Grazie Zia

Written by Joe D on September 16th, 2008

A great but flawed film, the likes of which we may never see again. Grazie Zia ( Thank You Auntie, USA) has many incredible elements, the acting, especially by the leads- Lou Castel as Alvise

Lou Castel as Alvise gets a check-up

and Lisa Gastoni as Aunt Lea.

Beautiful Lisa Gastoni, Fantasy Aunt!

The incredible music by maestros Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai.
The Vietnam War as viewed by an Italian proto-adolescent. Beautiful B&W cinematography by Aldo Scavarda and excellent direction by Salvatore Samperi. The story centers on Alvise, a young man with a mysterious medical condition that’s paralyzed his legs, forcing him to ride around in a motorized wheelchair. Alvise travels to his Aunt Lea’s country villa for a rest. He reads comic books obsessively especially Diabolik.
He is also obsessed with the Vietnam War, going on at the time this film was made. Alvise’s Aunt Lea obviously cares a great deal for her nephew even though her millionaire husband dislikes him quite a bit and with good reason, Alvise is just shy of being a sociopath. First we learn that he can walk. His mysterious paralyses is fake.

Treating his Legs with Magnetic Mud!

He then takes out a rifle with telescopic sight and aims at his Aunt and her husband.
Later during a small party a sexy young blond flirts with Alvise, singing to him, dancing up to him, embracing him. He responds by biting her like a mad dog!

Party Italian Style!

But for me the most amazing scene is where Alvise plays his war games. A radio report drones on reciting casualty figures in the Vietnam conflict. Alvise dutifully records these updates on a bulletin board that lists living and dead Viet Cong, Americans, lost arms, legs etc.
He has created a tabletop reproduction of a battle field, complete with American army base and vietnamese village.
He starts the conflagration, burning the village in a napalm storm.
He salutes a fallen American toy soldier, yelling at a Viet Cong that ” He’ll never drink Coca-Cola again!” This strange tableaux, accompanied by an anti-war Italian pop song is very moving.
Most of the Americans sent to Vietnam were barely out of their teens. They should have been reading comic books and chasing chicks rather than spraying napalm and Agent Orange, having their legs blown off and suffering acute psychological damage. The guy that re-stuccoed part of my house told me his story. He shipped over to Nam just out of high school. He thought it would be fun, adventure. As his plane was coming in for a landing at the American base he saw puffs of smoke down by the runway. The Viet Cong were mortaring the base. He thought ” Wait a minute, this doesn’t look good!” It went downhill from there, one trauma after another.
Another guy I knew back east had been captured. He spent 3 years in a wooden cage displayed as a weak American. When he got back he could barely speak to anyone. It took about 2 months before he said hello to me. My Laotian friend told me that he was shocked to see the Americans were sending “kids” over to fight trained soldiers. He couldn’t figure it out. This movie makes this point in a powerful way.
The story evolves and Alvise seduces his Aunt. Now this part of the film I didn’t enjoy as much. Simply because Alvise is such a jerk and his Aunt is a beautiful mature sexy woman. Charming, classy, first rate. I found it hard to believe that she would fall for this guy. But maybe she did out of love for him, not passion but the desire to let Alvise realize his fantasy with her. The film is in Italian with no subtitles so I may have missed some nuances.
It’s still great and worth watching. As I said at the begining of this piece, we may never see films like this made again. Why? It’s a very personal film, dealing with anti-war sentiments, incest, a charming/repellant hero, not a marketable crowd pleaser and Thank the Gods Of Film for it’s existence! We need more filmmakers willing to take a chance, try something out of the ordinary, break free of the stupid conventions of storyteilng where everyone knows whats going to happen next.

Take Me To A Screenwriting Class!

