"Mario Bava was one of the most underrated filmmakers of the 20th century. So it's appropriate that the first volume of the "Mario Bava Collection" (or "Bava Box") was one of the best releases of the last year, and reintroduced us to classics of Bava's that had fallen out of view. The second volume just continues that tradition, with big chunks of classic, stylish horror.
"Baron Blood" begins the collection -- Baron Otto Van Kleist was a savage, depraved guy who liked to torture people for fun (think Vlad Tepes), until a witch's curse put him out of commission. Centuries later, his descendent Peter (Antonio Cantafora) returns to his family's gothic castle, and decides that he and visiting student Eva (Elke Sommer) will recite the incantation that will return "Baron Blood" to the world. Of course, he actually DOES return, and soon Peter, Eva and Peter's uncle are forced to battle his psychotic, deformed ancestor.
"Lisa and the Devil" is more or less what it sounds like, with our heroine Lisa (Elke Sommer) a tourist going through Italy. She encounters some freaky folklore involving a local painting of the Devil and the Dead -- and a man (Telly Savalas) who eerily resembles the painted Satan. When her travel group is invited by the man to stay at a spooky villa, Lisa becomes ensnared in a maze of nightmares and death.
Then we get something that ISN'T gothic horror -- "Roy Colt and Winchester Jack," a comedy-western. Failed outlaw Roy Colt (Brett Halsey) has decided to become a law-abiding sheriff -- until he learns of a treasure map to buried gold. Of course, he scurries after it -- but to get his hands on it, he'll have to beat out an Indian prostitute, a dynamiting Russian Reverand, and his old partner Winchester Jack (Charles Southwood).
Then it's "Four Times That Night," a colourful, campy take on Akira Kurosawa's"Rashomon." Suave Gianni (Brett Halsey) starts pursuing shy, chaste Tina (Daniela Giordano), until she agrees to date him. The night ends with his face scratched and her dress shredded -- at first glance, you'd think he just got too grabby, and she fought him off. But there are four different versions of what happened that night, and none of them agree...
Then it's back to gore and horror, with one of the very first slasher flicks. "Bay Of Blood" opens with the death of a countess and her murdering husband. After their demise, the area is crowded with real-estate agents, entomologists, secret heiresses and sex-mad teens looking for a place to party. Then, of course, they start dying off... and not just from one person.
Finally we get "Five Dolls For An August Moon," a remake of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians": Wealthy industrialist George Stark (Teodoro Corrà) gathers a group of friends and associates on his private island, trying to get a new formula from chemist Fritz Farrell (William Berger). As the guests get tangled in sexual and business intrigues, someone starts murdering them...
Unlike many directors, Mario Bava didn't need massive budgets or CGI to create his brilliant movies -- just good actors and a haunting backdrop. Gothic castles with dungeons, misty forests, psychedelic islands and clubs, eerie villas, and the dangerous streets of Italy are all used here, and performances that range from brilliant (Steele) to merely good (Halsey).
In fact, Bava was such a brilliant director that he take a cliche or subpar movie (such as "Baron Blood"), and turn it into something unique and deep. He made use of misty lighting, eerie camerawork, exquisite use of light and shadow, gory deaths and odd symbolism. A few also splash in some psychedelic colour and sex. And he was usually able to work in an unexpected, sometimes shocking twist to each movie's ending.
"Mario Bava Collection Volume 2" is a collection of five excellent movies, ranging from brilliant to enjoyable. And it's a good demonstration of Bava's talents, and the kinds of movies he could undertake -- a treasure for horror buffs."
More from the Maestro
Matthew A. | San Francisco, CA | 10/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having just picked this up, I thought I'd chime in with this second box set from Anchor Bay. While the comparison will seem strange, Like Orson Welles, and this is speaking from public perception, Mario Bava's debut film, 'Black Sunday', was so impressive that many of his subsequent releases were dismissed as sub par or viewed as schlock. Of course, many of these critics overlooked the consistent artistry that could be found throughout Bava's filmography.
