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Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati
Length: 84 min
Label: Kino Lorber
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
One of Italian horror maestro Mario Bava’s most influential films, Ecologia del delitto aka Twitch of the Death Nerve aka Bay of Blood (1971) helped kick off the slasher genre, though it is now often ignored in favor of Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), and other popular North American efforts. Kino Lorber have recently released it on blu-ray, along with one of Bava’s most obscure films, psychedelic murder mystery Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), as part of their wonderful, ongoing Bava Blu-ray series.
The wheelchair bound Countess Donati is murdered by her husband, who stages it to look like a suicide. Immediately after, he is stabbed to death in the dark. The mysterious assailant, who continues dispatching anyone that gets in the way, hopes to take possession of the Countess’s considerable property, including much of the local bay area. Husband and wife Alberto and Renata, the latter of whom stands to inherent from the Countess, are determined to get to the bottom of things and claim the property for themselves.
Despite the fact that this is far from Bava’s best work, its influence has been felt in nearly every slasher film of the ‘80s. The Friday the 13th films replicated certain scenes almost shot for shot, including the famous moment where a couple of teenagers having sex on a bed are doubly impaled. Bava was among the first to feature misbehaving teenagers slaughtered in the woods, POV shots from the killer’s perspective, something he also did in the seminal Blood and Black Lace (1964), and a shocking twist ending, a staple of numerous slasher films to follow.The first half of Bay of Blood is somewhat sluggish in its pace, due to the winding and occasionally convoluted narrative. Though the original story was written by Italian cult favorite Dardano Sacchetti (Zombie, Demons, The Beyond, and many more), the later re-writes left behind a confusing mess that doesn’t manage to build tension or interest until later in the second half. Most of the characters are undeveloped and the leads, played by Bond girl Claudine Auger and spaghetti western regular Luigi Pistilli, are completely unsympathetic. Almost everyone is driven by unbridled greed, one of Bava’s favorite themes, and you get the sense that he delighted in slaughtering his characters one by one.
A Bay of Blood, along with Five Dolls for an August Moon and Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) make up a loose trilogy of Bava’s experimental giallo films that play with genre conventions he established in Blood and Black Lace and focus on irony and black humor. The emphasis here is almost solely on graphic violence and it is the most brutal of all Bava’s films, with the possible exception of the grim Rabid Dogs. The colorful, imaginative cinematography, done by Bava himself, is stunning and utterly faultless, though the pitiful budget forced Bava to get creative, resulting in the famous story where he used a child’s wagon as a camera dolly. Carlo Rambaldi’s award-winning visual effects are another key reason to see this film. Rambaldi, who also did effects on Alien, expertly crafts a decapitation, stabbings, gunshots, a lovely double impalement, and more. In addition to the goriest murders of Bava’s career, we also have the most nudity in the form of a lengthy skinny-dipping scene. And, if you have not yet seen the film, I pray no one has spoiled the twist ending.
A Bay of Blood was mastered from the English language 35mm negative in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The film looks fantastic and there is a nice natural level of grain which is never obtrusive. Bava’s vibrant colors pop, details are clear, and blacks and shadowy scenes are well balanced. Kino doesn’t usually do in depth restoration and as a result, many of their prints include some spots and scratches. There is nothing of the sort here and Bay of Blood looks the best it likely ever will. Another really nice addition is the inclusion of the original Italian print, which provides a slightly different cut of the film. In all, this is probably the best transfer of a Bava film from Kino Lorber so far.
The lossless PCM mono track sounds good overall, but is a bit flat or tinny in certain scenes. This doesn’t distract from the dialogue, which is always clear. Stelvio Cipriani’s underrated score sounds lovely and though it is less flamboyant than some of the other scores for Bava’s films, it works perfectly with Bay of Blood’s tone.
The extras on this disc are unfortunately scant, though there is a thoughtful and informative commentary from Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, also author of the enormous Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark volume. He has a wealth of information about Bava and A Bay of Blood and, as always, enriches the film watching experience. Some trailers from previous Bava films released by Kino are also included.
This release from Kino Lorber blows the previous Anchor Bay version of A Bay of Blood from their “Mario Bava Collection” out of the water due to the great print, and even offers a slightly better transfer than Arrow Video’s blu-ray. While the Tim Lucas commentary is excellent, as always, it’s a shame that more interviews and featurettes weren’t provided for such a landmark horror film. Still, this is now marginally the best blu-ray release of the film available and Kino has done an excellent job bringing it to us.