Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) movie poster

directors Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava
viewed: 09/21/2017

There is debate about how much Caltiki – The Immortal Monster is Mario Bava and how much it’s Riccardo Freda. It doesn’t really matter. Certainly it’s not “pure” Bava. But there are certainly some shots that look like prime Bava.

For 1950’s sci-fi, there are some well-noted gruesome effects. I even sensed a little bit of Godzilla in the miniatures. I also found some of it to be quite Expressionistic.

What I found kind of odd was that a movie about a vengeful Mayan goddess, Caltiki, (d)evolves into a much more scientific description of events. Caltiki the monster is an irradiated amoeba, essentially, grown to huge proportions resulting from earthquakes and then further powered by a returning meteor. (I didn’t say it was “good” science).

I don’t know. I pretty much dig 1950’s sci-fi/horror.

The Whip and the Body (1963)

The Whip and the Body (1963) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 06/20/2016

Technicolor Bava.

This movie is fucking gorgeous.

I found this oddly-shaped .gif of the most amazing shot in the film.  I don’t really make my own .gifs or screen-captures.  Nothing could truly do it justice.

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I don’t even want to say anything more about it.

Fucking gorgeous Technicolor Bava.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Blood and Black Lace (1964) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 02/05/2016

I don’t know at what point I decided that Mario Bava was one of my favorite directors, but it definitely happened, somewhere over the past several years, working my way, unmethodically, through his oeuvre.  I’ve ended up at the odd point of now semi-slowly moving through his films that I haven’t seen, holding back so that I still have some more new Bava discoveries ahead of me.

It’s amazing what Bava could do with a dark set and a few colored lights.  He made gorgeous cinema vistas with budgets far below what anyone would guess while gazing upon it.  In Blood and Black Lace he’s got the camera moving a lot, tracking through rooms and compartments, over and through and from behind things.

Like his film The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), Blood and Black Lace was a formative film for the giallo genre and a prototype, which he would further refine in A Bay of Blood (1971) (though not as gorgeously), for the slasher films that would come in slews following.

What most struck me about this film, oddly, was the relatively violent, if mostly bloodless murders.  The masked and trenchcoated figure in black gloves, faceless as it is, attacks the models of a fashion house with great brutality, whether strangling, stabbing, or burning the women.  The scenes aren’t overly protracted but they are intense and emphatic set-pieces that are quite rough.

As with gialli, the story is ultimately a kind of convoluted mush, with an unlikely twist or two which it’s usually all the better to not contemplate.  It may well be that Bava’s greatest strength is in his visual design, compositions, and aeshtetics, which transcend his shifts (or inventions) in genre.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 04/13/2015

Working my way through the films of Mario Bava…

I don’t know what to write about Hatchet for the Honeymoon other than it sort of out trumps Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) in its mommy-obsessed serial killer, recreating his original crime time and again, murdering brides that come through his bridal shop.

Though it has some interesting shots (as all Bava films do), it was perhaps the least satisfying of his films that I have seen thusfar.  Shan’t belabor the point when I don’t really have one.  I’ll leave it at that.

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Lisa and the Devil (1973) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 02/28/2015

After watching Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre (2000), I felt inspired to watch another of Bava’s films that I had yet to see and I opted for Lisa and the Devil, a film considered one of his most unusual and significant.  It’s also one that got released at a time when Bava’s gothic style had become quite passé, leading his producer Alfredo Leone to shoot some extra footage and re-brand the thing The House of Exorcism (1975) as a straight The Exorcist (1973) play.

For some, Lisa and the Devil is Bava at his best, for others it’s his most confounding.

For me, I fell somewhere in between.

It opens with quite a Surrealist trope, young Lisa (Elke Sommer) in some strange village is shown an ancient mural of the devil and then encounters him in human form, specifically the form of Telly Savalas.  He’s in a shop getting a dummy figure fixed, as well as a strange toy with figurines on it.  He’s friendly and sinister and Lisa is bumped from one weird thing to the next until she finds herself on the road to a sinister stately home where Savalas is the cigarette-smoking, lollipop-licking butler (Apparently it was on the set of this movie that he began his relationship with lollipops.)

The surrealism is the film’s strong point.  It’s quite strange and Freudian and quite interesting.

I don’t know that  I loved the film.  I liked it.  I found it interesting.  But maybe it’s just the Seventies, I don’t  know.  The Bava aesthetics seemed muted in aspects of the period, less wonderfully wrought as his films of the 1960’s.  Though, I would certainly say I should watch it again before committing myself on the topic.  I guess I can see how this film could grow on a person.

 

Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre (2000)

Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre (2000) DVD cover

director Garry S. Grant
viewed: 02/25/2015

I’ve been getting into Mario Bava over the past 10 years, slowly working my way through his oeuvre and liking and increasingly loving his movies.  He’s really become a favorite of mine, a nouveau favorite, if you will, but more and more a favorite.

I’ve had this documentary about him in my film queue for pretty much the whole time since I started going through his films, but it lingered on there among the hundreds of other films.  You know, I’m not even entirely sure what inspired me to finally pop it to the top and finally watch it.

Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre is an adequate documentary, featuring some historical narration about the man and his career as well as a plethora of clips and a spate of interviews with family, collaborators, and fans like Joe Dante (who seems to be the most frequent interview subject in documentaries that I’ve watched over the past year).  Bava’s inventiveness and innovation are explored, having brought the horror film back to Italy, spawned the Giallo film genre, maybe spawned the slasher film, among his many career highlights.  His relative obscurity is also addressed, credited to his having stayed in Italy in his career as part of why his “never got famous”.

As I said, Bava is becoming a favorite of mine, which may sound like cautious and maybe faint praise, but honestly, my favorite directors is a personally hallowed list to which not just anybody suddenly sidles up and jumps on.  This movie is only an hour in run-time but to its credit, it covers the basics of his life and career, workman-like in manner, not really terribly insightful but practical.  So, I found it useful.

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 01/12/2014

Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill is an aesthetically pleasing, at times quite eerie period ghost movie.

Every time I see a new Bava film, I keep finding myself totally entranced and wondering why I haven’t watched all his films already and declared his a personal favorite director yet.  I have yet to see one that I didn’t like and I find the camera work, mise en scene, and visual aesthetics off the charts with their lurid color and fantastic beauty.

In Kill, Baby, Kill, someone is placing coins in the hearts of the recently deceased to keep them from coming back as something horrible.  When a doctor and investigator come in to see what the superstitious locals are really up to, they encounter an unusual twist of the supernatural, led by the evil spirit of a dead 7 year old girl and her vengeful mother.

The term that comes to mind is scopophilia, visual pleasure, but maybe or maybe not in the pure terms of feminist film criticism.  Bava is a visual master, working on budgets typically quite low.  It’s not opulence that he gets on the celluloid, but something that, at least, my eyes love to drink in.  (Maybe it’s something of which I’ll have to endeavor more analysis, but some of the shots in the kitchen of an old inn, the depth perspective as the camera moves, aspects of the camera movement itself, not merely framings or colored lights.

I don’t know.  I thought it was pretty great and very cool.

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 10/20/2014

Mario Bava.  The more I see, the more I love.

I think this movie first came to my attention some 25 years ago, in some joking Tim Burton documentary that I saw, where referenced his childhood appreciation for “foreign films” such as Hercules in the Haunted World and some Japanese kaiju flick.  And there it had lingered for all this time.  I’m not sure why I never got around to seeing it before.

It’s a glorious low-budget fantasia of color and fantasy.  I really don’t have words to do it justice at the moment.  It’s easy to see how Bava moved from cinematography and art direction into directorhood.  Sure, there is a chintzyness to the aesthetic but it’s also pure, camp gorgeousness.

Brilliant.  Gorgeous.  So cool.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 10/05/2014

“Mario Bava’s most influential film,” as A Bay of Blood is known, isn’t necessarily at all his best.  I’m still doing my own survey of Bava, which is far from over, but I think I can come to that surmise.  Not that it’s bad.  It’s good.  It’s just not his best is all.

It’s a convoluted plot, which only reveals itself toward the end, about people killing people over a bay to be developed.  And inheritance.  And a bunch of other reasons?  Actually, it’s hard to unravel all of who or why everyone is killed.

But what it has earned its rep on was the way it became a prototype for the “slasher” film.  The camera follows the weapon, the camera as the eye of the unseen killer, stalking the nubile young people (and some old people).  The spear cam which impales two young lovers going at it and a machete to the face were directly lifted for Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981).  So yes, there is that.  There is also some grisly gore.

If you ask me, the best thing in the film is the ending, which is extremely perverse and pessimistic.  I don’t want to spoil it for you.  So stop reading.

It’s on you now.  Just as the parents who got together to wipe out the leftover living in this convoluted plot in which almost everyone is complicit somehow (and also murdered somehow), as the parents, who’ve just killed the last of the other characters convene to talk and reconnoiter, we see them get shot down, POV-style.  But who could it be?

It’s the kids.  The kids kill their parents and then wander off to the lake.  Roll credits.  Light music.  Very ironic, quite dark, interesting.

I was writing earlier about how I need to string my F.W. Murnau films together so that I can develop a clearer opinion, understanding of his work.  Bava falls into the same camp for me.  Watch more Bava, in closer succession, rather than randomly over many years.  Game plan.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) movie poster

director Mario Bava
viewed: 05/25/2014

I figure if you’re going to delve into a genre/style that you really haven’t delved into much, a good starting point is the earliest sample of the genre.  After watching Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), I found myself wondering why I hadn’t watched more giallo movies and really could not come up with a good answer.  So, with a modicum of research and a flurry of movie-queuing, I pulled up Mario Bava’s 1963 crime thriller The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

It’s a stylish affair, if a muddled one.  The convoluted plot is centered around a young woman in Rome on a holiday whose aunt suddenly takes ill and dies.  The young woman then goes out and gets mugged and then witnesses a murder, though a murder in which the evidence suddenly disappears.  While it’s Hitchcockian to a point, the story unravels into some decade-long serial killing thing, with twists out of left field.

Bava makes the thing look good though, actually really quite good.  A lot of shots are tres chic and very cool.

It’s probably quite a few evolutionary steps from Fulci’s 1972 film and I’m too much a newbie to the giallo film to draw any real significant conclusions.  Pretty cool if not a masterwork of cinema — that’s my two lira on the subject.