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3.8 out of 5 stars
A Blade in the Dark
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2001
Format: DVD
A composer is hired to score a slasher film and is sent to an old dark house for inspiration. Strange things begin to occur and bodies start to pile up..only to disappear. This is one of the better giallo films of its time and its miles ahead of the typical 80's slashers that were coming out of the US. After working under his famed father Mario, as well as Dario Argento among others, Bava displays great atmosphere in this film as well as some shocking violence. Another reason to own this film on DVD is that AnchorBay is releasing this in its longest, most complete cut (longer than the EC import laser). On a side note, look for director Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man) in a small but interesting role.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2002
Format: DVD
A textbook example of the giallo, Lamberto Bava's A Blade in the Dark is an obvious homage to Dario Agento, the Italian director who (along with Bava's father Mario) served as his filmmaking mentor. Bava worked as assistant director on Argento's Tenebre, shot the year before; that film's influence is readily apparent. A major plot element is lifted from Argento's Deep Red (1975) as well - Blade's story also revolves around a composer who finds himself embroiled in a bizarre series of homicides. But Argento was working with much bigger budgets, longer production schedules, and better stories. Unfortunately, A Blade in the Dark can't begin to compare to its inspirational sources.
Originally envisioned as a limited, episodic series for Italian TV, it was shot with a European theatrical release also in mind. The spare scenario (penned by prolific exploitation scribe Dardano Sarchetti) establishes only the most bare-boned of plots. Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti), a young composer, rents a large, rambling villa in which to work on his latest project, the score for a horror film being directed by his friend Sandra (Anny Papa). To the detriment of Bruno's solitude the house comes complete with a suspicious-acting caretaker (are there any other types in Italian horror?) and some unexpected visitors - Katia (Valeria Cavalli) and Angela (Fabiola Toledo), two attractive women, acquaintances of the former tenant, who live nearby. When the women mysteriously disappear shortly after he meets them, Bruno begins to suspect they've been murdered on the premises... He can't find any bodies, but clues abound. (Knife-holes and bloodstains would certainly qualify in that regard!) Someone definitely entered the villa uninvited and destroyed his latest demo tape, that much is sure. Stupidly, Bruno never once picks up the phone to dial the police.
If our dimwitted hero did the smart thing, however, there'd be no movie. More people die horrible deaths. Meanwhile Bruno wanders about the house and its grounds, poking around and peering into the dark. There are a lot of such scenes in the flick, which will severely test the patience of even the most avid giallo fan. (Rapido, Lamberto!) Obviously this was done to pad out the running time; too many of these sequences are obvious red herrings, devoid of any suspense, or just plain pointless.
Bava does pile on the shocks, though, in the film's two main murder sequences. The stalking/slaying of Katia owes a lot to Tenebre in look and style (particularly the murder of the hotelier's daughter in that film), but Bava ends
the set-piece with an original motif - the victim is trapped behind a sheet of chickenwire through which the killer slowly slashes her to death with a box-cutter - that's guaranteed to get your flesh crawling. The death of Angela, when she's attacked in the villa's bathroom, is a real doozy: a brutal, nihilistic bit of filmmaking that some could easily interpret as an exercise in misogynistic sadism. (Here Bava does for hair-washing in the sink what Hitchcock's Psycho did to taking a shower...) But amidst the unrepentant brutality Bava injects an occasional touch of sardonic humor, most notably when Sandra the horror director is strangled with a spool of her own film - murdered with her own movie.
Aside from the visceral thrills and chills generated by these murder scenes the film is pretty much a misfire. The characters are all uninvolving ciphers. It's not much of a mystery, either; most of the red herrings offered up by the plot are plainly obvious for what they are. As mentioned, an inordinate amount of time is spent following Bruno as he wanders about the villa, checking this room and that - scenes devoid of dialog but accompanied by repetitious theme music that quickly becomes annoying. In one way the dearth of dialog is a good thing... The English dubbing job is poor, featuring ludicrous translations ("You're a female!";"I am not a female child!" etc.) that might be funny in a Godzilla movie, but not one about a sadistic serial killer. At times it seems evident that the translators weren't even looking at a copy of the script - how else can one explain the scene in which Bruno chides Katia over her fear of a spider, telling her with a straight face that the bug isn't even a spider, but a cockroach... at the very moment we're shown a close-up shot of (yep) a SPIDER. Huh???
A Blade in the Dark has fans, no doubt appreciative of its effective, wince-inducing set-pieces. We love gialli, too - just not this one. We'd much rather watch Bava's supernatural splatterfest Demons (1985) for the umpteenth time than sit through this one again.