Stop going to these idiotic screenwriting seminars to learn cookie cutter film structure! Take a chance and make a bold visionary film or better still support these films by renting, buying, going to see them! The world needs artists more than ever to present other views than the media crap force fed to everyone. Get out there and make it happen!
p.s. the score for this film is pure genius. Morricone and his ex-partner Bruno Nicolai created a unique sound for this film. Those guys created so many different sonic palates, it’s incredible. Compare this score to Citta Violenta or Il Mercenario, they’re all very different. p.p.s I checked out Lou Castel on IMDB. This guy has had an incredible career! He’s in some of the greatest films of all time. Including some Fassbinder, Viscounti, Wenders,the excellent Irma Vep, etc. etc. and he’s still acting! Also Lisa Gastoni has had an illustrious career. She appeared in a film by the sublime Fernando Di Leo-(La Seduzione) and interestingly enough she appeared in a film called Amore amaro ( Bitter Love) with my pal Leonard Mann. When I interviewed Leonard he spoke fondly of this film but admitted he had never seen it! I found a copy on ebay and turned him on to it. He bought it( it was expensive) and now I need to borrow it so I can write about it. In Closing. Bravo! to Salvatore Samperi, Bravo Lou Castel! Brava Lisa Gastoni! Bravo Morricone, Niccolai! Bravo to all involved in making this film.

Here’s the party scene via YouTube:

And here’s the title sequence so you can hear some of the score.

French Crime at the Egyptian

Written by Joe D on September 4th, 2008

Saturday September 6 the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood U.S.A. will screen two classics starring Jean Gabin. The Sicilian Clan at 7:30 pm and the ultra-rare Moontide at 9:30. The Sicilian Clan also features two other Titans of Cinema acting, Alain Delon and Lino Ventura. What a great opportunity to see these greats in 35mm! Here’s the trailer!

Moontide features sexy, smart Ida Lupino and the ever popular star of Hollywood epics, Bette Davis melodramas and Italian Space operas, Claude Raines. Go see them! You Must Obey!
Sunday they’re showing the unseen House On The Waterfront a gritty tale of a tugboat captain emeshed in an intrigue involving his daughter, a gangster, a diver and a corpse trapped in a sunken ship that’s about to be salvaged. Then the incredible grandaddy of French noir Touchez Pas Au Grisbi. A great movie ! I reviewed it at length here. Go see it! You Will Love It! Bravo Cinematheque! Here’s the schedule: Cinematheque
It’s all part of a celebration of Jean Gabin and a new book about him : World’s Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, the author, Charles Zigman will be there as well.

Sweet Smell Of Success & The Lost New York

Written by Joe D on September 1st, 2008

SSOS just showed on TCM as part of a Tony Curtis retrospective.

Sidney Falco on the threshold of Success, the entrance to “21”

This time it really brought back memories of Lost New York. Some of the spots are still there but they’re not the same. First off, this is an incredible movie. Great classic performances out of Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Great dialog, “Match me Sidney.” ” I’d hate to take a bite out of you, you’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

One of Burt’s Greatest Roles
There’s more quipping in this movie than any other that I can think of. ” Here’s your head, what’s your hurry.” It does not stop. James Wong Howe’s cinematography is amazing, they went for a reverse, long lenses to shoot long shots, exteriors of NYC stacked up in a telephoto lens, wide angle lenses for close ups, distorting, paranoid, powerful images of the characters and this technique works incredibly well. The characters jump off the screen at you with all the dynamism of a Steve Ditko comic.

Pure Genius!
The environs of New York never looked better. Great locations! Shots of a bygone NYC. There’s a scene at A Times Square hot dog stand, you can picture Jack Kerouac walking in. It reminds me of Papaya King, a stand I used to frequent. Two dogs and a papaya drink for $1.50! That was a deal!

Time Travel via HotDog Stand!

Hey Kerouac! Pass The Mustard!
All that stuff in midtown, the 40’s and 50’s , the “21” club, the Ed Sullivan Theater, the crummy offices, the streets, J.J.(Burt Lancaster) lives in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway. I used to work there, there were a lot of editing rooms in that building. Saturday Night Live had offices there, I once had a run in with a belligerent John Belushi on the service elevator.

Sidney in the lobby of The Brill Building, 1600 Bway was right across the street
Reverse on the Brill lobby. This was it, Tin Pan Alley!

Across the street was 1600 Broadway, the National Screen Services Building. They had a ton of cutting rooms in there as well and it was one of the last buildings in the city to have elevator operators! Next door was the Rincon Argentina, a great restaurant, full of editors at lunch time, half a chicken, french fries, salad for $3.59, plus a demi boutee of house red for a buck! Those were the days. So to see J.J. and Sidney cruising my old neighborhoods blew me away. I worked up the street at my friend’s company “CineHaven”, 254 W.54th street. Rumor had it that Marlon Brando and Wally Cox were roommates there in the 50’s.