While Volume 1 focused on a number of his most iconic and famous films from the early to mid sixties, Volume 2 focus' on his late 60s til mid 70s output, to good effect I might add. His film, 'Four Times That Night' (1968), is a sex comedy with a Rashomon flavored theme. A mild mannered man, and a seemingly virtuous woman have a date, which leads to the kind of mishap that triggers three wildly different perspectives, from the man, woman and a spectator. It's very much a film of the late sixties, fun, good film, but not great. A fair share of nudity and sexual content, which makes it not accessible for minors, fair warning.
'5 Dolls For an August Moon' (1970) features several impressive visual sequences and succeeds due to some great art direction. A young scientist with an industrial formula to sell, has invited a group of rich industrialist to a small island, along with their wives or lovers. Everyone has a range of motives when the guests and scientist start to be killed off. This even has elements of a spy thriller, via 'Diabolik' at certain moments. Apparently this film has divided critics of Bava. It's a pretty good attempt at a non occult thriller.
Bava has been so tied to his reputation as a director of horror pictures, people tend to not realize he was varied enough to work in the Western genre, as well as sword and sandal Viking pictures, which makes 'Roy Colt and Winchester Jack' (1970) a fun picture. A satirical Western with an affectionate nod to Sergio Leone, a pair of good-natured outlaws on a hunt for a fortune in gold. While not a masterpiece, it demonstrates that Bava could work in the Western genre with a twist. Having said that, it's basically cashing in on the success of 'Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid'.
Next up, 'Bay of Blood' (1971) a.k.a. 'Twitch of the Death Nerve'. One of the seminal films in the development of the slasher horror genre. Much has been written already about the ways in which Sean Cunningham and Miner borrowed from this film in the making of the first two 'Friday the 13th' films. Bava's film is not for the faint of heart, yet unlike the FT13 films, there's a plausible motive behind most of the killings, the greed of a family inheritance. Feminist film critics will often dismiss Bava for being a misogynist, yet often in Bava's pictures women are just as capable to commit murder as men, aside from the fact that Bava shows a real reverence towards women, as complicated souls with desires. Some have dismissed this film and yet, unlike many slasher films where there's a detached focus on the spectacle of violence, one is left not comfortable with the carnage. There's a black, fatalistic, ironic view and subtext here about how violence feeds on itself, as well as an ecological theme that is highly skeptical for the need for humanity.
For most Bava fan's, 'Baron Blood' (1972) has remained a favorite, featuring a good and menacing performance from Joseph Cotton as the resurrected Baron. Elke Sommer's performance isn't as memorable as her role in 'Lisa', which we'll get to in a moment. Bava has always excelled at producing Gothic horror and he delivers this film with a lot of flare. The modern relative of Otto von Kleist, the infamous Baron of the 16th Century, inadvertently resurrects the Baron from the ancient spell of a witch he burned at the stake. Cotton manages a good, menacing and slightly off performance until the revelation of his character.
The less that's said about 'The House of Exorcism', the better, in spite of the fact that Lamberto Bava assisted with the re-shoots. 'Lisa and The Devil' (1973) is another matter. Lisa, a tourist, sees a fresco of the devil leading away the dead, and this triggers her into a Labyrinth of a dark fable. Is this her fevered imagination? Is she being lured by the devil? Is she the resurrected spirit of a lover from another era? 'Lisa' is Bava's most surreal, cryptic and layered film as well as beautiful. Telly Savalas is wonderful as a charming, sophisticated and ruthless beelzebubb. Elke Sommer delivers a compelling performance. A definite break from the usual supernatural film.
'Rabid Dogs' (1974) a.k.a. 'Kidnapped', would have been the definitive final statement from Bava had it seen a proper release. Sadly, when the film's financier died, his entire estate as well as the print of the film was seized by the Italian Court. A marked stylistic difference from Bava's other work, a gritty Euro-Crime drama. During a botched payroll heist, a trio of criminals hijack a woman and a man who is driving a sick child to a hospital. The degradation of the woman is probably one of the most disturbing aspects. A very gritty film that one could see as a real inspiration for a director like Tarantino.
