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Mario Bava (1914-1980)

Lifespan: 1914 - 1980

Related: Italian cinema - Italian horror - giallo films - director

Titles: I Vampiri (1957) - Black Sunday (1960) - The Whip and The Body (1963) - Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Bava joking with Jacqueline Pierreux, star of "The Drop Of Water" episode of BLACK SABBATH (1963).
Black Sabbath (1963) - Mario Bava, Salvatore Billitteri [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

William Berger and Edwige Fenech in Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)
Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970) - Mario Bava [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Scene from The Whip and The Body (1963) - Mario Bava [Amazon.com]


Mario Bava (July 31, 1914-April 27, 1980) was an Italian director and cinematographer who is remembered as one of the greatest names of the golden age of Italian horror movies. In 1960 he directed one of the first Italian gothic horror movies of the 60's: La Maschera del demonio (Black Sunday) which made a star out of Barbara Steele. His excellent use of light and dark in black and white movies is simply beautiful. Likewise his use of colors in color films like: I Tre volti della paura (Black Sabbath) (1963) and La Frusta e il corpo (The Whip and the Body) (1963). Bava directed what is called the first italian giallo movie Sei donne per l'assassino (Blood and Black Lace) (1964). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Bava [Dec 2004]


Born July 31, 1914 in San Remo, Italy. Born to Italian cinematographer Eugenio Bava, Mario was trained as a painter before entering the world of film. Known for his special effects and camera angles, Bava started such careers as that of actress Barbara Steele, Dario Argento (apprentice), and Lamberto Bava (son).

Blood and Black Lace (1964) - Mario Bava

Blood and Black Lace (1964) - Mario Bava [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Though the original Italian title translates to "Six Women for an Assassin," the American title, Blood and Black Lace, is far more evocative of the psychosexual nature of this elegant slasher picture. The thin plot concerns a respected Italian fashion house, a murdered model, cocaine, and a tell-all diary that seems to implicate just about everyone connected with the house of style. The disappearance of the diary initiates a wholesale slaughter of the remaining models. Mario Bava's stylish exercise in mayhem lovingly delivers every elaborate killing with dreamy assurance. As the stalker, a faceless figure wrapped up in a trench coat, makes a move for his next gorgeous victim, Bava's prowling camera snakes through sets, rushes down hallways, and generally takes off like a low-budget Hitchcock flick on speed. By contrast, Bava runs through the police investigations with a perfunctory air--the lifeless scenes, which aren't helped by the flat English dubbing, feel like he's marking time between the murders--and when the identity of the black-clad killer is revealed it almost seems beside the point. As the narrative melts into a near abstract display of choreography and color (with an often troubling misogynist edge), exposition and psychological explanations seem oddly out of place in this elaborate dance of death. As a traditional thriller it lacks any genuine thrill, but as a piece of cinematic spectacle it has moments of dreamy, disconnected beauty. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com

Isabella (played by Francesca Ungaro), a young model is murdered by a mysterious masked figure at a boarding house run by Max Marian (played by Cameron Mitchell)and his lover Countess Cristiana Como (played by Eva Bartok). When Isabella's boyfriend is suspected of the killing, her diary, which apparently has some incriminating evidence linking her to the killer, dissapears, the masked killer begins killing off all the models in and around the house to find the diary. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_and_Black_Lace [Jul 2005]

If there is a cornerstone of the Italian giallo, then Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is surely it. Retreating from the dark moldy confines of the gothic horror film and into the mad urban rush of the city, where the beautiful people work, play and while away their days and nights doing as little as possible, Bava zeroed in on a rather atypical locale for a horror film – a fashion house. (Dario Argento even paid homage to Blood and Black Lace by directing a fashion show for designer Nicola Trussardi called Trussardi Action in 1988, where a killer knocked off the models on the runway.) Equipped with his colored gels and his predatory camera, Bava arguably created the slasher subgenre and kicked down the door for subsequent directors to stick in their cinematic blades as well, for better or worse.

Granted, Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in 1960 as was Michael Powell’s masterful Peeping Tom, but the ferociousness of Bava’s death scenes and his refusal to turn his camera lens from the Grand Guignol blood-letting ushered in a new wave of cinematic violence, especially against women in film. Hitchcock toyed with us, Powell showed us but kept his emotional distance, but Bava passionately reveled in the shock of it all. Camera as weapon; the masked killer as cipher upon whom the audience was almost gleefully invited to imprint their darkest animosities.