I used to work (and crash) right up the street!

Just up the street from Studio 54 and Trans Audio , a mixing studio with a lot of cutting rooms. But back to SSOS, the bar that Martin Milner plays at when Sidney sets him up, I think it’s by the old West Side Highway, the location is so cool, Sidney up on the overpass signaling Kello the bad cop to get Martin. Incredible!

West Side Highway Location?

Evil Cop Harry Kello beats up Jazz Guitarist Martin Milner
Life imitates Art, Miles Davis was beaten up by a cop on 52nd Street while standing outside a gig

The great Chico Hamilton Quintet appears in the film and they are excellent. Great score by Elmer Bernstein, great screenplay by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets, great direction by Alexander Mackendrick.
Chico Hamilton on drums, the guy on cello is Fred Katz, he wrote the super cool score for Roger Corman’s Little Shop Of Horrors!

Great characters, supposedly J.J. was based on Walter Winchell, the influential columnist. It’s an interesting character, he wraps himself up in the flag spouting a lot of rhetoric about patriotism, all the while spewing vitriol on everyone he doesn’t like, and if anyone complains, they’re un-American! A petty tyrant whose motivations are his personal vendettas and small minded attacks pretending that he’s doing it for the good of his “60 million readers”. I think this is a very timely character, as relevant now as back then, even more so. We’ve got a J.J. Hunsecker in the White House, only without the witty quips. The movie introduces the wonderful Susan Harrison, what happened to her?

If you want to get a feel for that old lost New York check out this guy, Jean Shepherd. He had a late nite radio show broadcast from NYC, I’d listen to him when I was a kid. Sometimes he talks about NYC and it doesn’t get any better than this. He also wrote the Christmas Story film. Here’s a link to some of his shows. Here it is : Jean Shepherd Shows
flatiron.jpgI used to live around the corner from the Flatiron Building, an early structural steel building in NYC courtesy of Chicago architect Daniel Burnham

Italian Crime Double Bill at The Egyptian!

Written by Joe D on July 21st, 2008

Come one, come all to the Egyptian Theater this Thursday July 24th at 7:30 pm. It’s the Grand Finale of their Italian Grindhouse Festival. First up Sergio Sollima’ Citta Violenta ( USA Violent City). starring Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland and Kojack himself, Telly Savalas! A great score by Maestro Morricone and incredible stunt driving in tiny Fiats by the master of all Euro stunt drivers, Rémy Julienne, also editing by the great Nino Baragli! Then they’re showing, Fernando DiLeo’s masterpiece Milano Calibro 9. Great Score by Luis Bacalov and the rock band Osanna! Check them out , I’ll try to make it if I can. Here’s the trailer for Citta Violenta!

P.S. Here’s the wonderful Barbara Bouchet dance scene from Blood and Diamonds but she does a very similar dance in Milano Calibro 9!

Once Upon A Time In The West Screens at The Academy

Written by Joe D on June 21st, 2008

They screened the recently restored print of Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece at The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences last night. All I can say is “It was magnificent!” The crew at Triage Motion Picture Services went all out. Paul Rutan flew to Rome and got a 2 perf Techniscope Interpositive made from the original camera negative. Then they borrowed Martin Scorsece’s IB technicolor print from the original theatrical release and timed to that. I must say it looked like Technicolor! They got great saturation that comes close to IB Technicolor. It was amazing.
The sound was restored as well and the mono mix sounded great. Did you ever notice in this film, whenever somebody is shot and killed a horse whinnys immediately afterwards and really loudly. Check it out. Also this is the epic Leone Western that features a powerful female character. Claudia Cardinale is as big a character as Bronson, Robards, and Fonda.

It’s in…

The Eyes, Chico…

They Never…

These beautiful giant faces filled the enormous screen at the Academy in Incredible Leone Close Ups and the magnificent vistas of Monument Valley never looked so good as photographed by Tonino Delli Colli on 2-perf! You can really see the attention to detail Leone and his crew put into the sets and costumes by watching this film on a big screen. The pace may be slow compared to films made today but it gives you time to look around the frame and see all the beautiful objects, textures, lighting. Leone did scrupulous research on Western costumes and props and it comes through.