This second set is a little more thin in the extras. Unlike the special segments produced for the 'Black Sunday, Girl Who Knew Too Much', and 'Black Sabbath'. The only new special segments added are from 'Kidnapped', and that disc was already released as a separate package. Considering, that I believe at this writing, Elke Sommer is still alive, I'm surprised that no new interviews were conducted for her reflections about working on 'Baron Blood' or 'Lisa'. There are new commentaries from Bava expert, Tim Lucas for 'Lisa and the Devil, Baron Blood' and 'Bay of Blood', all excellent, the commentary for 'Bay of Blood' is a little looser for a Lucas commentary. An additional older commentary of 'Lisa' with Elke Sommer and Alfredo Leone is included. All of the film prints are excellent and presented in the usual widescreen ratios of 1.85:1 or 1.78:1. The films '5 Dolls' and 'Four Times' are included on a duel disc. Many of the films include trailers, radio spots, or Poster and still galleries. Unfortunately, there's no production liner notes in any of the sets or updated biographies. Thus, the reason for the rating.
Hopefully, this will do well enough to give Anchor Bay grounds to release more titles. Pardon the length, Bava's work is frequently unforgettable, beautiful, macabre, disturbing and unique, don't miss this.
Bay of Blood Lived Up to Its Reputation
J. B. Hoyos | Chesapeake, VA | 11/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recently bought Bava Box Set, Vol. 2 and "Bay of Blood" was the first movie I watched because I had heard that it launched the slasher genre. It definely lived up to its reputation and made this collection worth buying. I was apprehensive about watching it after reading numerous complaints about the audio quality on the Image release, but I heard every word plainly! The plot was more complex than I had imagined. I had to watch it carefully to understand who was killing who and why. It contained numerous shocks and twists. It was definitely a cross between an Italian giallo and a slasher movie. I watched many scenes that were indeed duplicated throughout the slasher frenzy of the late seventies and early eighties, especially in the Friday 13th movies. Bay of Blood is a prime example of Mario Bava's influence on other directors. The bizarre ending was similar to the one in Mario Bava's "Rabid Dogs," another controversial, provocative thriller with a high body count."
Good, but not as good as vol 1 was
deadringer22000 | Kennett Square PA United States | 12/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Basically, with this set you get 3 essential Bava movies: Bay of Blood, Kidnapped, & Lisa and The Devil. 2 good ones : Baron Blood & 5 Dolls for an August Moon. 2 average ones: Four Times That Night & Roy Colt and Winchest Jack. And 1 failure: House of Exorcism.
Bay of Blood is probably the most essential out of all the films here. It is quite possibly the very first slasher film about a group of greedy relatives and associates all killing each other in pretty gruesome ways to get their hands on a piece of property(and not a very good one at that) that the family patriarch leaves behind after she is murdered. Bava is in great form here at employing black humor, camera tricks, & quite a few gruesome effects(the machette to the face effect looks so real).
5 Dolls For An August moon is pretty much the same story except this time it a scientific fomula that's at stake not a piece of land and the murders are not all that grusome. Also, as far a "feel" of the film is concerned they are polar opposite: "5 Dolls" is lush and beautiful while "Bay" is harsh and crude. You still get the black humor and some amazing camera work. The scene with the men are struggling and knock over a set of glass balls which roll off into a jacuzi where the last victim makes the film worth viewing alone.
Lisa and the Devil is Bava's movie that he himself always wanted to make. A girl gets lost while traveling Europe and winds up at a spooky villa with several other charaters who start dying. This is Bava's at his artsy best, it is confusing, it feels like a dream, and is the most beautiful movie Bava ever made. His "Alice in Wonderland".
Kidnapped is Bava's harsh view of reality. After robbing a bank a bunch of thieves find some hostages, steal their car, and plan a route of escape. Nihilistic, harsh, and mean would best descibe this one. The polar opposite of "Lisa". This is his "Last House On The Left" and he does a good job at it.
Baron Blood is one most Bava fans love but I really only thought was pretty good. A distant decendant of a cruel Baron inherits his castle, tries to make it a tourist attraction, and inadvertantly ressurects the Baron who goes back to his muderous old ways. There's a great theme here about old terror in a modernized world but it is never really built upon. It does have some nice photography & Joseph Cotton turns in a good performance but me, myself thought that it was better than averave.
Four times that night is Bava's attempt at a sex comedy. Its basically four perspectives on a possible one night stand. Campy & colorful but its just too bad that it is only sometimes funny. Still worth it if you like Bava's style. Its actually like "5 Dolls" only without the murders.
