Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Some of the most inept criminals you've ever seen kill some people over what looks like a few hundred dollars, take some people hostage and steal a car, and then proceed to talk, intimidate and drive for 90 minutes. Oh, and there's a twist ending too. If it wasn't for the history behind this "classic" from the late master of Italian horror, Mario Bava, it would be entirely forgettable.
Is it good movie?
While I think the above description says it all, there is much more to this one than meets the eye. It is a simple and somewhat effective little thriller, but for some reason most of it falls flat and managed to bore me to tears. Now, I've liked most of the elder Bava's films (the ones his son Lamberto made are awesome too), and some of them have been among the lamest pieces of cinema I've had the displeasure of seeing. This one kind of falls in between, and I found myself alternately impressed by some of the visuals and gutsy shots, and then shaking my head because I was nodding off.
While Mario Bava was making what was to be the shocking crime thriller Rabid Dogs, one of the film's producers was killed during the final stages of production. While this can throw any production into chaos, in this case all of the producer's assets were seized by the Italian courts, including the sole workprint footage of the film! It sat on a shelf for nearly 23 years, and would have been forgotten if not for producer Alfredo Leone and Bava's son. They recut the film, with newly shot footage, and released it under the title Kidnapped. There is not much difference between the two cuts of the film, except that the later cut is smoother and more narratively interesting. One of the things that grated on the nerves about the original cut was how jerky it was. Granted it was a workprint, and the editing was unpolished. But After sitting through both versions, I think the Kidnapped print is superior because it's simply cut better.
Both versions include the same boring scenes of dialogue, as the insane and hardly menacing criminals terrorize their hostages and stab or shoot people in the throat (an overused theme that gives the film it's handful of kills and all of it's blood). But what Bava excelled at were the creepy and unsettling static shots (such as a woman's body lying in a field, her bloody head thrown back and eyes open, staring into the camera), and those are here in spades. There are bits and pieces of a great movie here, and shades of a tense and gripping crime thriller that could have been, but the whole thing is mired in inane dialogue and over acting in a movie that for three quarters of it's length takes place in a bloody car! It's not exactly "the most intesne Eurocrime thriller of all time", that's stretching it a bit, but it is an interesting piece of Italian cinema history, and a sad end note to the brilliant career of Mario Bava. For this reason alone it is a must have for collectors of classic Italian genre films. It's just not everyone's cup of tea, mine included.
I did like the twist at the end, however. That was nicely done. I love it when the ending is something so random (like having the victim be the real monster) that it makes even a terrible or boring movie memorable.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.78:1.
Audio: Italian (2.0 Mono) with English subtitles.
Aside from having both cuts of the film in a nice, clean digital transfer, there is also a Bio of Mario Bava, an Audio Commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas which tells the sordid story about the lost footage and the history of piecing it together (along with telling insights into Bava's life and work), and the Featurette End Of The Road, which is the standard making of feature, that re-tells the story about how Rabid Dogs was put together by Mario's son after the great Italian director had died. It's pretty slim for an Anchor Bay release, but along with the two versions of the movie it makes for a fine tale of a movie that was almost lost that became a cult classic.
While not a masterpiece, but not a steaming pile of shite either, Rabid Dogs is a somewhat entertaining, downbeat and cynical movie that almost never got released. What makes the film a classic is the story of it's lost and found production history, and the fact that it capped off the declining career of a brilliant filmmaker. It's not particularly tense or thrilling, and the violence and gore are pretty tame even when compared to other movies made at the same time. But Bava's original cut is an interesting look at the work process of a genre master, and the later cut done by his son and Leone tightened up the footage and turned it into more of a movie and less of a rough blueprint of a movie. Having both cuts of the movie is a definate plus. It's a decent release for this reason alone, and the story of the making of this film is the kind of stuff that becomes legend in the world of horror/thriller movies. But like I said above, it's not a great movie, and may not be for everybody. But Bava fans, and lovers of cheesy Italian cinema, will certainly enjoy it.