One Of The Greatest Flashbacks In All Of Cinema

When you top it all off with the music of Ennio Morricone it’s an unbeatable combination. The movie is really incredible images accompanied by soaring emotional score, wonderfully arranged and performed by great musicians, interspersed with great dialogue, not many words but all carefully chosen, it was a revelation to hear how many laughs the dialogue got. The audience was right there with the film for the entire time. Thanks also in part to the masterful editing of the great Nino Baragli. If you get a chance to see the restored version of this film in a good theater, I urge you to go and see it. It will be a revelation.

Once Upon A Time In The West Trailer

MGM to release Navajo Joe DVD

Written by Joe D on May 7th, 2008


I just got word from the great Spaghetti Western Database that MGM is finally releasing Sergio Corbucci’s masterpiece Navajo Joe. This is an early vehicle for Burt Reynolds, he plays the title character , an Indian who doesn’t take any guff from anybody. He also does all his own stunts and is very impressive in that department. Also the score by Morricone is incredible, featuring the vocal talents of Alessandro Alessandroni’s amazing choir, I Cantori Moderni, and Gianna Spagnulo’s wild, earthy solos in particular. Also of note is Alessandroni’s incredible baritone electric guitar playing. Parts of this score were used to great effect in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, for example when Uma kills Bill with the 5 point palm exploding heart technique and Bill staggers off to die. Here it is courtesy of YouTube:

But back to Navajo Joe, it has an incredible ending, you’ll have to check it out for yourself, kind of abstract but incredibly moving. Here’s the trailer.

Bebe Barron from Greenwich Village to the Forbidden Planet

Written by Joe D on April 27th, 2008

Bebe Barron, groundbreaking composer of “electronic tonalities” for the seminal scifi flick Forbidden Planet is listening to the music of the spheres, looking down on planet Earth as she surfs with the Silver Surfer, skimming on comet dust throughout the Galaxy. What a shame that she only scored this one feature. I guess when synthesizers were invented people could create weird sounds at the touch of a button or a keyboard, not by hours of intense work with vacuum tube circuits, tape heads, razor blades and primitive mixers.


Bebe and Louis in The Village Studio


Soundtrack LP

But no one ever created those exact sounds that Bebe did, even with modern sophisticated equipment. Another lost art form.


Come Fly With Me!

Here’s a sample of Bebe and Louis’ music.

Il Mafioso- Alberto Lattuada- Alberto Sordi

Written by Joe D on April 9th, 2008


The Great Alberto Sordi takes aim in Il Mafioso

This is an incredible film, it languished in obscurity until the geniuses at Rialto brought it back from the dead, just like they did with Jean Pierre Melville’s Army Of Shadows. All I can say about this film is that it accomplishes something that is very hard to do and does it better than any other film I can think of. It changes from a comedy to a tragedy in the blink of an eye and it works perfectly, seamlessly, in an exciting effortless way. Maybe because the comedy is understated, not stupid, real situations that reveal something about human beings, in this case the Sicilian clan of our main character, Nino. Sordi is a great actor, compare Nino with the Sordi’s portrayal of The White Sheik in Fellini’s film of the same name, they seem like two entirely different people. Speaking of Fellini, it was Lattuada who gave Federico his directing break, sharing credit on Variety Lights. The end of Il Mafioso is incredible as well, an off the cuff remark that teeters you on the edge of the Abyss. The incredible music is by the Genius Pierro Piccone, you can hear some of it in the trailer I’ve linked to. It’s magnificent.

The Night Of The Hunter- A Cautionary Tale

Written by Joe D on March 31st, 2008

Have you ever seen The Night Of The Hunter? The film directed by Charles Laughton, starring Robert Mitchum and featuring Lilian Gish and Shelly Winters? It’s a great film, considered by many critics to be one of the top 50 films of all time. It is a beautiful, poetic, unique creation. There are sequences unlike any other in Cinema. For example when the children are traveling by rowboat, just floating down the river at night and there are all these shots of animals, frogs, owls, rabbits, spiders, in the foreground and the skiff with the children floating by in the background, accompanied by a beautiful voice singing a melancholy folk/ nursery rhyme motif.
It’s a gorgeous, deep sequence that transports you to a magical place, sort of a glancing back at the mystery of childhood, the psychic spaces we inhabit as children when we are closer to the elemental , to nature, to animals, to magic. We accept the arcane without questioning.
And the acting is great too. Mitchum said Laughton was his favorite director because he loved everything he did and he would tell him so.

