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#1 Izo

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:23 PM

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(Write-Up Forthcoming)


Recommended Films:

Black Sunday
Black Sabbath
Planet of the Vampires
Kill, Baby, Kill
Twitch of the Death Nerve/Bay of Blood
Lisa and the Devil
Rabid Dogs

Web Resources:

Mario Bava Web Page - a good resource for information and reviews

Senses of Cinema:
Great Director
"Mario Bava's Black Sunday AKA Mask of Satan"

Roger Ebert Reviews:

Danger Diabolik (2 1/2 Stars)
Baron Blood (2 Stars)


TSPDT 1000 Greatest Films: Black Sunday

#2 Izo

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:30 PM

Mario Bava is surprisingly well-represented on Region 1 DVD, albeit mostly between two now-OOP Anchor Bay box sets. That may soon change, however, as DVD Savant announces that Kino has picked up Anchor Bay's Bava films. Here's the relevant bit:

"And those good folk at Kino/Redemption are going to be Blu-ray dipping into the Mario Bava catalog -- remember him? Starting off in September will be Black Sunday/The Mask of Satan and Hatchet for a Honeymoon."

#3 Izo

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 05:48 PM

Here's all most posts on Bava's films, for the sake of convenience...in reverse chronological order:

Hatchet for the Honeymoon

This is a weird entry in the Mario Bava filmography. I really enjoyed it, as it's a beautifully stylized, truly creepy entry in Bava's giallo films, though in this one we get a male protagonist who reveals to us in the very beginning that he's a madman. In fact, in the very opening scene Bava lays out his intent with the film by jump-cutting between an objective and subjective point of view in one shot before finally settling on the subjection POV shot of the killer walking down a hallway. We spend the rest of the film in this psychopath's head, and his narration is really chilling. What I really liked about the feature is that we don't get to see anything. All of the murders are abstracted to the point that all gore and violence is implied rather than shown, and it's a really unsettling, really clever effect. Bava's masterful stretching of budget is on full display here, and he uses his lead actor's deep eyes to The problem with the film is that it owes just a bit too much to Psycho, but it's a pretty minor issue.

The DVD is barely watchable. The print is scratched to hell, but perfectly adequate. The soundtrack, not so much. It's distorted and muted and full of hiss, and worst of all there are no English subtitles provided. Still, only way that I know of to see the movie, and I have seen much worse. Still, highly recommended. Mario Bava's brilliance, I think, is in showing us the worst of ourselves in the most gorgeous ways possible.

Another great Mario Bava double feature:

Kill, Baby, Kill!

Despite the title, this is a very good, very creepy atmospheric horror film. This film was very obviously an inspiration on Fellini's brilliant segment "Toby Dammit" in the portmanteau film Spirits of the Dead. The gothic style of the film is something Bava always excelled at, and this is really an excellent movie, and one that will genuinely give you the creeps. Still, I don't really feel that Bava was pushing himself very hard in this picture, and I'd rank it along the equally good and unambitious The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Rabid Dogs

This film, however, is a low-budget masterpiece. Lacking virtually all of Bava's signature visual touches, the film more closely resembles any number of Italian crime pictures of the '70s - such as Fernando Di Leo's. This is a claustrophobic, nasty, bitter little film that forefronts a theme running throughout Bava's work: people are cruel and evil will inevitably win. The film offers no hope for humanity, and it's all the more powerful for being so uncompromising. That the bulk of the film takes place inside a cramped car and never gets boring or repetitive is a small miracle in itself and really showcases Bava's visual brilliance on a tight budget. The film is violent and unrelenting, but never crosses that invisible line into unpleasantness, if that makes any sort of sense. Instead, it's absolutely spellbinding and you really feel like you cannot look away from the screen for fear of missing something. Among the most suspenseful films I think I've seen.



Is anyone else a fan of Bava's work? What are your favorites?


Another Bava!

Baron Blood is neither as innovative or as unusual as Bava's great films, like Black Sabbath, Black Sunday or, yes, Planet of the Vampires, but it's not terrible. In fact, it holds a lot of interest as a sort of uncomfortable marriage of Bava's older, gothic style and his newer, more violent, more abstract films like Lisa and the Devil and Bay of Blood. It's not entirely successful, but there are long patches of film that stand up to anything that Bava had or will do. The film features a wonderful castle setting that Bava, of course, utilizes to great effect. Some of the performances are suspect, particularly the two leads. The actress with the pixie cut is particularly annoying. At the same time, though, there are some unusually good performances for a Bava film. There is one actor, who I can only describe as the Italian equivalent of Peter Lorre, who makes the most of his limited role and is truly memorable. Then there's Joseph Cotten, who chews the scenery wonderfully as the titular Baron who spends the length of the film in a wheelchair. While the atmosphere and the setting harken back to Bava's earlier gothic horror films, the deaths in the film are firmly rooted in his '70s output.

