Do not believe in what you think you see. Creeping mist, the milky fog of terror that can obscure untold dangers and shroud the confines of limited studio sets. Splashes of colour – purple, blue, green, deep red – a spectral spectrum, flooding the spaces between the darkness. Do you believe in ghosts? You must admit that there are things that frighten us. What’s that strange shadow on the wall, or that flickering candle in the derelict crypt? Is it a trick of the light, or a trick of your imagination? That old castle perched on the cliff looks real, but it could simply be a photograph. And those hundreds of extras. A multiple-exposure? In the illusory world of cinema, would you like to learn what is real and what is unreal? Come closer please, I’ve something to tell you. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mario Bava.
In between projects in the spring of this year, I’ve started researching and writing a series of e-books. They are loosely connected in that they concern cult film directors or genres, with an accent on European filmmakers. The first one is MARIO BAVA: DESTINATION TERROR, which I’ve issued as an e-book via Kindle Direct Publishing. The book’s format is similar to my SPAGHETTI WESTERNS book, which was published by Kamera Books in 2010. Following an introduction to Bava’s work, I look in detail at his films, from ‘I Vampiri’, ‘Caltiki’ and ‘The Mask of Satan’/’Black Sunday’, through to ‘Lisa and the Devil’, ‘The House of Exorcism’ and ‘Shock’. Each entry features a cast list, story outline, background information on the making of the film (I’ve paid particular attention to recurrent Bava filming locations and actors) and a verdict.
The films discussed are I Vampiri (1957), Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959), The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday (1960), Hercules in the Centre of the Earth/Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Erik the Conqueror (1961), The Girl who Knew Too Much/Evil Eye (1963), Black Sabbath (1963), The Whip and the Body (1963), Blood and Black Lace (1964), The Road to Fort Alamo (1964), Planet of the Vampires (1965), Savage Gringo (1966), Kill, Baby…Kill! (1966), Knives of the Avenger (1966), Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969), Four Times that Night (1968/72), Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970), A Bay of Blood/Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), Baron Blood (1972), Lisa and the Devil (1973), The House of Exorcism (1975), Shock (1977)
I’ve also included an appendix of interesting films from Bava’s career, which he worked on in various capacities, from director of photography, lighting effects or special effects, to second-unit director. It also looks at his made-for-TV projects and films that he began, but weren’t completed in his lifetime. These include: Ulysses (1954), Nero’s Weekend (1955), Hercules (1958), The Day the Sky Exploded (1958), Hercules Unchained (1959), The White Warrior (1959), The Giant of Marathon (1959), Esther and the King (1960), The Wonders of Aladdin (1961), Rabid Dogs (1974), Moses the Lawgiver (1975), La Venere d’Ille (1978) and Inferno (1980). There’s also a look at some Bava books and films, with links to where to buy them, and a list of my favourite Bava films, a ‘Best of Bava’, in their finest release versions.
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
Mario Bava is one of the great Italian directors and the father of Italian horror. His beautifully-photographed, artfully-crafted films are the worthy legacy of this talented director, whose work is seen at its very best in this digital age on DVD and Blu-ray, as a triumph of visual design. ‘Destination Terror’ tells his story.
The son of a special effects pioneer, Mario Bava began his film career as a cinematographer, before moving into directing, almost by chance. Those who worked with him maintained that he regarded himself as first and foremost a cinematographer and only secondly as a director. His horror films include the groundbreaking ‘The Mask of Satan’ (also known as ‘Black Sunday’), the three-part demonthology ‘Black Sabbath’, the murderous ‘Blood and Black Lace’ and the archetypal bodycount thriller ‘A Bay of Blood’ (or ‘Twitch of the Death Nerve’). He also made ‘Kill, Baby…Kill!’, ‘The Whip and the Body’, ‘Baron Blood’ and ‘Lisa and the Devil’, which ensure him a place in the pantheon of great horror film directors. But Bava worked successfully in a variety of genres, making the comic book crime caper ‘Danger: Diabolik’, the fantastical sword-and-sandal epic ‘Hercules in the Centre of the Earth’ (also called ‘Hercules in the Haunted World’), Viking adventures like ‘Erik the Conqueror’, the sci-fi horror ‘Planet of the Vampires’ and sex comedies, creature features, slapstick farces and spaghetti westerns. All these films and more are featured in this entertaining guide to the King of Italian Gothic Horror. Also discussed is Bava’s output as a cinematographer and special effects artist, his uncompleted projects and made-for-TV films, and his work’s availability on DVD and videotape, including the many different versions of his films.
This is me proofreading my Bava manuscript in Talland Bay, Cornwall earlier this year. Talland is a couple of miles along the South West Coast Path, east of Polperro, and is the perfect place to lose a sunny afternoon – even if you’re reading about vampires and ghosts.
MARIO BAVA: DESTINATION TERROR is available now through most Amazon stores, including:
Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle-enabled device, the book can be read on a PC, via this free downloadable Kindle reading app.