Robert Mitchum as the Murderous Preacher, Harry Powell, with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers

Shelly Winters is great as well, it’s funny here she is playing a mother who is married by a man whose real target is her children, a role she would repeat in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita.


She studied Acting in Charles Laughton’s class

Lillian Gish is superb and it’s wonderful that she appears in this film. A lot of the imagery seems to come directly out of silent film, a kind of stark poetic imagery, powerful visuals that remind you of Murnau, or Lang or even Caligari. She spoke of the making of the film in a reverential manner. “I have to go back as far as DW Griffith,” wrote Gish, “to find a set so infused with purpose and harmony. There was not ever a moment’s doubt as to what we were doing or how we were doing it. To please Charles Laughton was our aim. We believed in and respected him. Totally.”

The film was shot by the great Stanley Cortez, camerman for Orson Welles on his follow up to Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons ( Another Cautionary Tale in a future post). The thing is this, when Night Of The Hunter was released, it flopped, didn’t make money, although the critics were respectful, if somewhat baffled.

This devastated Laughton. It’s obvious the man poured his heart and soul into this film and when no one liked it he was shattered. ” I’ll never direct another film.” he said and he never did. He died six years later without knowing his film would one day be called a masterpiece. So here’s to you Charles Laughton, up there in Film Heaven. Captain Bligh, Quasimodo, Dr. Moreau,Gracchus Galileo. We on planet Earth Salute You!


Un Posto Ideale per Uccidere- Dirty Pictures, Oasis of Fear

Written by Joe D on February 17th, 2008

I just watched Umberto Lenzi’s Un Posto Ideale Per Uccidere AKA Dirty Pictures or the english title I prefer Oasis Of Fear. This is a great film! The cast is superb, Ray Lovelock, in perhaps his greatest role, Ornella Muti, so young, so beautiful, so innocent and so sexy, Irene Papas, so dark, so severe, so attractive, like a sexy Greek witch.

This movie is a little like Hansel and Gretel with a sexy witch enticing our two innocent children into her gingerbread house, although the house isn’t made of gingerbread, candy canes, gumdrops, spun sugar. It’s made of champagne, caviar, exotic, erotic clothes, cigarettes, psychedelic music, and sex. Our story begins in Denmark where our two hippie love children are on holiday. They see the sights, run around Copenhagen and cavort like extras in a Dava Clark Five movie. But suddenly the Italian genre sensibility kicks in. They go into a Sex Shoppe, buy a ton of porno mags and bring them back to Italy to sell so they can pay for their vacation.
This works out great, they’re rich, they live like hippie Gods in Italy, eating at fancy restaurants, feeding champagne to cats, releasing doves at stuffy establishments, dancing at psychedelic discos, just having fun. There’s a scene that I find fascinating. At one point Ray sells a 45 record of people having sex to a foppish rich guy on a yacht.
vlcsnap-2469968.png Is That Moana Climax and the Heavy Breathers?

I’ve heard of “porno records” but I’ve never seen one. Frank Zappa was once busted for producing a “pornographic recording” and selling it to an undercover cop. Did people actually sit around at a stag party and listen to a record of people having sex? I heard Mickey Cohen bugged Johnny Stompanto’s bedroom and recorded Johnny and Lana Turner going at it.
You wanna go listen to a record?
johnny-stomp.pngJohnny Stomp
20070712044439lana_turner_in_the_postman_always_rings_twice_trailer_2.jpgOooooh Johnny, You Bug Me!
The Mickster made a ton of money selling pressings to Hollywood hipsters to play at Tinseltown shindigs. But back to Oasis of Fear, our two heroic hippies run out of cash and decide to produce their own dirty pictures starring themselves,
they do but they get busted in Pisa trying to sell their wares and are told to leave the country,
vlcsnap-2474541.pngIs that the leaning tower of Pisa or are you just happy to see me?

