Italian Horror Showcase: Bay of Blood (dir by Mario Bava)


Like many Italian horror films, Mario Bava’s 1971 film, Bay of Blood, is known by many different names.

The original Italian title, or at least one of them, was Ecologia del delitto, which roughly translates to Ecology of Crime.  That may sound a little dry to our English-speaking ears but it’s actually a totally appropriate title.  The film is about a series of crimes, all inspired by greed and the desire to take control of a bayside mansion.

The film was also called Reazione a catena, which translates to Chain Reaction.  Again, that may sound a bit bland but it’s a totally appropriate title.  This film takes the concept of a chain reaction to its logical extreme.  Everyone in the film wants control of the bay and everyone is willing to kill to do it.  One person murders someone just to get murdered themselves.  As dark as that may sound, this film actually finds Bava in a rather playful mood.  Bava’s direction is wonderfully self-aware and totally cognizant of how absurd the film’s plot occasionally is.  It all ends with a perfectly sardonic little twist, one that not only feels earned but which perfectly epitomizes the film’s darkly humorous worldview.

When the film was released in the UK and the United States it was given several different titles.  (At one point, in the United States, it was actually sold as being a sequel to Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left, which it definitely was not.)  One title was Carnage.  Another was Blood Bath.  Again, bland titles but totally appropriate to the film.  Over the course of the film’s 84-minute running time, 14 people are murdered.  With the exception of two innocent bystanders and four teenagers who made the mistake of trying to party in the murder mansion, they were all bad.  Still, fourteen is a lot of carnage.

In fact, Bava’s film would later be cited as one of the first slasher films.  That’s true, though this film has considerably going on beneath the surface than the average slasher film.  If the average slasher often can be defined by sex=death, Bava’s film can be defined as greed=death.  That said, several of this film’s murders were “borrowed’ by the early installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.  Remember that double impalement from Friday the 13th Part 2?  It was taken, almost shot-for-shot, from Bava’s film.

My favorite title for Bava’s film was Twitch of the Death Nerve, which is just so wonderfully over-the-top and melodramatic.  It’s the title that most captures the film’s combination of blood and satire.  If I was solely in charge of picking the film’s official title, I would have selected Twitch of the Death Nerve.

However, the official title of Bava’s film appears to be Bay of Blood and I guess that’s an okay title.  I mean, it’s appropriate.  A lot of blood is spilled in that bay, starting with Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) and then going on to include the majority of her family members and business associates.  The film opens with Federica’s murder and then doesn’t waste any time in revealing that Federica was murdered by her husband, Filippo (Giovanni Nuvoletti).  Filippo murdered his wife on behalf of her estate agent, Frank (Chris Avram) and now, Frank just needs Filippo to sign the property over to him.  Of course, what Frank doesn’t realize is that Filippo was murdered just minutes after he murdered Federica….

And that’s just the start.

Bay of Blood is one of Mario Bava’s best films, featuring a cast of wonderfully sordid characters and grisly murders.  The film itself becomes a bit of a black comedy, as one murder leads to another.  Bava directs with his usual bravura sense of style, making the bay both beautiful and menacing at the same time.  If you want to know why almost every horror film made since 1970 owes a debt of gratitude to Bava, Bay of Blood is a good place to start.

Boston Demands To Be Heard


The Los Angeles film critics weren’t the only ones to vote on their favorites of 2011 today.  The Boston Society of Film Critics voted today as well.  Now, as I’ve stated quite a few times on this site, I’m a Southern girl and I have a feeling that if I ever went up to Boston, everyone up there would ignore the fact that I’m an Irish Catholic and would probably just make fun of my accent.  Eventually, the conversation would turn to politics and I would let slip the fact that not only am I not a Democrat but I didn’t even vote for Barack Obama in 2008.  A big fight would follow and I imagine we wouldn’t even get around to talking about our favorite movies…

Sorry, I lost my train of thought there.  Anyway, the BSFC voted and here’s what they came up with:

Best Picture: “The Artist”

     Runners-up: “Hugo” and “Margaret”

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

     Runner-up: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Actor: Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

     Runners-up: George Clooney, “The Descendants” and Michael Fassbender, “Shame”

Best Actress: Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

     Runner-up: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, “Drive”

     Runner-up: Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”

     Runner-up: Jeannie Berlin, “Margaret”

Best Screenplay: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, “Moneyball”

     Runner-up: Kenneth Lonergan, “Margaret”

(If I was writing for AwardsDaily.com, I guess this is where I would say, NO MOVIE HAD A BETTER SCREENPLAY THAN THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”

     Runner-up: Robert Richardson, “Hugo”

Best Documentary: “Project Nim”

     Runner-up: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Best Foreign-Language Film: “Incendies”

     Runners-up: “A Separation” and “Poetry”

Best Animated Film: “Rango”

Best Film Editing:  Christian Marclay, “The Clock”

     Runner-up: Thelma Schoonmaker, “Hugo”

Best New Filmmaker: Sean Durkin, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

     Runner-up: J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”

Best Ensemble Cast: “Carnage”

     Runner-up: “Margaret”

Best Use of Music in a Film: (tie) “Drive” and “The Artist”

     Runner-up: “The Descendants”

Special Commendations:

Ben Fowlie, Sara Archambault and Sean Flynn of DocYard

The Museum of Fine Arts for “The Clock”

The Brattle Film Foundation

Best Rediscoveries:

“The Shooting” at the Harvard Film Achive

“The Makota Sisters” at the Museum of Fine Arts

“Deep End” at the HFA

“Days and Nights in the Forest” at the HFA

“Children of Hiroshima” at the HFA

Obviously, the Boston Film Critics were big fans of Kenneth Lonergan’s film MargaretMargaret was actually filmed in 2007 but, because of various lawsuits between Longergan and the film’s producers, it was not actually released until September of this year.  Unfortunately, it only played down here for about a week and I didn’t get a chance to see it but hopefully, I will in the future.  If nothing else, I want to see it so I can have something other than politics to talk about if I ever go up to Boston.

6 Trailers To Strip Down For


It’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.  This week’s edition has no set theme beyond the fact that, in-between typing up the six trailers featured here, I was also trying on different outfits.  Multi-tasking!

1) Performance

From 1970, it’s the debut film of Nicolas Roeg (though technically, he co-directed by Donald Cammell).  Reportedly, acting in this film led to costar James Fox having a nervous breakdown.

2) Twitch of the Death Nerve

This is the trailer for Mario Bava’s infamous, trend-setting giallo.  Bava’s preferred title for this film was Bay of Blood though it was released under several titles, including Carnage and my personal favorite, Twitch of the Death Nerve.

3) The Comeback

This 1978 film is from the criminally underrated director Pete Walker.  The trailer has a similar feel to Lamerto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark.  Who is Jack Jones and was he actually an international singing sensation?  So many questions.

4) The Class Reunion Massacre (a.k.a. The Redeemer)

What an odd little trailer.  It starts out all slasher-like and then suddenly, it decides to go all Omen.

5) The Corpse Grinders

Yup, that’s what it is alright.  From directed Ted V. Mikels.

6) Candy

This trailer is from 1968, which — if you’ve seen the trailer — is kind of one of those “well, duh” facts.  Based on a book by my fellow Texan Terry Southern (hence, the tag line), the film features Walter Matthau, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Marlon Brando, and James Coburn all taking advantage of Ewa Aulin (who, much like James Fox in Performance, reportedly had a nervous breakdown as a result of making this film).  The film was directed by Christian Marquand who, years later, would play the main French Plantation Guy in Apocalypse Now Redux.