Night of the Devils (1972)

Posted: July 21, 2021 in Uncategorized

I had somehow remained ignorant about Night of the Devils until reading about it the other day in Jonathan Rigby’s magnificent Euro Gothic. So I got hold of the blu-ray and watched it last night. It’s another adaptation of “The Family of the Vourdalak” by Aleksey Tolstoy. (The most famous version, of course, is Mario Bava’s take, one of the stories in Black Sabbath.

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Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava watch-along with Danger: Diabolik (1968). Our viewing and discussion was great fun, and also served me well ahead of teaching the movie again this coming year for the Panels and Frames course. One thing we kept coming back to was the structure of the plot, and how it differs from other comic book films then and now.

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Two More from Mario Bava

Posted: July 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

Bit of catching up to do here. Steve Sullivan and I wrapped up our watch-alongs of the second Mario Bava box set with Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs, 1974) and Four Times That Night (1971). Neither is typical of Bava’s more famous work.

Kidnapped was never released in Bava’s lifetime, and the two versions on the disc we watched are a rough cut and a cut that was completed and edited by Lamberto Bava and Alfredo Leone. The plot is extremely stripped down: three violent thieves take a woman, and then hijack a car driven by a man in the company of a sick child. All of this takes place in the opening minutes, and the rest of the film is the highway ordeal that follows. Bava sustains the tension pretty all the way through the film, but at the same time, there is a fair bit that is protracted and repetitious. There are very strong echoes of Last House on the Left, particularly in the suffering undergone by Lea Lander’s character. Lander, who seems to have been the one most responsible for resurrecting the film, essentially spends the entire movie terrified and worse, as if Sally’s third-act ordeal in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre lasted an hour and a half. There is none of Bava’s trademark romanticism here. The feel is grimy, sweat-soaked and brutal.

Four Times That Night is a real oddity: a Bava sex comedy that takes its structure from Rashomon. Going in, the phrase “1970s Italian sex comedy” filled me with dread. I had been pleasantly surprised, years ago, by Lucio Fulci’s The Eroticist, which turned out to be a bleak, bitter, biting political satire (closer in spirit to The Conversation than Three’s Company). But no such delight attended the viewing of Four Times That Night. The opening credits feature all kinds of animated characters who have nothing to do with the movie itself, and the knockabout farce promised never materializes. There are some amusing metafilmic gags, and the second of the four alternate versions of what happened on this couple’s first date has its charms, but the first and third veer into ugly territory. As well, there were previous few moments of visual interest — it could have been directed by anybody. For me, easily the worst of the Bava films we’ve watched. It was a low point to end the box set on, but I’m glad there are other, infinitely better, Bava films that we haven’t hit yet.

Symptoms (1974)

Posted: May 31, 2021 in Uncategorized

José Larraz’ Symptoms (1974), which I watched last night, is a slow burn of the best kind. Angela Pleasance, whose performance makes her both pitiable and terrifying, arrives at her isolated country house with Lorna Heilbron. The only other person around is odd-jobs man Peter Vaughan, who radiates creep vibes from the word go. Then things happen very, very gradually, so gradually in fact, that when the Holy Shit moments come, and they do, they strike without any warning and all the more effective for it.

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Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava watch-along with Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970). This is the most atypical Bava we’ve seen yet — a Spaghetti Western. More precisely: a spoof Spaghetti Western.

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Baron Blood (1972)

Posted: May 21, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava journey last week with Baron Blood (1972), a film I hadn’t seen for the best part of 30 years. Made immediately prior to the sublime Lisa and the Devil, and featuring Elke Sommer as well, this didn’t suffer quite so grim a fate — instead of being hacked to pieces with new inserts and turned into The House of Exorcism, it merely lost 10 minutes of running time and its original score. It was also a hit.

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Two Films by Mario Bava

Posted: May 10, 2021 in Uncategorized

I need to do a bit of catching up here, and Steve Sullivan and I have watched two more Mario Bava films recently: Kill, Baby… Kill! (1966) and Bay of Blood (1971, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve). I’d seen the former relatively recently, having taught it a few years ago, but it had been ages since I’d revisited the latter, except to show excerpts in class. I found that seeing the two of them together made for an interesting contrast, and really underscored the achievement of Kill, Baby… Kill!

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Knives of the Avenger (1966)

Posted: April 12, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava watch-along with Knives of the Avenger, which was our chance to see an Italian viking version of Shane with Cameron Mitchell sporting as unconvincing blond curls. It was interesting, but not inspiring.

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Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava viewing with The Girl Who Knew Too Much, widely regarded as the first giallo, and a film long missing from my viewing history. And indeed, almost all the elements of that form are here: the twisty murder mystery, the amateur sleuthing, the elaborately staged opening murder, the gestures toward pseudo-science (here, the possibility that heroine Letícia Román has had a vision of the past) later picked up by Dario Argento in the likes of Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Deep Red. Read the rest of this entry »

Curse of the Fly (1965)

Posted: February 27, 2021 in Uncategorized

This is one that’s taken me forever to get around to. I suspect that my reason is one that has kept many away from it: there’s no fly. As it turns out, I was wrong not to see it much sooner. It’s a fascinating film, with a lot going for it, and of all the entries in the original series, it’s the one that most clearly anticipates the body horror of David Cronenberg’s vision. Read the rest of this entry »