they hit the road in their old MG and run out of gas out in the country. They spy the beautiful estate of the wicked witch and push their car in hoping to get some gas.
At first Ms. Pappas tries to run them off, but then mysteriously she switches gears and invites them in. She offers them refreshments of all sorts, access to her copious closets of exotic outfits. Ornella dons an Eastern sari, she looks incredible, a vision from the Orient and she dances to a sitar record like a shimmering jewel.
at one point Irene looks at her through a cut crystal goblet and we get a telidoscopic view of Ornella’s bare breasts spinning psychedelically before our eyes.
A bare chested Ray assumes various Yogic poses at the command of Ms. Muti, The Lion, The Cobra, ” We are each other’s total slaves” he says to a bemused Irene.
A heady brew of sexual intrigue is bubbling furiously on the stove when murder and treachery rear their ugly heads. I’m not going to reveal what happens, YOU must seek out this film to find out for yourself. One of the aspects of this film I find so appealing is the summoning up of a bygone time. The 60’s, the Age Of Aquarius, the Innocence of these two young beautiful people perfectly captures that time and let’s us re-expieience it, like a fly in amber or Ruth Gordon’s scent collection in Harold and Maude. There is a dance scene with a rock band playing and our heroes frugging and watusiying their hearts out. It captures the energy of that time perfectly.
You can feel what it was like to be alive then. To feel like the world was yours, sex and music were a magic carpet to fly you around the globe.
This is the birthright of every person, an ideal we’ve lost touch with today. This is one reson why films like this are important. They’re the Dead Sea Scrolls of the hippie era. We can all learn a lot about the Spirit of that Age. This is also a reason why I feel Lenzi is a great filmmaker. His film resonates with truth, true senasations, what a real person would feel, not some corporate crap selected by a demographic computer print out. There’s a dance scene in Mike Hodges’ great Get Carter that rings true with the same soul transporting realism. He also is a great filmmaker and you can tell from details like this. But for me the stars of this film are the stars. Lovelock and Muti are so captivating, so charming, you really care about them. And Irene Pappas is so evil, she’s great! The score is by Bruno Lauzi, a pop star singer. It’s great, melodic, moody, jazzy. Even the pop song that’s used in the film is excellent. It works , it’s got a hook, it grabs you and you dig it. I think the Marc 4 played on this song because the bassline is so ass kickingly funky and hip, it must be the incomparable Maurizio Maiorana.
Looky here I just found the opening credits on YouTube!

Mina, Piero Picconi, Gianni Ferrio

Written by Joe D on September 8th, 2007



Here’s a clip of the wonderful Mina singing Amore, Amore. That’s the writer of the song Pierro Picconi at the pipe organ. Picconi wrote a myriad of scores for great italian films, (like The 10th Victim). And that’s the super genius composer Gianni Ferrio conducting. Gianni is one of the best arrangers of italian pop music and soundtracks from the Golden Age of italian Cinema. I met Gianni at his villa outside Roma when Daniele Luppi and I interviewed him. He’s an incredible person, so cool, so brilliant.
p.s. If this song doesn’t move you, jump in a hole, pull your dirt blanket up under your chin and sleep the Big Sleep.

Kill, Baby… Kill!

Written by Joe D on September 3rd, 2007


I bought a few videos at Jerry’s since he’s closing up shop. One of them was Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (USA Title: Kill, Baby… Kill!). What an amazingly cool movie. This is the first time I’ve seen it and it ranks up there with Black Sunday.

Excellent Locations

Bava was a supreme visual artist as the screenshots will attest. He studied to be a fine artist but followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Cinema Artist instead. His father Eugenio was a sculptor and the father of Italian Cinematographic Special Effects, in fact according to the excellent commentary by Bava expert Tim Lucas, Eugenio invented the so-called Schufftan Process on Cabiria years before Schufftan used it on Metropolis!

Bava’s father gave him the ripple glass used in this shot

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree as Mario uses many incredible in camera effects in his films. Effects that he designed and executed himself! The only person around today that does this kind of thing is Michel Gondry. But back to our movie. There are so many painterly compositions in this film. I’ve selected a few paintings I was reminded of.
Mario studied Art History and he grew up in Roma, surrounded by great art and it’s evident here. Some of the artists brought to mind by Kill, Baby… Kill are Peter Breughel the elder, Piranesi, di Cherico, and Salvador Dali.

