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.

Bond Goes Deep!: THUNDERBALL (United Artists 1965)


cracked rear viewer

THUNDERBALL, the fourth 007 adventure, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first James Bond movie I saw at the theater, released at the height of the Secret Agent/Spy craze, and I was totally hooked! I even had all the toys that went with the movie, including Emilio Largo’s two-part boat the Disco Volante, with which I engaged in mighty battles in the bathtub against VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA’s Seaview (hey, I was only seven!).

SPECTRE is at it again, this time hijacking a NATO jet loaded with two nuclear bombs, and holding the world hostage. Bond, sent to recuperate at a health spa, stumbles on to trouble related to the crisis, and is sent by MI6 to investigate Domino Derval, sister of the NATO pilot. This leads 007 to Domino’s “guardian” Emilio Largo, a rich and powerful man who’s Number Two…

View original post 421 more words

James Bond Review: Thunderball (dir. by Terence Young)


The Shattered Lens is taking on all of the Bond Films, one a day until the U.S. Release of Skyfall on November 9th. Today, we approach the fourth Bond Picture, Thunderball. Before I start, I should note that this film actually has a bit of controversy behind it. Thunderball had the potential to become one of the first Bond films, but a law suit in 1961 stating that Ian Fleming’s novel for the story was based on the screenplay for the film. Producer Kevin McClory was able to win the lawsuit and hold on to the rights. This would later result in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning to play the same role in the same story as he did in 1965. In the meantime, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger were released with great success.

Before watching the movie, I watched a 1965 documentary from NBC called “The Incredible World of James Bond”, which talked about Ian Fleming, James Bond, and the overall popularity of the character. By the time Goldfinger came out, you’d find lines around theatres all around the world. People were buying colognes and watches – if it had 007 written on it, it was an easy sale. Both the books and the movies were doing extremely well. So with Thunderball being the latest release, it was similar to having perhaps the next Harry Potter or Twilight film on the way. I also learned that Q (Desmond Llewelyn) actually has a name, Major Boothroyd. That was cool to discover.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed Thunderball.  It’s the only Bond film I’ve never seen and the production values for the film were some of the most elaborate around at the time of it’s release. They went out of their way to create submersible machines and other equipment, but the fact that so much of the film took place underwater really caused me to lose interest in what was going on. Granted, it may be fun for many people, but I really wanted to them to give me a few more locales under than the major underwater harpoon fight that occurs near the film’s action climax. Both Tom Jones’ theme song (which describes Bond’s approach to things) and John Barry’s score help to set the mood of the story.

Thunderball continues the SPECTRE story started with Dr. No. Originally, this was supposed to be SMERSH, but that was a real group, much like the KGB or CIA. For movie purposes, SMERSH became SPECTRE to avoid giving any of the Bond stories an anti-nation slant. This would also be done with Quantum of Solace, the organization being something private rather than being any kind of counter intelligence group. This time around, the story opens with Bond attending the funeral of one of the SPECTRE members, and on seeing his wife getting into a car on her own (something I didn’t see as wrong), he follows her to her home to confront her. It’s revealed that the widow is actually the SPECTRE agent (I wasn’t expecting the punch that revealed it), and in the fight Bond ends up killing him. He makes a quick exit and uses a jet pack to get out of the building, where his Aston Martin is waiting for him. It was kind of interesting to see that there was that kind of technology in the 60s.

SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is given the task to acquire two Nuclear weapons and decides he’s going to blow up Miami if he doesn’t get his way. Bond is assigned to stop him, and along the way he meets Domino (Claudine Auger), who assists him on this.

At the time of it’s release, Thunderball was a major hit and even won an Academy Award. It managed to come out at the height of Connery’s career as the secret agent. It does suffer from one or two flaws. As most of the story takes place on or near a beach, there are tons of underwater sequences, including a full out battle. Even Finding Nemo took some time to stay on the surface once in a while. This doesn’t make Thunderball a terrible film at all, it simply focuses the story on one element. I would have liked a little more variety.

Q’s gadgets for Bond this time around included a Geiger Counter, a rebreather, an underwater camera, and a personal flare gun, all for the life aquatic.

Overall, Thunderball’s a good film to watch if you’re doing what we’re doing here and are watching the films in a series. You may find yourself a little bothered by the amount of underwater scenes, but the movie still manages to keep some of the spy vibe of the earlier films. Below is Tom Jones’ theme to the film. Tomorrow, the Shattered Lens will take on the David Niven / Peter Sellers version of Casino Royale.