Roy Colt and Wincester Jack is Bava's failed attempt at a Spagetti Western. 5 outlaws are all on the hunt for gold from a treasure map. The story is interesting and there are some good moments but I found most of it a just ok. Average.
House of Exorcism is basically a re-cut, re-edited Lisa and the Devil with new fottage put in to cash in on the popularity of The Exorcist. Its watchable, but not memorable at all.
All in all, a fine collection even if there are some films that are better and could of been subsituted. Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Planet of the Vampires, Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, Danger: Diabolic, or Shock are good ones and could of been used instead of House of Exorcism, Four Times That Night, or Roy Colt. But hey, there might be a Volume 3, right."
Bravo for Bava!
mrliteral | 01/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I believe that it's hard to be a true horror fan unless you're familiar with the history of the genre. It's not enough to merely catch the latest slasher or torture porn movie (whether good or bad) and revel in the blood and shock; to enjoy these movies on a deeper level requires knowing the older movies too. Yes, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi may not truly scare the modern fan, but their films established much of the ideas that would follow.
In addition, it is necessary to go beyond the borders of the United States. While Japan seems to draw most of the attention nowadays, Italy also has a wonderful history when it comes to horror, and perhaps no Italian director did more for Italian horror than Mario Bava. The Mario Bava Collection Volume 2 collects eight of his movies, not all of which are horror.
In order of my viewing, my first movie watched was Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, which is kind of a Spaghetti Western with marinara sauce: somewhat tasty but with no meat to it. A take-off on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the movie follows the two title characters as they work both together and separately to find a hidden gold treasure (which also evokes The Good, The Bad and the Ugly).
Next was Four Times That Night, Bava's attempt at a sex comedy, in which various characters related, in Rashomon-like fashion, the misadventures of a date. Did she seduce him, did he try to rape her or was something else going on? It's a rather lightweight movie, but also looks nice. After these two films, we get more into Bava's forte: horror and crime.
5 Dolls for an August Moon is reminiscent of And Then There Were None, with its plot of characters trapped on an island where they're being killed one by one. It's a stylish example of giallo, an Italian form of mystery stories.
Lisa and the Devil is a true horror story, with Elke Sommer as a tourist in Spain who gets trapped in a surrealistic world and goes to a house with a history of dark secrets and a butler played by Telly Savalas who's really the Devil. As good as this movie is, it actually was never released in Bava's lifetime. Instead, it was recut as House of Exorcism, awkwardly incorporating elements of the original movie with an Exorcist-like plot. This version includes Robert Alda (Alan's father) as the priest out to stop a possession.
Bay of Blood is non-supernatural horror and an influence on slasher films like Friday the 13th. Various characters converge at an isolated bay which is possibly targeted for development as a resort. The killings are done creatively and viciously, leading to a conclusion that is both unexpected and rather fitting.
Baron Blood is one of those tales of a character who decides to try out an old spell just to see what happens. What happens is exactly what is promised by the incantation: the resurrection of a notorious Baron who had a real flair for torturing. This movie also has Elke Sommer as well as Joseph Cotton.
Finally, there is Bava's penultimate film, a crime movie called Rabid Dogs. The story here focuses on four thieves who commit a payroll robbery. One dies in a shootout that also disables their car, leading them to a carjacking to get out of town with three hostages including a small, sick child. Most of the story takes place in the car, and this is another film that ends with a nice little plot twist. Similar to Lisa and the Devil, Rabid Dogs also has an inferior version called Kidnapped.
With the exception of Roy Colt (and maybe House of Exorcism), these are all good to great movies, showing why Bava has his loyal fans. In addition to the films, we get commentaries on five of the films (all but the first three above), four by Bava scholar Tim Lucas, the other on House of Exorcism by Elke Sommer and producer Alfred Leone. Between this boxed set and the first one, we get much of Bava's work, but there is room for at least one more set, with such horror movies as Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Blood and Black Lace and The Whip and the Body as well as films like Danger: Diabolik, Planet of Vampires and Hercules in the Underworld. That's why Lucas's last comment on Rabid Dogs is welcome: "More commentaries to come" After watching both these sets, that is good news indeed!"