Sex And Drugs And BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (Allied Artists/Woolner Brothers 1964)

cracked rear viewer

Welcome to the weirdly wonderful world of giallo, pioneered by the late Italian maestroMario Bava . Though Bava’s THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (released stateside as EVIL EYE) is considered by connoisseurs the first, it was BLOOD AND BLACK LACE that defined the genre, with its comingling of crime drama, murder mystery, and horror elements coalescing into something truly unique. I hadn’t seen this film in decades before a recent rewatch, and was again dazzled by Bava’s technique. The film has proved to be highly influential in the decades-later slasher genre, yet has its roots set firmly in the past.

The opening sequence is a stunner, as we see the beautiful model Isabelle walking through a woodsy pathway on a dark and stormy night, stalked and then brutally murdered by a faceless, trenchcoated killer. From there, we’re introduced to the remaining cast, members of the haute couture fashion…

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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.

Italian Horror Spotlight: Hatchet for the Honeymoon (dir by Mario Bava)

“My name is John Harrington. I’m 30 years old. I am a paranoiac.”

So declares John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) at the start of the 1969’s Hatchet for The Honeymoon.  Along with being a paranoiac, John Harrington is also handsome, charming, and apparently quite successful.  He owns a bridal dress factory in France, a business that he inherited from his mother after her untimely death.  On the outside, everything looks perfect but appearances can often be deceiving.

John’s wife, Mildred (Laura Betti), knows that John is hiding secrets.  She regularly taunts John, reminding him that he’s not only impotent but that he’s also has an unhealthy obsession with his memories of his mother.  John’s mother died when he was very young.  He witnessed her death but he’s repressed the memory of who actually killed her.  John is determined to recover those memories.

So, what does John do?

Does he go to a hypnotist?  Does he dig through old police files and search for clues?  Does he ask someone to analyze his dreams?  That’s what you or I might do but John, you must remember, is a paranoiac.  Somehow, John has realized that, whenever he commits a murder, he remembers just a little bit more about the night his mother died.  So, in order to learn the truth about his mother’s death, John is murdering the models who work at his bridal salon.  Apparently, it’s very important that his victims be wearing a wedding dress when they die….

Okay, now you’re probably already thinking that this sounds like a somewhat bizarre movie.  Well, believe it or not, things are about to get a lot stranger.

After John meets a new model named Helen (Dagmar Lassander), he decided that he doesn’t need Mildred yelling at him anymore.  So, he puts on a wedding veil and murders Mildred.  However, even in death, Mildred won’t leave John alone.  Mildred’s ghost shows up and announces that everyone will be able to see her but John.

So now, John is having to deal with everyone assuming that his wife is with him, even though he can’t see her.  As you might guess, this makes it a bit difficult for John to convince potential victims to come back to the salon with him.

And, from there, it just keeps getting stranger and stranger….

Hatchet For The Honeymoon was written and directed by one of the most important figures in the history of Italian cinema, Mario Bava.  A master technician with a wry and occasionally self-mocking sense of humor, Bava worked in every genre, from peplums to spaghetti westerns to poliziotteschis, but he’s best remembered for his work in the horror genre.  Bava is often credited with having directed the first giallo film and his often-violent thrillers are still influential to this day.

Hatchet For The Honeymoon is often described as being one of Bava’s lesser films but I don’t agree with that judgment.  If nothing else, Hatchet For The Honeymoon is probably one of Bava’s more playful movies.  From the increasingly bizarre twists and turns of the film’s plot to John Harrington’s wonderfully overwrought narration, the entire film has an almost improvisational feel to it.  One gets the feeling that Bava is poking fun at the conventions of the giallo genre.  The usual omnipresent, black glove-wearing killer has been replaced by an impotent wedding dress designer who can’t even escape the ghost of his dead wife.

(Reportedly, Mildred wasn’t originally in the script and was only added because Bava wanted to work with actress Laura Betti.  Perhaps that explains why Mildred often seems to be standing outside of the story, mocking not only John but also the mechanics of the thriller plot.)

As one would expect from a Bava film, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is frequently a visual marvel, a pop art-inspired mix of dark shadows and red blood.  The wedding dresses are to die for and so is the cinematography.  I especially liked the darkly ominous shots of John surrounded by the lifeless mannequins in his salon.  Early on, when we get a shot from John’s point of view, the image is slightly blurred and the angle seem just a bit off, a reminder of John’s twisted impression of the world around him.  When John walks up stairs to the kill his wife, the sound of his movement seems to echo through his ornate but sterile home.

If Stephen Forsyth sometimes seems to be a bit stiff in the role of John, it’s an appropriate reminder that John is an empty shell and all of his feelings and emotions are manufactured.  Laura Betti does a wonderful job nagging him in life and her palpable joy about getting revenge in death is one of the best things about the movie.

Hatchet For The Honeymoon is an exuberantly weird film and definitely one that needs to be seen by anyone seeking to fall in love with Italian horror.

4 Shots From 4 Mario Bava Films: Black Sunday, Kill Baby Kill, Lisa and the Devil, Shock

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

104 years ago today, the most important Italian filmmaker of all time was born.  Today is Mario Bava’s birthday!  And, as we often do here at the Shattered Lens, it’s time to celebrate with…

4 Shots From 4 Films

Black Sunday (1960, dir by Mario Bava)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

Lisa and the Devil (1972, dir by Mario Bava)

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava)

4 Shots From 4 Daria Nicolodi Films: Deep Red, Shock, Tenebre, Opera

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

Today is Daria Nicolodi’s birthday!

Daria Nicolodi has been called the “unsung hero of Italian horror” and it’s an apt description.  Along with starring in several of the films that Dario Argento directed during the first half of his legendary career, Nicolodi also was responsible for the story of and co-wrote the script for Suspiria.  (Nicolodi has always said that Suspiria was based on a true story involving one of her ancestors.)  Argento’s decision to give the lead role in Suspiria to Jessica Harper, instead of Nicolodi, is often cited as the beginning of the end of their relationship.

(It’s also a shame — actually, a more accurate description would be to say that it’s a goddamn crime — that Nicolodi apparently will not have even as much as a cameo in the upcoming Suspiria remake.)

Nicolodi also appeared in films directed by Mario Bava, Luigi Cozzi, Michele Soavi, and several other distinguished Italian directors.  In Scarlet Diva, she was directed by her daughter, Asia Argento.

This edition for 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to Daria Nicolodi!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Deep Red (1975, dir by Dario Argento)

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava)

Tenebre (1982, dir by Dario Argento)

Opera (1987, dir by Dario Argento)

4 Shots From 4 Vincent Price Films: The Last Man on Earth, The Masque of the Red Death, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, The Witchfinder General

4 Shots from 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots from 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is Vincent Price’s birthday!  This edition of 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to him, his memory, and his career!

4 Shots From 4 Vincent Price Films

The Last Man on Earth (1964, dir by Ubaldo Ragona)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, dir by Roger Corman)

Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

The Witchfinder General (1968, dir by Matthew Reeves)