Blood and Black Lace – like many of Bava’s films – has little regard for character development, sense of story, or even logic. The plot is simple – a mad faceless killer, dressed in a black trenchcoat, stalks and murders various models in an attempt to recover a red diary which would implicate the killer in criminal activities. But regardless of the loopy plot contrivances, Blood and Black Lace is one of Bava’s most technically satisfying and overall strongest cinematic efforts -- from beginning to end, the film is utterly alive. Bava’s macabre enthusiasm for the material is infectious.

It’s appropriate that much of the film takes place in and around a fashion house because Bava is only concerned with style and the art of murder. But what style it is! Here, the style is substance. Bava’s mise-en-scene, an overload of colors and visual and narrative red herrings, ultimately lead nowhere. What mystery exists is inconsequential, for the film’s most memorable sequences are its lavish, brutally staged death scenes. Subsequent directors such as Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and even Hitchcock for his film Frenzy (1972) understood this to varying degrees. The screenplay serves the murders, not the other way around. --Derek Hill via http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue10/reviews/mariobava/bloodblack.htm

see also: 1964 - giallo - Mario Bava - Italian Cinema

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) - Mario Bava

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) - Mario Bava [Amazon.com]

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (La Ragazza che sapeva troppo) is an Italian film by Mario Bava released in 1963. It stars Leticia Roman and John Saxon (actor).

This film is considered the first in the giallo genre. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_ragazza_che_sapeva_troppo [Aug 2005]

Nora Davis (Leticia Roman) jets away to Rome to vacation with Edith, an old friend of her family. Unfortunately, her trip is anything but relaxing On the first night, Edith dies--and as Nora runs into the night for help, she becomes an eyewitness to murder as she sees a woman stabbed to death on the Piazza di Spagna! Being a young woman with an insatiable appetite for murder mysteries, Nora can't get anyone to believe her story, but with the help of the attentive Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon), she learns that a murder did occur on that very spot--10 years earlier--when Emily Craven fell victim to the "Alphabet Murderer"! What did Nora Davis really see, and who is stalking her through Rome? Could it be the Alphabet Killer, looking for Victim D? Mario Bava's "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" is a stylish homage to the "Americans Abroad" thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock. Originally released in America (in greatly revised form) as "Evil Eye," Bava's innovative thriller is presented here--for the first time--in its original director's cut. --via Amazon.com

Bay of Blood (1971) - Mario Bava

Reazione a catena / Bay of Blood (1971) - Mario Bava [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This late entry in Italian horror auteur Mario Bava's catalog is in keeping with much of his other work: a rather murky plot, inventive camera work and editing, gauzy lighting using red and blue gels, and an atmospheric, dreamlike feel throughout. Where it parts ways with many of his films is in the high body count--so high that many feel Bay of Blood was a likely influence on American slasher films such as Friday the l3th. The killing centers on a list of potential heirs to a piece of lakefront property ripe for development (a subplot involves camping teenagers who are also being slaughtered--sound familiar?). The slayings come fast and furious, with gunshots, chokings, stabbings, decapitations, and a two-for-the-price-of-one impalement, to name a few. Bava creates an off-kilter mood of melancholia for the film that makes it somewhat less fun than the mindless slasher flicks of the 1980s, but also renders it a more thought-provoking, cynical sort of movie. --Jerry Renshaw

see also: slasher - film - Mario Bava - 1971 - Italian horror - blood

I Tre volti della paura/Black Sabbath (1963) - Mario Bava, Salvatore Billitteri

I Tre volti della paura/Black Sabbath (1963) - Mario Bava, Salvatore Billitteri [Amazon.com]

I Tre volti della paura or Black Sabbath (1963) is a Italian gothic horror movie directed by Mario Bava. Boris Karloff has a role in it.

A trilogy of three horror stories. "The Drop of Water" concerns a nurse who steals a ring off a dead spiritualist, only to have the corpse seek revenge. "The Telephone" features a prostitute who is terrorized by phone calls from a dead client. "The Wurdalak" stars Boris Karloff as a vampire who feeds on the blood of his loved ones. Link to "Tre volti della paura" on (IMDB.com )

In 1969, a heavy blues-rock band named Earth decided to change their name and agreed that the title of this movie would be a nice fit for their burgeoning "heavy metal" sound. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sabbath_(movie) [Apr 2005]

see also: 1963 - Italian horror -

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