These two Anchor Bay Mario Bava box sets are super cheap for the number of films you get in them, and they offer a fascinating look at the career of the great, strange director. I really recommend them. As for Baron Blood, it's a good movie but not a great one. I liked it a lot, but I suspect that the more Bava films you've seen, the more you'll enjoy it.

Planet of the Vampires

As a film fan, is there anything more satisfying than finding a "forgotten" film that is so much better than history has treated it or you could ever have expected? Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires is one of those gems. It's a film that apparently had a miniscule budget, but Bava's brilliance with special effects, mood, and cinematography never let that show. In fact, the budget was so low that Bava couldn't afford any optical effects, so everything had to be done in-camera. Considering that this is a science fiction/horror hybrid film that takes place on a distant planet and has more atmosphere than you can shake a stick at (I've never understood this expression...), that's no mean feat. I wouldn't be surprised if nearly every shot has some sort of in-camera effect in one way or another. It's really a marvel of ultra-low budget filmmaking that the movie doesn't show it's Ed Wood-like origins.

In fact, the film is gorgeous. I mean it. Sure, the smoke machines got put to a lot of use in order to hide floors and things, but really it never becomes intrusive or overly obvious. The movie features, I don't know, space zombies or something, but the script keeps things rolling and is really pretty compelling for a B-sci-fi movie of the era. It's a lot less cookie cutter-y than you'd imagine, I guess is what I'm trying to say. The thing is, though, that this is Bava's movie to make or break. This same script could have been made into a dozen forgettable be space romps, but Bava's visual ingenuity really turns it into a tiny, self-contained miracle.

Well worth your time. I really recommend this one. Mario Bava is so full of surprises.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

As the title would suggest, this is Mario Bava's attempt at a Hitchcockian murder mystery, and it's a very strong, surprisingly graceful film. It's also extremely creepy - even scary - in spots. If the logic of the plot tends to come and go, you don't really notice too much because it just looks phenomenal. While I hesitate to refer to anything as the "first" of any genre, this is a very early (and rare black and white) example of the giallo genre. In many ways it looks forward to Dario Argento's work in the genre, and in several ways is superior to it. Very good film.

Ray Colt and Winchester Jack

Mario Bava's foray into the realm of the spaghetti western and boy is it awful. The problem is, though, that it looks really good. Bava's visual mastery is on full display here, but the script and acting are so godawful that it's just torturous. The movie's attempts at comedy are just embarrassing. The plot is just a series of scenes lifted pretty much wholesale from other, better movies. Not even the score is worth sitting through this movie for. For hardcore Mario Bava fans only, and even they will have a tough go at it, I think.

[i]Black Sabbath[/i] *****/*****

I have these two Mario Bava box sets sitting on my shelf, and yet I hardly ever go to them to watch a new film. This makes no sense, as every time I do I am blown away.

This is a masterpiece, start to finish. It contains three short unrelated horror stories (and a brief, brilliant one-shot epilogue with Boris Karloff). With their very minimal number of sets and their general brevity, these would work brilliantly as three one-act plays. The first story is a pre-giallo slasher with a brilliant use of a telephone as a horror device decades before Scream and a lesbian plot twist that I didn't find exploitative at all. The second tale is undeniably the best, a brilliant non-traditional take on the vampire story (I suppose it's the Russian version, though apparently none of the writers the screenplays were attributed to were the real screenwriters). Finally, there's a great, infinitely creepy story about a woman who steals a ring off of a corpse. This one is the most overtly terrifying, as the dual bodies used in the film, while not real looking in the slightest, are just plain scary. Brilliant film.

Anyone know more about Bava?

#4 Duke Togo

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 08:29 AM

The only films from those sets I need to see are 5 Dolls for an August Moon, Four Times That Night, Baron Blood, and Roy Colt & Winchester Jack. My favorite Bava film is the Black Sabbath sequence, The Drop of Water, technically a short as Black Sabbath is one of those 'trilogies of terror'. My favorite Bava moment though would also be the first film I saw of his, and the first time I realized he was something special. It is the scene towards the beginning of Black Sunday where we already have an atmosphere to the traveled forrest. The moment is when that horse-drawn carraige goes by with almost no accompanied sound, seemingly in slow motion. My description may be a little exaggerated or inacurrate, but that is how I remember it, and It just really knocked me on my ass.

* I will get a screen cap later *

Also of note would be Bava's lighting work on Argento's Inferno, which always seems too damn colorful yet works so well. He was a mad man with that lighting style.