"Just a case of being a bit overwrought."
Sandra sums up the movie

Anchor Bay does a fine job with A Blade in the Dark considering it's a fairly obscure title here in America. The transfer is letterboxed and anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs; as the film was originally shot in 16mm the picture is understandably on the grainy side. The Dolby mono audio track is serviceably clear. In addition to the theatrical trailer, a short (10 min.), interesting video interview with director Bava and screenwriter Sarchetti is included. (This is in Italian, with easily readable English subtitles. Do not watch this before viewing the film itself. It's chock full of spoilers, including the murderer's identity.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
It's great that all these Eurohorror obscurities are now readily available. Why Bava would revert from making giallos is puzzling after this...masterpiece?
In the beginning we see three young boys, two taunting the other saying he's a female. Now we go the present where a pianist has taken residence in a house inhabited formerly by a "Linda." Brutal murders happen in this house, and it is investigated. The ending reminds me of Psycho.
Beautifully choreographed murders. I was sure I figured out who the killer was until the final moments when the red herring was finally ruled out. This has an intriguing storyline also. I would highly recommend this for horror buffs, and also fans of Argento, Fulci, Mario Bava and Lamberto Bava. Lamberto Bava is an underrated director, though the proof comes in this brilliant film that is because his films are of varying quality. I want to seek out more of Lamberto, then eventually Mario. Long live horror!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2001
Format: DVD
The most interesting aspect of the film is the bizarre screenplay by Dardano Sacchetti, the prolific writer who worked with Bava Jr. on several pictures, notably DEMONS and DEMONS2, and also created the main stories for a number of Lucio Fulci's successful films, including THE BEYOND (1981), CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) and ZOMBIE (1979).
The screenplay is excellent (that is, if you like extremely twisted and creepy story lines with haunting if unnatural dialogue).
Lamberto Bava's direction is quite good: the Gothic Southern atmosphere is played to the hilt. Acting is off-the-wall.
Photography is also very good. Lots of interior shots. effective lighting. Good art direction.
A MUST for any fan of the Italian "Horror" genre.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2005
Format: DVD
This is the only Lamberto Bava movie I've seen, and it's pretty good. It's a giallo, and massively influenced by Dario Argento's work, particularly 'Tenebre'. (On which Bava was a assistant director, I believe) And no, it's not as good as that movie, or 'Deep Red' or 'Opera', but if you like all those films I think you'll at least find this to be quite watchable, and there's a good chance that you'll rather like it.

As with all giallo or slasher films, the quality of this film is primarily derived from how interesting the murder/horror scenes are. Fortunately, the ones here are quite good. Unfortunately, all the other aspects of this film are a bit sub par, but this doesn't effect the overall enjoyment level of this film much. 'A Blade in the Dark' was originally made with Italian television in mind, which likely hurt the film in a number of ways. First of all, it doesn't appear to have been made with an English audience in mind, so the dubbing isn't up to snuff, either in terms of performance or translation.(And the dubbing/dialogue never tends to be very good in this sorta film) It is never really incoherent, I guess, but it's pretty damn inelegant most of the time, and is occasionally laughably stilted and unrealistic. That, and there are some rather weird translations, such as when one character refers to another as 'cockroach', in a manner which suggests that this is a term of endearment. The basic plot is that there is a musician living out in a large, empty house, where there are a number of murders.(Or apparent murders. They don't find the bodies until late in the film.) Part of the reason it doesn't work as a mystery is because it's trying to hard to hide the killers identity. Virtually everyone is setup as a potential suspect, but no one really stands out, and the only way to figure out the killer's identity would be to be abundantly familiar with the genre's clichés. And there isn't really much of an investigation. The characters just sorta sit around and talk about who the killer might be, or whether there really is a killer at all.

