Monday, August 26, 2013

A Bay of Blood

This entry is part of the Final Girl Film Club.  Head over there to read all about it (and by "it" I mean multiple reviews of this movie, but read mine first.  Thanks).

Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood (1971) is an Italian giallo (murder mystery) film that is both incredibly fun and considered to be widely influential.  The movie contains a total of 13 murders, and since it is currently the year 2013, and seeing as how 13x2 equals 26, and today happens to be the 26th, and since numbers have been proven to mathematically exist, here's a list of 13 REASONS YOU SHOULD WATCH A BAY OF BLOOD:

1. - The Murders:
Like I said, there's 13 of them.  This is definitely a bodycount film, as the violence spread throughout A Bay of Blood is an array of stabbing, slashing, hanging, beheading, shooting, and strangling.  There's plenty of stalking too, and even a couple good shock moments.  It's all pretty great, as there is no shying away from the carnage.

The special effects were done by Carlo Rambaldi, and they're quite effective, especially the machete to the face.  The blood is that sick, candy red color that was popular in Italian (and other) movies of the era, such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Deep Red (1975), and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1973), all of which Rambaldi worked on.  Carlo would hit the big time working on iconic films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977; realization of the "extraterrestrial"), Alien (1979; 'Alien' head effects), and E.T. (1982), but I personally think some of his best work is on the intensely batshit Possession (1981), which means that, yes, the same guy that made and designed the lovable E.T. also made the fuck-monster in Possession.

A Bay of Blood is almost in your face with its carnage, as it comes quite often and is, indeed, bloody, but it is the slow revelations of the motivations for these murders, and the identities of the murderers (plural), that gives the movie its twist of mystery and intrigue, making it more than just a bodycount film.

2. - The Mystery:
The basic plot of A Bay of Blood is this:  after the death of the wealthy, wheelchair-bound Countess Federica (Isa Miranda), multiple people and groups are vying (and dying) to take possession of her property and mansion.  There's a real estate agent and his lover, some creepy locals and neighbors, and the Countess's daughter and her husband... and with all of these multiple players plotting and scheming against one another, it's hard to identify exactly who you should be rooting for, as nobody is actually trying to solve any of the murders, something that is somewhat of a defining characteristic of the protagonists found within the giallo genre.

The mystery of this move is, admittedly, not that complicated or maybe even that thrilling, but I appreciate the novelty of a movie where everyone is a killer (more or less) and how that drives the plot forward instead of a search for a killer.  Granted, it is a whisper-thin plot, but watching the movie play out (and all those murders play out) reveals clues and further insight as to why all these various people want or feel the need to kill.  Basically I like that it's not just a slash and stab picture, even though there is plenty of both.

3. - The Cinematography:
Mario Bava worked as his own cinematographer on this film (as he often did) and there is some nice camerawork.  The camera seems to be in constant motion, with numerous pans, tracking, and dolly shots.  The most noticeable thing is the amount of zooms and the variety of them; slow zooms, fast zooms, in, out, zooms during pans or dollys, Bava is constantly pushing the camera in (focusing on the details) and pulling it back (showing the bigger picture).  Combined with the amount of close-ups used, all this zooming and camera movement gives the film a disorienting feeling and keeps you off balance, something that must be intentional, given the sort of mystery that is at play here.

4. - Mario Bava, the godfather of Italian horror cinema:

In case you're unaware, Bava is considered to be a legend and one of the most important figures in Italian genre cinema, having created some of the special effects for and worked as the cinematographer on Italy's very first horror film (I vampiri [1956]), sword-and-sandal epic (Hercules [1957]), and science fiction film (The Day the Sky Exploded [1958]), before going on to direct films of his own and introducing the world to Barbara Steele with his solo directorial debut Black Sunday (1960) and also helping to create the giallo subgenre of horror films with his one-two punch of The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964).  His films are gothic, occasionally psychedelic, innovative, influential, and incredibly fun, with even his lesser efforts offering memorable or standout sequences.  He is a master of the genre and while I wouldn't say A Bay of Blood is representative of his work as a whole, it's a good gateway into his films.

5. - That gross ass Octopus, crawling all over that Corpse Face:
That shit is nasty.

