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.

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