The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 2
DVD | Box Set
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Though he would be forever hailed as The King Of Italian Horror, director Mario Bava brought his stunning visual style to virtually every genre of international cinema. In these seven movies from the latter half of his legendary career, Il Maestro turned his extraordinary eye to extreme gothic terror, mod murder mystery, spaghetti western satire, a sex comedy inspired by Rashomon, the gore shocker that single-handedly created the `body-count' craze, and two distinctly different versions of his surreal macabre classic. Each disc has been transferred from original European vault elements to complete the definitive celebration of one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. Includes Baron Blood, Four Times That Night, Lisa & The Devil, 5 Dolls For An August Moon, Roy Colt & Winchester, Kidnapped, Bay Of Blood and House Of Exorcism.
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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!
John and Tina meet while Tina is walking her dog. They go out on a date which turns into a disaster when Tina reurns home with a ripped up dress and John with scratched on the forehead. What follows are three different perspectives from John, Tina, and John's doorman who spied on them, on what actually happened, followed by a fourth perspective by a psychiatrist on what could have happened (it's up to the viewer to make up their minds).
This subtitled DVD comes with Mario Bava's biography and filmography, good liner notes from Tim Lucas, and a photo and poster gallery.
"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.
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