6. - The Influence on Friday the 13th and other slasher films:
If you're into American 80s slasher films, then you definitely need to check out A Bay of Blood.  It is not only a precursor to those films, but it is also a direct influence on the Friday the 13th films, specifically Part 2 (1981).  In general, the secluded wooded setting around a body of water brings to mind the F13th films and other summer camp slasher films, but F13thPart 2 wholesale lifts two murders directly from A Bay of Blood, the machete to the face and the two-lovers/one-spear kill, not to mention that both films feature the death of a character in a wheelchair Jason Voorhees: thief?

Of all the giallo films I've seen, I would say that A Bay of Blood is the one that feels most similar to a slasher film, as it is basically a movie populated with characters that are lined up to die.  Good thing most of them are good looking or interesting to look at...

7. - The Cast, full of good looking Ladies and Weirdos:
Like a lot of Italian giallo films, this one has a cast full of lovely ladies and interesting looking weirdos.  Claudine Auger puts in a good performance as Renata and her dynamic with her husband Albert (Luigi Pistilli) is interesting; they would be the protagonists of the story if it weren't for the lengths they go to get what they want (also, they're negligent parents...).  Auger was the Bond girl in Thunderball (1965) and Pistilli was in For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The lovely Brunhilda (Brigitte Skay) certainly gives the film its requisite amount of nudity during the scenes she bounces around in, and Laura (Anna Maria Rosati), the real estate agent's lover, plays only a minor part, but she looks good doing it.

My favorite character might be Paolo Fassati (Leopoldo Trieste), a weirdo entomologist who lives along the bay with his weirdo, tarot reading wife Anna (Laura Betti).  Paolo is first seen running around with a net trying to catch some bugs, his enthusiasm childlike.  He seems to associate more with insects than he does with people, making him a great off-kilter side character.  Trieste also has small supporting roles in Don't Look Now (1973) and The Godfather: Part II (1974).
Laura Betti worked with Mario Bava on Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and the two of them came up with the basic story for A Bay of Blood simply as a means of working together again (she gets no final credit in the film, even though there are six screenplay credits[!]).

8. - The Soundtrack:

Dig the groove, man.

9. - This Guy's Hair!  And both of their Turtlenecks:  

10. - All the Alternate Titles:
Check out these 13 different titles for this movie:

original pre-production screenplay title:  Odore di came (The Odor of the Flesh)
shooting screenplay title:  Cosi imparano a fare i cattivi (Thus do we live to be evil)
after production title:  Antefatto (Before the Fact)
first release title:  Ecologia del delitto (The Ecology of Crime)
pulled from theaters and retitled and re-released as:  Reazione a Catena (Chain Reaction)
again, pulled from theaters and retitled and re-released as:  Bahia di Sangre (Bay of Blood)
first US release title:  Carnage
second US release title:  Twitch of the Death Nerve
UK titles include:  A Bay of BloodBlood Bath, and Bloodbath Bay of Death
strangest re-titlings:  Last House on the Left - Part 2 and The New House on the Left (?!)

11. - That Buggy Car:
Look at this thing?  That color of yellow!  Could it have ever existed outside of Europe during the early 70s?

12. - That fucking Ending. . . :
I won't spoil it.  (The above photo doesn't represent the ending).  The final scene of A Bay of Blood is one of those, "waitareyouseriousdidthatjusthappenohmygodyesitdidtotallyjusthappen" kind of endings.  It's unbelievable and puts the movie over the top.  It's a serious WTF moment, causing you to either throw your hands up in frustration or in total applause.  I fall into the latter group.

13. - This Theatrical Trailer:

Should a trailer be a reason to watch a movie?  In this case, yes.

There you have it.  Your 13 Reasons to Check Out Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood (or whatever you want to call it).  Most versions available today are uncut, so feel free to watch it under whatever title you can find it under.  Like I said, it's incredibly fun and, c'mon. . .there's 13 murders!
Isa Miranda, who played the wheelchair-bound Countess, also co-starred in David Lean's Summertime (1955) and the controversial and sadomasochistic The Night Porter (1974).
Barely in the movie, except for a couple scenes, Renata's red-headed daughter is played Nicoletta Elmi, who would go on to play the Baron's daughter in Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1973), the weird lizard girl in Deep Red (1975), and Ingrid, the usherette in Demons (1985).


  1. This is the sort of detail-rich write-up I was planning to do, if I could have harnessed my attention span! Really great!

    1. Hey thanks! I appreciate it. **internet high-five!**