An etching by Piranesi


A CinePainting By Bava

Existential town squares, surreal crumbling landscapes, strange scenes of medieval village life are all brought to mind.

Here’s one in the Studio

This film was made for next to nothing but looks so incredible, Bava was a true “painter with light” as a cameraman and director.

All The Colors Of The Dark

His use of colored gels in composing a scene is unequaled, as well as his beautiful camera moves, always in the service of telling the story, never drawing attention to themselves. He would use ripple glass in front of the camera, or a distorting mirror, or shoot through a painting on glass, or as I mentioned earlier use colored lights to create an effect. All done In camera! Nowadays it’s all put together on a computer after the shoot is over and at much greater expense.

Child’s Play

The music is by Carlo Rustichelli, an old school Italian composer, he scored many peplums (Muscle man films, Machiste, Hercules, Samson). But according to Lucas he only wrote one piece expressly for this film. A beautiful piece that works perfectly. The instruments are Celeste, Vibraphone, Harp, and Fender Bass, and usually there’s a child’s laughter playing over it. Great! There is also some pipe organ pedal music used. My friend Danieli Luppi ( a great Italian composer) told me that many of these film scores were done at a studio in Rome called Forum. It’s in the basement of a church and when the church was empty they would use it’s pipe organ! It gives an even more chilling aspect to horror movie music to know it was recorded in an old church. The rest of the score is cobbled together from other Bava films and other uncredited composers. Tim Lucas says the producers ran out of money halfway through the shoot. People had to work for free and Bava was never paid! So when it came time to score the movie there was no dough! Bava had to call in some favors and get whatever music his friends could give him. I’d like to talk about the Italian method of film scoring vs. the american way. The Italian composer would read the script and write themes, sometimes he’d record the music before the film was shot! The american on the other hand has a stopwatch and some idiot director yelling at him” OK on this frame I want a sting! When her eyes move I want a change in the music!” It’s so micro managed you lose the musical flow! When you edit a movie you are creating a visual music out of the shots, there’s a rhythm, a pace, a heartbeat, it’s musical. So when you put a piece of music against a scene magic happens, things coincide, sync up, play as one. I personally like the Italian way better.

The Haunted Villa

The Inn

Visions Of Hell

The locations chosen for this film are so great, they convey the atmosphere perfectly, also this is a period piece set in 1907, today that means $100 million dollars! The budget for this film was about $50,000! Fog machines and fake cobwebs add a lot of creepiness, but they have to be lit right or else they look bad.

The Kill Baby at the Window


A Daliesque composition

There is an amazing sequence in the film where the hero Dr. Eswai is confronted by the ghost of a little girl in her mother’s haunted villa. The female lead Monica Schuftan disappears, he hears her cry from another room and rushes to save her, he enters a Moebius strip of time and space rushing from room to room, trying to reach Monica but always entering the room he just left. He sees someone exiting just as he enters, he runs faster finally catching up to the fleeing phantom, he grabs the guys shoulder and turns him around only to discover, himself! Super Cool!

Moebius Chase Scene

Also a dream sequence made of distorted shots that works really well.

In Dreams

After this Bava was picked by Dino DeLaurentis to direct Diabolik. Dino wanted to give him a large budget but Bava refused. He knew if he accepted a lot of money he’d have to accept the control that went with it and that was not for him. He enjoyed making films his way, he evolved a technique of special effects so he could create anything his imagination came up with and for very little money. Lamberto Bava, Mario’s son said all the Italian intellectuals and big time filmmakers would go to see Bava’s films. Luchino Viscounti gave Operatzione Paura a standing ovation when he saw it.

Have a Ball, Baby

And Federico Fellini lifted the figure of the little girl and her ball symbolizing evil and dropped it into his film Toby Dammit a year later. Bava a super talented creator worked in genres looked down upon by the critics of his day, he worked with miniscule budgets and a lot of unknown actors, that’s why he was able to accomplish so much. Like another of my favorite artists, Chester Himes, who wrote genre detective stories brought out in cheap paperback editions but enabling him to give free reign to his creative spirit. If you like horror, if you’re interested in seeing pure creativity splashed across the silver screen, if you love film, see Kill, Baby… Kill!