Yeah, this film is far from plausible, but I don't really buy that it is any less plausible than your average Argento film. Sure, nobody calls the police, but no charred dummies are mistaken for corpses, nor are vengeful ravens used to identify the killer(Opera), no apartments are left unwatched by the police despite the fact that the killer is known to have dropped a note off there, in person, and will almost certainly do so again (Tenebre) and the entire investigation does not depend upon sheer luck and happenstance (Deep Red). (Well, actually it arguably does, but that only makes it equally implausible) Still, the whole murder-mystery is less interesting than in those films, for the aforementioned reasons. The film also has some pacing problems, which I suspect may have been created by it's intended medium.(It would need to fit into a time slot, on TV) Thus, the latter portions of the film are a bit too talky, with characters frequently just sorta rambling on without really discovering much.

This film isn't as stylish as lots of other Italian stuff, but it's nicely crafted, particularly during the murder scenes. It lacks any elaborate camera movements or surreal sets and lighting, but it is nicely shot, and the murder scenes have got a nice rhythm to them. Sadly, the first two death scenes are definitely the most interesting ones. The first one is the best, and it's really quite brilliant. It's a very extended scene, showing both the stalking and killing, juxtaposed with shots of our musician protagonist working on his music, and the following disposal of the body, and the near discovery of it by said protagonist.(I can't come up with his name right now. Sorry.) The most effective part is when the killer is dragging the body over a staircase, with the head brutally thumping itself against the steps again and again. The next, more famed scene, is less extensive, but still quite impressive. It is one of the most brutal murders I've seen in this sort of film, and it has a fairly nice, extended buildup, but there are a few basic execution flaws. Most notably, it involves smashing someone's head against a counter, repeatedly, but the attempt is less than convincing, as the killer sometimes lifts the head all of an inch of the counter before smashing it again, and it often doesn't seem to be being done with any real force. That, and I swear the sound isn't quite in synch some of the time, so that the smashing sound doesn't come at the right moment.(I haven't watched it carefully enough to know for sure, however). Still, it's a very effective scene, with a very cold and vicious finish. The rest of the murder scenes aren't as interesting or original, but they get the job done. The film isn't terribly gory, but it is very forthright and harsh with the violence, which probably works better overall, and is fairly typical of this sort of film.

The film looks and sounds pretty decent, as you'd expect for an Anchor Bay release. Lastly, in case you didn't notice, you ought not to buy this version of the film, as there is the 'A Blade in the Dark'/'Macabre' disc which is also available. I haven't actually watched 'Macabre' yet, so I can't vouch for it's quality, but that disc only costs half as much as this one, and I'm betting that `Macabre' is worth -15 dollars, at the very least.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2004
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Lamberto Bava's A BLADE IN THE DARK from 1983 is one of the greatest giallos of all time regardless of the dubbing, which is rather incongruous and weird at times. This movie is a combination of the great Dario Argento's DEEP RED (my favorite giallo) and TENEBRE (Awesome ending!), where a composer is drawn into a bizarre murder mystery involving the former tenant of the villa that he's rented to compose a horror movie score. This movie had me on the edge of my seat whenever the killer was on the loose; the box cutter clicking made my skin crawl and the bathroom scene made me cringe with fear! The scene where the director of the horror movie in question gets strangled by the film of her own final reel, the one she doesn't anyone to see, left an impression on me; this was perfectly ironic and kind of humorous when you consider that the director is killed by her own movie! I also like the humorous tone of this movie (I actually read the booklet that came with the DVD, which is how I learned about the sense of humor); this must be a precursor to SCREAM in that respect.
Lamberto Bava learned a lot from his father Mario and Argento, with whom he worked with on INFERNO and TENEBRE, which is why this film is so good. I loved the music score in this one as well and I still have it stuck in my head as I write this review! In my opinion, although I knew about this movie since I read about it on Terrortrap.com (which summarized the entire film), the way the killer is revealed made me scream just like the ending in TENEBRE did! A must for giallo buffs and horror movie fans alike!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon May 22, 2007
Format: DVD
I don't really envy Lamberto Bava. Sure, he's a director in the movie business, which means he comes into contact with very hot chicks on a daily basis. That would definitely rank as a plus in my book. His career also means he doesn't have to put up with the daily grind like the rest of us mere mortals. Another plus, I think. A final positive? He makes horror flicks. That's fun with a capital 'F'. He gets to stage all sorts of bloody mayhem, capture it on film, and entertain weirdos the world over. I still don't envy him, though. Why? Look at his last name. Having the name "Bava" in the horror business would be the equivalent of laboring under the title "Spielberg" or "Lucas" in the United States. Lamberto Bava is the son of Mario Bava, a legendary Italian filmmaker who could lens a movie in any genre with astonishing ease. Mario made romantic comedies, westerns, science fiction, gialli, and a host of horror films. I've never seen a Mario Bava film that I disliked. All of his pictures contain that certain something that makes them a good viewing experience. Lamberto, on the other hand, has a tough time living up to his father's reputation.

