The film is set in a 'hotel' for mentally-ill women, who while away the days playing a form of croquet which could only be played by actors who have never seen or played actual croquet before. Into this setting comes a hooded maniac, who stalks the corridors at night offing various patients and staff members. These staff members include a predatory (and highly unprofessional) lesbian nurse, a gardener who likes to turn up and act suspicious after a murder's been committed, and Klaus Kinski. And, most bizarrely of all, a head doctor who thinks nothing of maintaining a full arsenal of easily accessible medieval weapons , including an iron maiden.
There is a murder mystery aspect to proceedings, but the detective work is largely left to the viewer. Apart from a brief opening sequence, where the killer lines up a potential victim only to abort when two staff members pass through the corridor wheeling a trolley, the film takes place over a single day and night. This structure, with the murders all occurring within a condensed timeframe, which enables the killer to operate with impunity, given that no-one is aware of the mounting death toll, anticipates that of many slasher films.
The killer himself (and it's made very clear that it's a 'he') is straight out of a krimi, stalking the halls of the hotel/hospital (which is clearly just a large house) dressed all in black, and sporting a face-covering hood. Fernando di Leo was a director who could turn out brilliant films despite a lack of technical skill. This is not a brilliant film, and the technical deficiencies are on full display in these scenes, which place the killer on full display for the audience. Seeing a ridiculously-garbed figure stalk through absurdly well-lit hallways carrying medieval weapons doesn't really generate any tension or suspense. Di Leo's warts-n-all presentation of the killer contrasts sharply with Argento's preference for close-ups which fetishised the killers hands, eyes and weapons. If you're going to repeatedly show your killer in medium shot, at least imbue him with some of the raw, kinetic energy which spills from the killer in Blood and Black Lace, threatening to overwhelm its victims. (Another example of a killer losing agency from full-body shots can be found in the Scream series, where Ghostface seems more comical than threatening when seen in more than fleeting glimpses.)
The corridor-stalking scenes eventually come to act as a counterpoint for the succession of softcore scenes (with occasional semi-hardcore insert shots) which comprise the bulk of the running time. The film thus also resembles a 70s porn film, minus some of the explicitness, with a succession of skin scenes linked by the flimsiest of plots.
When the ongoing series of murders is finally uncovered, things do belatedly get moving. However, the stupidity displayed by every single character in the denouement is absolutely breathtaking. To give but a few examples-the killer, who, remember, had completely abandoned an attempt to kill someone the previous night due to two people walking down a corridor, tries again to kill this person, despite the recent arrival of an entire police squad at the hotel. Before anyone brings up the killer's (extremely flimsy) motive to justify his need to take immediate action, he could have fled the scene and brought that motive beyond the walls of the hospital, still ultimately achieving his stated aim.
In an even bigger display of stupidity, the police decide to use a character (who gives her stupid permission) as bait to lure the killer into their clutches, which does semi-work. The only problem is that they leave an entire room of nurses completely unprotected. Sure, the killer is more likely to go for the bait-she's wandering freely about the halls of the hotel, and is played by one of the lead actresses, but wouldn't you leave at least one man to guard the other residents? And if, as indeed happens, the killer does take an unsuccessful crack at the bait but then manages to evade the clutches of the entire police squad, you'll be damn sorry that you left all those maceable women alone.
The film is semi-charming, because of its many, many deficiencies. You also get the same bizarre juxtaposition of 70s fashions set against an old-school castle backdrop that the Miraglia films would shortly offer, albeit without any of the quality. As a final nail in The Cold Blooded Beast's coffin, it seems towards the end to be genuinely trying to make the audience suspect that Klaus Kinski is the killer. Anyone who buys this and suspects Kinski-a man who might as well walk about slapping his thigh with a red herring whenever he appears in a giallo or krimi-is, I'm afraid to say, a bit stupid. If you consider yourself to be a bit stupid, this may be the film for you.