THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOLUME 2
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Running the gamut from his usual fare of gothic or extreme horror to ultra-modern murder mystery, kitchy 60's sex comedy, spaghetti westerns and even a good old fashioned crime drama, these eight films from the later years if "Il Maestro's" career prove that he was more than a pioneer of Italian horror cinema. While it does contain some duds, there is enough rare material and re-cut, remastered goodness to make any fan of classic 60's and 70's Italian films gobble up such an impressive collection.
Is it good movie?
There are some nicely restored gems in this marathon set, and some swingin' stinkers as well, so let's look at each movie on it's own merits:
The first disc contains perhaps one of Bava's crowning achievements, and one of the main reasons he is considered the Grandfather of Italian gore. Bay Of Blood (also more famously known as Twitch Of The Death Nerve) is a well made and harrowing tale of greed and murder tinged by a bleak outlook on the world common in horror movies of the time. What is most striking here is the use of very effective gore gags, many of which were interestingly enough redone in Friday The 13th Part 2. The impact that this movie had on the genre, and it's importance to the development of every slasher movie since, can be seen in every shot of this excellent addition.
Next up we have Baron Blood, a gothic tale of zombie resurrection and revenge. When a curse revives the murderous spirit of a Vlad like Baron, bodies start piling up in his old manor, which is being renovated. While at times cheesy and heavy handed, this movie has enough inherent creepiness and some very disturbing shots that make the watch worthwhile. Here we are treated to the uncut European version. A brilliant mix of 60's humour and old school Universal-style horror, this is another excellent gem of this collection.
Sadly , the next film is probably one of Bava's best, but it was also his biggest commercial failure. Lisa And The Devil is a psychadelic nightmare, starring frequent Bava star Elke Sommer and the bald one Telly Savalas, that is not only incredibly shot (probably with some of the most ambitious shots Bava had ever done aside from Kidnapped), but highly entertaining as well. The acting is bit on the cheesy side, but then again it always is in Italian horror movies. After the movie bombed, Bava's producer and collaborator Alfredo Leone, in the hopes of creating the same pile of cash that The Exorcist did, re-cut the movie with a new possession subplot, and renamed it The House Of Exorcism, which is on the same disc. This box office hit, which has more of a 'grindhouse' feel than the rest of Bava's work, almost feels like a completely different movie, despite having the same footage in places. While artistically this sort of thing is crappy, it was a move that payed off, and the result was two infinitely watchable films.
The fourth disc contains probably the weakest movies of the collection. First up is the by-the-numbers murder mystery Five Dolls For An August Moon (a cool title that has nothing to do with the movie), which is inventive in a few places, but mostly it's stuff that has been done before, and much better I might add. The tale of a group of rich folk on a remote island trying to buy a formula (and the island) off of a professor got old, as did the who-done-it plot twists and melted red crayon blood. But the bodies hanging in the freezer like slabs of beef, nice touch! Very creepy. The other flick stinking up this disc is the ultra-mod sex romp Four Times That Night, which tells the debauched tale of a first date from four different perspectives. While the professor (who idiotically explains the theory behind the movie like we're in film school or something) and the security guard are both ultra creepy, this movie falls flat on it's ass after getting go-go booted to death. However, the young beauty and former Miss Italy Daniela Giordano makes this movie at least good on the eyes, even when you are watching it on fast forward!
The next movie is a oddity, and shows that Bava was a deft diretor at not just horror movies, as it is both a buddy comedy and a damn fine western. Roy Colt and Winchester Jack tells the tale of two friends who end up on either side of the law, even while both of them are after the same treasure. It's a light hearted story and an impressive movie, since it is the first comedy made that is part of the whole 'spaghetti western' genre. Brett Halsey as Roy gives a steely and dry performance, as opposed to that of Charles Southwood, who plays Jack with a carefree charm that is likeable even through the Italian dubbing. It's a shame that this movie didn't get enough attention when it was released, because with it's impressive cinematography and stellar acting, it deserved it. It's a great film that finally has new life on DVD.
The final film in this collection, and by far one of Bava's best, is one that he personally never had the chance to finish. Bava was shooting the crime drama Rabid Dogs when his money guy died, and the only work print was seized by the Italian government as a part of his estate. It was shelved for almost 23 years, and would have remained as Bava's forgotten and tragically unfinished final masterwork. Years later, with the original footage returned, Leone and Lamberto Bava (Mario's son who was a frequent assistant to his father, and now a respected genre icon himself as a director) finished the movie and renamed it Kidnapped. This is by far the most striking and brutally heartfelt of all of Bava's movies, and it more than makes up for most of the crap he had produced in his career. While we've seen tales of thieves taking hostages on a blood soaked ride many times before, many of those movies (including in some ways From Dusk Till Dawn and The Devil's Rejects) borrow heavily from this movie's sense of violent degradation and inhuman cruelty. While not as shocking as some of the movies made today, from Bava and his contemporaries it is stark, visceral and brilliant. And on this final disc we have both the finished film, and Bava's uncompleted cut, which is something that I wish more DVD releases would have. I love seeing early work prints of films, and this one shows that Bava's was up there on the screen, no matter how crappy his subject matter was, and evidently it was passed on to his son and even his co-producers.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.78:1 & 1.85:1.
Audio: English (Dolby Mono 2.0), Italian (Dolby Mono 2.0) with English subtitles.
Bay Of Blood: There is an Audio Commentary by author Tim Lucas, which is interesting for the historical tale it weaves of the horror genre, as well as the Trailer, some Radio Spots and a small Photo Gallery. Pretty naked for such a landmark film.
Lisa and The Devil: Here we again have a Commentary from Tim Lucas (again with historical insight as to the failure of the film), and the Trailer.
The House Of Exorcism: This re-edit of a failed film comes with a Commentary by frequent Bava producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer, as well as the Trailer and some Radio Spots.
Baron Blood: Aside from the Trailer and more Radio Spots, there is yet another Commentary by Tim Lucas.
Kidnapped: Bava's unfinished masterpiece, completed by Leone and Lamberto Bava, has an insightful and informatively entertaining Commentary by Tim Lucas. Also here are finally some making of footage, with the Featurette End Of The Road, chronicling the unfinished version of Rabid Dogs being shelved (and included as well here for the first time), and it's eventual completion 23 years later. The set finishes off with a fine Biography of Bava.
After this massive barrage of Italian cinema, you'll either need a nap or a very stiff drink (that is, of course, if you haven't been drinking for the entire 12 hours this collection plays for). Eight movies is a lot to take in, and this box set is best taken one movie at a time. It all depends on what you are in the mood for, since every disc, and virtually every movie, explores a different genre. The prints look awesome, the dubbing is horrible, and the sound is not too bad. If you're a fan or rabid collector of classic Italian cinema, this box set is a great selection of films from Bava's later years, and they also showcase some of the early talent of his son Lamberto. For the casual horror fan, this probably isn't your cup of blood.