"A Blade in the Dark" is a giallo, one of those infamous Italian murder mysteries larded with red herrings, an enigmatic killer, and hot babes. It was only a matter of time before Lamberto tried to cover ground previously explored by his father. This movie is the result, and it's not a winner. The story focuses on Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti), a composer currently scoring a horror film for his director friend Sandra (Anny Papa). The opening of "A Blade in the Dark" shows a bit of the film Bruno's laboring on. A scene unfolds in which three kids, one of them played by Giovanni Frezza (one of the most annoying child actors in the history of the world, by the way), dare one another to descend into a darkened basement. Down the stairs goes the kid, and seconds later a bloody ball comes bouncing out of the darkness! Huh? Oh well. It's all a set up to get us into the story of Bruno and the strangeness he's about to encounter in the seaside villa Sandra set him up in so the composer could create a masterpiece. From the sound of the music he's banging out on his keyboard, I think it's safe to say John Williams doesn't have much to worry about.

The hijinks kick into high gear when Bruno discovers a woman, Katia (Valeria Cavalli), hiding in one of the house's closets. Hmmm. That's weird. Anyway, the two engage in mindless dialogue before Katia sneaks off and leaves the house. She's brutally murdered outside by some kook sporting a utility knife and clad in female attire. Bruno, noticing Katia's sudden disappearance, goes looking form her only to discover a diary she dropped outside. A clue! Upon reading the diary, Bruno learns some intriguing bits about the villa's former occupant, a woman named Linda. It's intriguing enough that Bruno begins to delve a bit deeper into the history of the house. He finds a locked door downstairs that he can't get into, and learns that the room has something to do with Linda. While all this is going down, other women suddenly show up only to fall into the psycho's orbit. Bruno's girlfriend Julia (Lara Naszinsky) and Katia's friend Angela (Fabiola Toledo) both meet their grim end in or around the seaside villa. What's going on? It turns out that the answers lie in the very film Bruno is working on. Prepare yourself for a shocking denouement in which the movie reveals all.

I'm sort of kidding about a "shocking denouement". "A Blade in the Dark" isn't really shocking at all in terms of plot or character development. What we're dealing with here is an average, muddled giallo that doesn't live up to anything made by Mario Bava (or Dario Argento, for that matter). I had a tough time keeping track of what happened as the film progressed, and the conclusion is a real groaner in terms of logic. Another negative plaguing the film is the lousy dubbing. Really, this movie contains some of the worst dubbing in the history of cinema. It's so laughable and distracting that it takes away from the movie's impact. What rescues the movie from the garbage bin is the gory kills. We see women sliced and diced with that utility knife in ways that will make the hardcore gore fans cringe. The killer wraps one gal's head in plastic and then proceeds to slam it repeatedly against a tiled countertop until she dies. The stabbings go on and on in nauseating detail. The murders in "A Blade in the Dark" are so violent that even Europeans had problems with the film. Too, it's hard to ignore the inherent misogyny in these crimes. Those wacky Italians!

