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.