Monday, 7 July 2008

A TRUE MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE




















Although HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON has been out for quite a while, copies are still available in the UK for the bargain price of £3.99 at play.com. This Region 2 Anchor Bay release features a glorious transfer of what may be Mario Bava's most personal film, and I'll doubtless chat about it at some stage in the future. For now, I'd like to turn the spotlight on an excellent 60 minute documentary which can be found on this same DVD as a special bonus feature.






MARIO BAVA: MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE contains a winning combination of interviews with family, friends, colleagues and admirers, with the added value of film clips and rare stills. Narrated by Mark Kermode, MOTM offers nostalgic glimpses of Bava's life with son Lamberto, grandson Roy and granddaughter Georgia remembering the man with pride and great affection.The aforementioned family members are slotted in amongst such talented film writers as our very own Kim Newman, and Bava biographer Tim Lucas, while Tim Burton, Joe Dante and Daria Nicolodi are amongst those representing the film world. This, together with the main feature, represents a solid introduction to those yet to dip a toe into Mario's filmography, and it's also required viewing for fans of long standing who seek out anything and everything relating to probably the most imaginative director in Horror Cinema. The likes of BLACK SUNDAY, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and BLACK SABBATH are featured in clips that compel one to reach for those wonderful Anchor Bay boxsets, reminding us that Bava accomplished so very much with so very little money.






Of course, Bava had his critics just like any other director, and has been accused of caring more about the imagery than the performances of his cast. While Bava may not have been an actor's director in the truest sense of the term, his experience and eye for detail ensured no-one looked out of place. Indeed, Tim Lucas makes a brilliant point when he observes Bava always knew if an actor was visually right for a film. That's why the likes of Barbara Steele and Rada Rassimov will live in our minds forever. When Tim Burton declares that "Images are the story" right at the end of this doc, we are reminded that Bava's films were often shot in a parallel dreamworld where the line between the living and the dead are wafer thin. MOTM is testament to a great career which has recently been afforded reverential treatment in book and DVD form.






While we're not quite there in terms of authorised releases of all Bava's directorial output, the Anchor Bay boxsets offer practically definitive versions of most of his major works and missing titles will most likely surface in the not-too distant. Those who wish to learn everything there is to know are directed to Tim Lucas' book which is quite simply the finest book on film I've had the pleasure of reading.






MARIO BAVA: MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE makes for a wholly worthwhile companion to the above treasures and bring back memories of the Fantasm Festival in 1998 at London's NFT. The month of July saw a major retrospective of Bava's films. A friend of mine who lives in London managed to attend every screening during this amazing run, and I was lucky enough to see KILL, BABY...KILL!, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS, DANGER: DIABOLIK and BARON BLOOD on the big screen. The only film missing from this festival was RABID DOGS, and Alan Jones explained that Lea Lander held the print and refused to release it. Thanks to Alan's sterling efforts, we all savoured the chance to see such classic titles on a cinema screen and KILL, BABY...KILL! had quite an effect on my group of friends. Indeed, as we stepped out onto The South Bank on a hot July evening (remember those?) after the screening, I shivered for a good few seconds as I recalled the images of a little girl reaching from beyond the grave into the land of the living. Alan Jones was involved in the MOTM release, acting as consultant and interviewer but it would have been nice to see him onscreen, adding to the tributes for a great director. Jones did more than anyone to raise Bava's profile in the UK. Our thanks go to him and all the others who did so much to aid our discovery and enjoyment of this maestro of the macabre.

2 comments:

  1. I'm envious you got to see those on the big screen. I like this doc. a lot as well I just wish it was longer. And I agree with you Tim's book...nothing else even comes close.

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  2. Yes, it was a real treat to see these classics on the big screen. The print for Kill, Baby...Kill! was a bit ropey (Alan Jones referred to it as 'Pretty In Pink' but still a very powerful experience.
    I share your feeling re the length of the Bava doc. Could have done with another hour or more, no sweat. Good to see Tim picking up the awards for his book which is a monumental achievement by him and Donna. For the price, it seems more like a gift than a purchase.

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