Anchor Bay, which I'm told doesn't exist anymore thanks to a buyout, brings us a great DVD version of the movie. The picture and audio quality should keep most buyers happy, as will the extras on the disc. We get a trailer for the film, liner notes from Mario Bava historian Tim Lucas, and a twenty-minute interview with Lamberto Bava and scriptwriter Dardano Sacchetti. This last feature, called "Behind the Blade," is neat to watch, as the two men reminisce about making films on a low budget and offer their opinions about the film business in general. So there you go. If you like gialli, you'll definitely want to give "A Blade in the Dark" a shot. It's not nearly as good as the movies made by Lamberto's father or those from Dario Argento, but the excessive gore and laughable dub job should keep you marginally entertained for an hour and a half. Three stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2001
Format: DVD
This is a good movie to own-on VHS. I would not waste the money for a DVD version of this, because it just isn't good enough to where I would see it over again soon like, say, Tenebre or Cat O' Nine Tails. Also, there aren't enough extras on the DVD to tempt me to purchase it. That said, the movie still has redeeming qualities. For Giallos this one plays by the rules: the obvious culprits are sure-fired red herrings; the somewhat obvious/maybe whodunnits are also ruled out; finally, the most absurd, absolutely unbelievable scenerario is the veritable smoking gun (case and point: Tenebre) For me, the most fascinating element of the film was the violence against women. It almost seemed as though the death of the groundskeeper was an afterthought on director Bava's part when you consider the sophisticated choreography of the four women's deaths in the course of the film. These deaths are the truly great moments of the film. I can't say that it is the most suspenseful. Maybe this is because I've seen so many other Giallos from Argento, Fulci, and the other Bava and I just sorth of know what will come. Also, most of the scenes in the film take place under full light-either daylight or lamplight. There isn't that much darkness in the film. I guess the only darkness is the identity of the killer and that person's motivations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 6, 2008
Format: DVD
In an interview, Lamberto Bava explained that he quit directing gialli (Italian thrillers) because he disliked seeing women killed. This is unfortunate because the world probably missed out on some good gialli. "A Blade in the Dark" was his masterpiece. It exemplifies the Italian giallo because it has the following: 1) Gorgeous women; 2) Murder sequences that are creative and gruesome; 3) Numerous suspects and red herrings; and 4) A great rock-n-roll score that is literally heart pounding.

A handsome musician, Bruno, moves into a large, secluded villa in order to compose the music for a horror script. In and around the villa, beautiful women are stabbed to death with the retractable blade of a box cutter. Soon Bruno fears that someone is hiding in the house, waiting to kill him or anyone who pays a visit.

Lamberto is the son of the late Mario Bava, the Master of the Macabre. Mario was famous for taking a low budget film and making it appear as though it had a huge budget. Unfortunately, it is obvious that Lamberto's "A Blade in the Dark" had a small budget. The sets are few. The secluded "villa" is very modern, antiseptic, sparsely furnished and is situated within arm's length to similar structures. A large, spooky chateau in the country would've provided a nicer setting and the victims could've been other guests and the housekeeping staff. Lamberto's father would've filmed the movie at a crumbling castle with a gothic atmosphere.

I enjoyed "A Blade in the Dark" much more than Lamberto's directorial premiere, "Macabre," which was too slow. The critics claimed "Macabre" wasn't violent enough. Therefore, Lamberto increased the gore and violence in "A Blade in the Dark." Later, the critics complained this film was too violent. You can't always please the critics. However, I was very pleased with the end product despite its low budget and minor plot improbabilities. I highly recommend "A Blade in the Dark" for fans of Italian gialli.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2002
Format: DVD
This was one of the first few Italian giallo films I decided to take a risk with.
Incredibly bored I was becoming with the repetitive cliched [style] from the big budget mainstream Hollywood school. This seemed more of a blessing to start exploring ignored works from european filmmakers. A Blade in the Dark for me was more of a fluke as I'd never watched anything from Italy's finest.
This really helped mark my entry towards many films I would begin to collect of Dario Argento.
A Blade in the Dark for me was more of an Argento homage considering the strong relationship Lamberto Bava shares with his friend/mentor. Once more many of the scenes from this film bare similarities towards other classics such as Argento's Tenebre and Hithcock's Psycho.
The other interesting aspect about this film was how it was made for little or no money at all since it centers within one location. What also makes this uneasy to view is the fact that the film gets a little sloppy in places with the anticipation of wanting to what happens next becoming slower and slower. And the plus side of the audio dubbing being a real annoyance since it's becoming more outdated and many arguing about the film remaining in it's native language (i.e. Italian).
Though the film has it's average moments of suspense and thrills it does slow sown to the point where you being to wonder "what is reall going on?"
I watched the film with alot of enthusiam in mind but couldn't help feel slightly disappointed at times. Nevertheless, it still deserves the average watchable treatment. You have to bare one thing in mind that despite the fact it was low buget it was shot on 16mm so the transfer isn't exactly 100% as there are a few noticable evidences of specks and grain, but what do you expect from a film frm 1983?
If you're a film fan like myself I'd say it's reasonable buy, but oherwise rent beforehand. Lamberto's Demons is real treat since it was given a bigger and better budget since Argento collaborated as well. Consider A Blade in the Dark an initial starter.
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