Bloody Pit Of Horror aka Il Boia Scarlatto, Mickey Hargitay

Written by Joe D on April 8th, 2010

Well since I posted 2 items that featured beautiful women in spider webs, I might as well go all out and post this one too. I like these Inquisition through Time type films , the Mexican film The Brainac is another one. We have an extra special bonus of Mickey Hargitay in the starring role.

Jayne Mansfield’s ex-husband, he appeared with Jayne in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter after he quit acting he ran a plant/florist business in Hollywood. Also I heard he was a landlord and a nice guy. Altogether a solid example of mid 60’s Italian Horror. Oh yeah special effects by Carlo Rambaldi (E.T.s creator)


Written by Joe D on June 6th, 2008

I just found out about a British TV series called Eurotika. It’s about great “B” Euro Cinema, the episode I saw was called Blood And Black Lace all about Italian horror with a special emphasis towards Mario Bava.

It’s a great little foray into this genre. An eye-popping credit sequence, much in the style of those classic animation stand high color openings of Italian yesteryear, then great clips intercut with insightful interviews. There are wonderful comments by Antonio Margheriti, Erika Blanc, Luigi Cozzi, Orchedia de Santis to name just a few, but Michel Lemoine’s words about the creative process and what he learned from Bava were the most inspirational.

Michel Lemoine
Beautifully made by Andy Starke and Pete Toombs, this documentary left me hungry to see the rest of the series, which I will order ASAP. Some of the other titles are:Virgins And Vampires regarding the films of Jean Rollin, Diabolical Mr. Franco, focusing on Jesus Franco, Blood And Sand looking at Spanish horror, and one I really want to see The Blood Beast, The Films Of Michael Reeves, this is the guy who made Witchfinder General with Vincent Price, a brutal indictment of the abuses of power by an evil Inquisitor. Reeves died under mysterious circumstances at the tender age of 26. He’s a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and I believe Pete Toombs wrote a book about him which I also want to check out. So fans of Euro Genre Cinema, Rejoice! And track down this incredible series, The Eurotika team is also distributing films so check out their recommendations, you won’t be disappointed!

Bava Sunday

Written by Joe D on March 18th, 2008


Hey there Pally! Here’s some previews of Coming Attractions for the triple feature Sunday, March 23 at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd.(AKA The American Cinematheque). They’re ending the Mario Bava retrospective with La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo(USA,The Girl Who Knew Too Much, The Evil Eye), Il Rosso Segno Della Follial (Hatchet for The Honeymoon) and Caltiki, Il Monstro Immortale. Here’s a post about The Evil Eye.

Here’s the trailer for Hatchet for The Honeymoon.

And here’s the opening for Caltiki, The Immortal Monster!

See a Giant Glob of Tripe eat a man! Revenge of the cow stomachs!

Saturday Night At The American Cinematheque with Mario Bava

Written by Joe D on March 17th, 2008

Here’s a couple of trailers for the Saturday March 22nd 7:30 pm screenings at the American Cinematheque. C’mon down!

Kill Baby Kill!

The Whip And The Body It’s in Italian with No Subtitles.

2nd Night Of Bava

Written by Joe D on March 17th, 2008


Here they are in the Car!

I just got back from The American Cinematheque where I watched Mario Bava’s Kidnapped and Shock. Kidnapped is a clever script about a heist that goes bad. The criminals, after killing a few people (including a female hostage) commandeer a car being driven by a man with an unconcious young boy wrapped in a blanket on the seat next to him. “I’ve got to take my son to the hospital!” the anguished man yells but the cruel bandits force him to drive them to their destination. The majority of the movie takes place in this car yet it is never boring! And it looks like it was done in the car on locations around Rome, not in a studio. It’s different from all other Bava films, the maestro did it again.

Il Maestro, Mario Bava!

The story about this film is interesting. Right after filming, the producer died in an auto wreck. Due to the exegenicies of Italian law the film languished in a vault for about 20 years. Bava was unable to edit the film and finish it. He left detailed instructions for the editing but before the film was liberated from legal limbo, he died. A few years ago a version was produced and released on DVD called Rabid Dogs. There are a few differences that I noticed the biggest one being the score for the film. Stelvio Cipriani did both versions but I vastly prefer the Rabid Dogs score. It sounds like synths but it worked so well, maybe it was only meant as a temp score, who knows. Also Kidnapped ends with a song over the end titles that is so wrong for the film. There are some other differences but my overall impression is that I thought Rabid Dogs much more impressive. It could be that I saw that version first and was taken along for the ride, not knowing what was coming next but I think it’s just more tense, more claustrophobic, more insane than Kidnapped. I really believe the music has a lot to do with it as well. I think Anchor Bay has released a DVD with both versions so you can check them out for yourself and make your own decision. Let me know what you think!
Shock or Beyond The Door is billed as Bava’s last film, sometimes as co-directed by Lamberto Bava, Mario’s son. I guess Bava wanted to give his son a start at directing, kind of the way Riccardo Freda did with him on Caltiki, The Immortal Monster. It’s an interesting film, not on a level with Bava’s early horror, but for me a great example of creating horror with minimal special effects, with imagination and creative use of the camera. Also the Bava archtypal haunted child. And a rat that steals the show.
The Bava Fest continues, I’m going on Saturday to see The Whip And The Body and Kill Baby Kill!. See You all there!

