls in and out of the elevator, the roof and her apartment. When finally she manages to reach the apartment of the party and it seems she is safe, the moral lesson smacks her one more time. Her husband arrives home as she is being calmed on the balcony and from his viewpoint it is his wife in a black lace outfit surrounded by men. He is furious and refuses to listen to anyone pulling her out of the party and forcing her back into the elevator, the place of her trauma. As she cries in a ball in the elevator he walks up the stairs to see the door of his apartment hacked open, he realizes something more has happened and cries for forgiveness.
The lesson in this film is a rough one with Isabel even though she ends up making the right decision is a victim for just thinking about cheating on her husband. In a way the film presents her as young and naive and Martinez as her protector. This is a bit of a relic of a pre-feminism world maybe reflecting Mexican society at the time but maybe not even that. Reflecting on it with today's views Martinez comes across as more manipulative and Isabel is responding to his smothering personality. A women though who would cheat on her spouse becomes fair game for any psychopath lurking in the world. It does not matter if she follows through or not, if only she had listened to her husband and accepted her cage nothing bad will ever happen to her. Not the most modern of messages. Still the film was reasonably well constructed and the final sequence well done. So it will get a pass from Soresport movies. Oh and since you are wondering here is the toruga recipe
1. Open a roll and pull out most of the bread leaving a hollowed crust.
2. Refried beans spread on one side, avacado and chilies spread on the other.
3. In the middle Ham, slices of tomato, avacado, cheese, onions, and some chili peppers.
Eat and be merry!
Rating (6.1) 5.0 and up are recommended.