#5 Izo

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 10:19 AM

I've wanted to make this thread for some time, because while I love Bava, I have an incredibly difficult time really articulating just what it is that makes his films so special. Sure, it's the "visuals", but that doesn't quite describe why I feel a film like Planet of the Vampires is so brilliant when compared to any number of other horror/science fiction films of the period. There's a great deal of low-budget ingenuity at work, but even that seems like almost a back-handed compliment when I don't mean it as such. Also, even in some of his best work, there is a definite disconnect between the quality of the film's visuals and the usual shallowness and inanity of the writing or plot of the film (there are exceptions to this, of course). Bava is a director I love, but I can't seem to write about with any sort of depth, and this is very interesting to me.

#6 Izo

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 06:18 PM

The only films from those sets I need to see are 5 Dolls for an August Moon, Four Times That Night, Baron Blood, and Roy Colt & Winchester Jack.


Of those, only Four Times That Night remains unseen by me, and I can easily recommend 5 Dolls for an August Moon and Baron Blood for fans of Bava. The western doesn't fair as well. 5 Dolls for an August Moon, in particular, is a little gem despite some of the silly swingin' '60s scenes early on. The film features some (more) great Bava morbidly beautiful images.

#7 Izo

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 05:37 PM

From Kino/Redemption Films:

9/18 - HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970, Mario Bava, DVD & Blu-ray) [first time ever on Blu-ray!]
9/18 - BLACK SUNDAY (1960, Mario Bava, DVD & Blu-ray) [first time ever on Blu-ray!]
9/18 - LISA AND THE DEVIL (1973) / THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM (1976) (Mario Bava, DVD & Blu-ray) [first time ever on Blu-ray!]


I'm frankly surprised that Hatchet for the Honeymoon is among the first batch of titles they go with, since I found it to be pretty slight. I cannot deny thought that the film needs a dramatic improvement in picture quality, though.

#8 Duke Togo

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 09:50 AM

Wowow, so excited for Black Sunday!!! I have no doubt the next batch will include Black Sabbath.

I wonder what kind of extras we can expect.

#9 Izo

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:35 AM

Lisa and the Devil is the one I can't wait to see on Blu. Its such a strange, beautiful film, and one that almost requires repeat viewings to really appreciate.

#10 Duke Togo

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 11:01 AM

It's surprisingly complex, one of those films you have to be familiar with before you can take a step back and try to make sense of it all. Both this and Bay of Blood are films I've wanted to revisit strictly for clarity.

#11 Izo

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 01:01 PM

It may be Bava's most complex work, both thematically and stylistically. It really is just a wonderful, unique flick.

#12 MTRodaba2468

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 07:06 PM

Arrow Films has released a region free Blu-Ray of Bava's A Bay Of Blood in the UK. Not to mention VCI plans on doing a Blu-Ray of Blood And Black Lace (the DVD, visually, isn't that great, but VCI worked some magic with their Dark Night Of The Scarecrow Blu-Ray, so it could end up looking very nice...)

I can't wait for Kino's release of Black Sunday...

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#13 Izo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 07:25 PM

Do you have that Arrow Blu? I've had my eye on it for a while, how does it look?

#14 Duke Togo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:16 PM

Will Blood And Black Lace be R-free? I will have to keep an eye on these, and I still need to watch that film.

#15 Izo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:18 PM

VCI is in the US, so I'd imagine it will be R1. They also released the rough-looking DVD of Hatchet for the Honeymoon that I watched. It was watchable, but hardly ideal.

#16 Duke Togo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:21 PM

Ah, good then. Looks like I do have a few VCI DVD's, both unwatched though.

#17 Izo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:30 PM

They're a good company. Released a few minor Tourneurs, Losey's The Prowler, and a few other Bavas.

#18 Duke Togo

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 09:35 PM

The Prowler is one of the titles I have, I know I'm crazy for having not watched it yet.

#19 Izo

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:26 PM

The Whip and the Body coming from Kino/Redemption.

One of the few available that I haven't picked up yet.

#20 Izo

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 05:06 PM

Here's a nice pre-Halloween surprise! Just yesterday, a bunch of Bava titles were added to the Netflix Streaming service, including Twitch of the Death Nerve/Bay of Blood. This is especially nice since the Anchor Bay box sets that several of these titles were exclusive to has gone OOP and is fetching a pretty nice price. So for those with the service, dig in. Here are all the titles available:

Baron Blood
Bay of Blood
Black Sunday
House of Exorcism
Lisa and the Devil
Kill, Baby, Kill!
The Girl Who Knew Two Much
Black Sabbath
Planet of the Vampires
Hercules in the Haunted World
Roy Colt and Winchester Jack
Knives of the Avenger
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs




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