Rabid Dogs Trailer featuring the Cool Music!

Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Dario Argento and the Psychology of Place

Written by Joe D on December 30th, 2007


Watching this Argento masterpiece I suddenly became aware of a phenomenon, it was something I’d thought about in other films but here in 4 mosche di velluto grigio it was so clearly exercised it jumps out and hits you over the head just like the killer in this movie. I’m talking about the use of perceived space or sense of place, private, personal space and public space.

Place Of Recurring Nightmare

Isn’t it more horrible when an atrocity happens in a public place and no one can do anything about it? Especially for the victim, it creates a sense of false hope, ” Look over here, someone’s trying to kill me! Can’t you see!” The dream our protagonist has says it all, a public execution in a square in Saudi Arabia. A guy is kneeling, the executioner jabs him in the neck with a stiletto, he jerks his head up and the killer chops his head off with a sword. This takes place in a large courtyard or plaza, a very public place. In a way this is the quintessential image of horror, of nightmare. A person being killed in cold blood out in the open for all the world to see and no one’s doing anything about it. They sit and watch complacently.( The image of the execution reminds me of a scene in Alain Resnais Last Year At Marienbad, another film with an interesting use of space).


Marienbad Psychological Space

Taking his cue from this nightmare image Argento then stages some of the murders in a way that takes advantage of our perceived sense of place. The set up for the whole film is a man intruding on our hero’s personal space. Roberto,(Michael Brandon) a rock drummer sees a guy always looking at him wherever he goes.

Roberto, he looks more like a guitar player than a drummer to me

He gets fed up and chases the guy into a theater or opera house. It’s empty, a public place turned into the setting for a nightmare.
Roberto accidentally kills his stalker and is photographed in the act by someone wearing a clown mask.

Soon he is being threatened by the mysterious photographer. Later a woman calls the killer and demands blackmail, I have to comment on the genius sequence that follows her voice over the phone lines, underground, through a switching station to the killer’s apartment,super cool,

Following the voice over the wires

the blackmailer arranges to meet the killer in a park. There are lots of children playing, lovers in the bushes, music is piped in. A very safe public place. But as it gets later and later and the killer doesn’t show, the woman daydreams, smoking a cigarette. Suddenly she notices the music has stopped, the children are gone, the lovers have left. Argento accomplishes this in a beautiful way, jump cutting from a wide shot of the children to the same wide shot without them, ditto the lovers in the bushes. Brilliant!

One second they’re there

The Next They’re Not
Then our hapless blackmailer hears the scrape of the gate as the watchman locks it, the sun is setting, she’s now trapped in a nightmarish maze of bushes and walls with a psychotic killer hunting her.

The Innocent Park has Nightmarishly Transformed into a Labyrinth of Death

Argento has captured the logic of the nightmare perfectly, but for me it is his understanding and manipulation of “place” that makes it so powerful.

Famous Argento Use of Color

Later in the film a gay private detective tracks the killer on the subway, a crowded public place, the killer gets off and the private dick follows.

Subway to Hades

Once again the public space transforms to a nightmarish claustrophobic death cube ( a public restroom). Another killing is a classic, a young girl hears the killer enter her apartment, she sneaks out of her bedroom and into a hallway, there she stands at the foot of a stairway. The stairway is psychologically a scary place, I believe it comes from our childhood when it was physically dangerous to us, also you can’t see what’s at the top of the stairs, Hitchcock took advantage of this phenomenon in Psycho.

Stairway to Heaven, I mean Doom

Then the young girl goes up the steps and hides in a wardrobe, like a closet. Another nightmare place from childhood, the child hiding from the punishing or abusing parent. This was also used very effectively by David Lynch in Blue Velvet.

Childhood Trauma

Ther is another cool sequence where the police use the dead girl’s retina and a laser beam to record the last image seen by the victim, this idea has been used in other films but I think this was the first time it appears,
this movie is extremely rich in creativity and for me Four Flies On Grey Velvet is the best use of the manipulation of our perception of place in Cinema. Bravo Dario Argento!

Hats Off To Argento!

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!