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 »

Black Sabbath (1963)

Posted: February 24, 2021 in Uncategorized

Hard to believe it had been over 25 years since I’d last seen Mario Bava’s anthology film (the film to which the history of heavy metal owes a staggering debt). Far too long, so last Friday, Stephen D. Sullivan and I did a watch-along of the European cut. This was the first time for both of us seeing that, and though it did mean some adjusting to the fact of Boris Karloff dubbed into Italian (and so we were deprived of That Voice), I found that adjustment quite painless as the magnificence of the visuals swept over me. I mean, just look at these colours! Steve’s memories of the US cut were clearer than mine (virtually nonexistent), and he pointed out that not only did that cut alter the order of the stories, the English dubbing changed the content of the first story pretty considerably, removing the lesbian subtext altogether.

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Crimson (1973)

Posted: February 19, 2021 in Uncategorized

Stephen D. Sullivan and I continued our Paul Naschy viewing this past week with Crimson, AKA The Man with the Severed Head. This is not one from the realm of Paul Naschy, Auteur. This was him collecting a pay-check as an actor, and clearly on-set only for a short time in this Franco-Spanish co-production (he’s in the movie really only at the beginning and the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephen D. Sullivan and I caught up with two more Paul Naschy films recently. The first, Orgy of the Living Dead, was a hired-gun exercise for him. He plays a supporting role as a tenderly necrophile gravedigger in a film that Phil Hardy’s horror film encyclopedia describes as both “lively” and “routine,” and that’s pretty accurate. Most of the film is a pretty familiar Gothic tale of murder and secrets in an isolated village, but just when you think the title is a cheat, we suddenly get zombies for the climax. While Naschy’s screen time is limited, and Stelvio Rosi’s hero is singularly unappealing, the setting is spectacular — drenched in grey atmosphere and perpetual drizzle, the village is as spooky and forbidding as one could possibly wish, and I would happily have spent even more time in the exteriors. Director José Luis Merino can’t quite work the same magic with his location that Mario Bava does with his in Lisa and the Devil and Kill, Baby… Kill!, but it still looks mighty fine. And though the final shot of the film makes little sense, it packs a hell of a punch.

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My friend and fellow writer Stephen D. Sullivan and I have been doing watch-alongs of Paul Naschy movies, and our latest viewing was INQUISITION. This was Naschy’s directorial debut, and an assured one it is. He plays a quietly fanatical inquisitor whose descent on a small French town unleashes a chain reaction of denunciations, sexual jealousy, power plays, desperation, murder and torture. It’s very much part of the trend triggered by WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), but typified by MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) of witch-hunt films whose exploitation brief was to play up the sex-and-torture angle. That’s certainly the case here, in some decidedly unpleasant scenes, but fortunately Naschy’s primary interest lies elsewhere.

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I saw Arrival. There is a lot that I enjoyed about it. It is a visually stunning film, for one thing. The first good look of the alien ship is a Magritte painting come to life, and the aliens themselves are imaginative, awe-inspiring, and are a refreshing break from the convention of making all benign aliens look reassuringly cute. The score is magnificent, itself alien enough to induce its own fair share of awe. And Amy Adams’ performance as Louise Banks is as powerful as it is understated.

All of these are very good things. Should you see the film? Absolutely. Having said that, I have some reservations. Spoilers follow, and I’m going to talk about the ending, so you have been warned.

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Halloween Movies

Posted: October 29, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Halloween is upon us, and yes, I embrace the horror writer stereotype in admitting that it is one of my favourite times of the year. How could it not be? And so my mind turns to appropriate viewing fare. My tastes, at Halloween, run toward the spooky and atmospheric over the visceral (I save Martyrs for Easter, obviously). So herewith is an off-the-cuff list of Halloween favourites, in historical order.

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