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Tag: Mario Bava

Blood and Black Lace

by on Sep.25, 2010, under Daily Review

For me, this is Bava’s finest moment. His triumph of the genre which moves him away from all that gothic stuff into a giallo crime thriller with some brutal shocking murders. Still ultimately Bava’esque in lighting and cinematography design but focusing on a more contemporary plot and feel.

Recognised as one of the first slashers, this is a basic who-dun-it. A masked killer picks off model from a Rome agency, one by one murdering in a brutal manner before leaving them top be discovered. But what is the reasoning? What is the motive? This has a real Hitchcock feel about it, although what’s missing is a solid snappy script. The film looks glorious with gels lighting Roman hallways of beautiful apartments, a film focusing on the highlife and elegance which even makes the art of murder look beautiful and glamorous. The killer, skulking around the shadows with a long black coat, leather gloves and hat and a perfect white faceless mask. Beautiful Italian models hiding secrets, looking for answers and terrified that they could be the next on the list.

Bava tried his hand in an assortment of genre’s but this has got to be his most successful from an artistic and complete perfection point of view. The film is solid from start to finish building tension and atmosphere in abundance, ridiculously brilliant in it’s beauty and appearance, evey scene balance perfectly with shadow and colour.  And what about that final pan around the house in the last few minutes?

Magnificent.

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Black Sabbath

by on Sep.24, 2010, under Daily Review

This is a collection of short films, tied together with Boris Karloff as compare. Quality and a genius stroke by Mario Bava. This collective showcases the talent and versatility of the director and it’s an obvious first stop for the uninitiated as we get to see a sample of subtle styles from the Italian master.

We have an original obscure Tolstoy vampire tale which projects a new spin on an old theme. A father who has been cursed has a vampiric infection in which he can only feed on family and those he loves. It’s a twisted idea and most shocking when his god child becomes his first victim. Karloff plays the father with an amazing performance in which he just makes it look so easy, Susy Andersen is also stunningly good. Rich in colour and classic gothic style, it’s an ambitious tale and the longest of the three. Another tale tells of a nurse played by Jacqueline Pierreux, who attempts to steal a ring from a dead clairvoyant client but becomes haunted by guilt. A claustrophobic tale of darkness and terror.

The final tale, which slots in between the other two is my favorite of the three. A beautiful woman receives malicious menacing phone calls from who she believes is an exlover, imprisoned. Calling her friend for comfort, the night is about to get a bit crazy. This is more of a crime tale, and a vision of Bava’s direction and focus on the Giallo. Michele Mercier who is absolutely stunningly good takes thee lead as Rosy. The tale has a racy lesbian undercurrent with her friend, Mary. Lit with Blue and Red, which became Bava’s trademark especially in Blood and Black Lace, also adopted by Argento (Crystal Plumage/Inferno). The Telephone sequence is perfect in pace, style and structure which still looks as fresh and classy as it would have done back in 1964. How amazing it would have looked back then. I would have loved to have seen a reworked version of this, as a full length feature, as it’s structure is very much that of a classic situation play. Another final point, the opening sequence was lifted by another very famous American film back in 1996 staring Drew Barrymore. In fact, the whole movie’s concept is based on this short. Amazing to witness the comparisons.

This is a great collection. The Telephone stands out for me, but this collection will entertain all; a little something for everyone.

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Whip and the Flesh

by on Sep.23, 2010, under Daily Review

Chris Lee plays Kurt, and evil bugger who likes to dominate women. After returning home to the family mansion, he soon catches they eye of his brother’s  wife, Nevenka (Daliah Lavi). Soon, he’s cracking the whip against her bare back, waves crashing behind his deed and she seems to love it. Kurt has upset someone though, as the next morning he’s fund with this throat cut, but that’s not the last we’ve seen of Kurt as he returns as a ghostly whip cracking figure.

The film is beautiful, gothic, dark and devious with such a taboo channeling through the whole film, one of lust and desire, impossible love and longing from beyond the grave. Bava has a real risqué plot on his hand with this one which otherwise would fall right into the Edgar Allen Poe Corman movies. How does one take a story of a woman that craves the crack of the whip across her skin, love the feeling enough to leave her husband for his brother, even crave this when he’s dead and gone to the point of bringing him back for a little more. This is Lavi’s movie. She makes this work and it’s her performance which is solid and believable, dream like, desperate and full of lust and desire.

Bava takes all this and shoots it with the expert eye, perfect lighting  with coloured gels and glorious long shadows. The performance he coaxes out of Lavi is exceptionally good, whilst Lee is always a solid lead actor. The film is quite slow though and even though this can be addressed as setting the scene and building up the tension, it feels slow as the plot is a simple one which really doesn’t carry the full film. If it wasn’t for the glorious look and feel with Lavi in this outstandingly good role, the film would be a curio, but nothing else. Bava makes this a special film. Watch on a very large screen, dim the lights, sip some red win and indulge yourself in Bava goodness.

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Black Sunday

by on Sep.22, 2010, under Daily Review

Mario Bava’s first film as director is this beautifully created adoption of The Viy by Nikolai Gogol, a Russian Gothic tale of witchcraft and vampirism. The plot is a classic revenge tale. A witch and her lover, after being caught and tried for dabbling with the devil, they are encased in a metal mask, with big spikes on the inside which penetrates deep into the skull. Entombed in an open coffin with a cross visible, just in case. But the Witch has one last curse before they are condemned, she will be back to haunt the family forever.

Some many years later, a pair of fops break down in their chariot and explore the landscape whilst the poor driver tries to sort out the wheel. They discover the tomb and for some crazy reason, remove the mask, in doing so, slicing his skin and dripping some blood on the Witch. That’s all it takes and she’s back for revenge intent on replacing herself as a new distant relative who is a very close doppelganger. (Both played by the tremendous Barbara Steele)

Bava has a perfect cinematographers eye and this film works because of it. It’s beautifully filmed, sharp and crystal clear, yet dreamlike and shadowy with wispy smoke and dark corners with creepy characters hiding along corridors and cellars. A real scene is set from the opening scene and carried through to the end which has been done before with other films from it’s period by other directors in other countries, but non can claim the full rounded collective of artistic cinematography, great building of atmosphere as the plot matures, quality actors who need little in the way of direction and a classic gothic story to hold the thing together. On top of this, we have some real shocking scenes which seem harsher in black and white. The mask being nailed in Princess Asa’s (the Witch played by Steele) face is a real shocker and later on in the film, when she lifts her cloak to expose a rotting corpse is really successful. There is some other amazing makeup effects. An aging scene with Katia (Steele) is quality and I’m still not quite sure how this was pulled off. It’s traditional theatrical makeup, but it’s completed so smooth with no real loss of frames or choppiness.

Bava’s first outing is a great film. I’m looking forward to a bit more this week to see how well he matures.

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