Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bay of Blood


Bay of Blood or Twitch of the Death Nerve is a 1971 film by the original maestro of Italian genre cinema Mario Bava. The plot concerns the titular bay, an unspoiled rural piece of property and the various factions who have designs on the future of this prime real estate. The Countess Donati, a strong willed matriarch who is determined to preserve the bay's remote charm, as well as Donati's illegitimate love child, Simon, who lives a secluded life in a cabin on the bay and fishes for his dinner and an eccentric entomologist, Paolo, represent the status quo I suppose. They want the bay to remain un-sullied by the encroachment of development. Donati's husband Filippo and lantern jawwed, swarthy architect Frank Ventura have different ideas. When the count's daughter, Renata, and her husband get involved, things get even more complicated. Stir in a group of libidinous teens and you have the perfect recipe for a nice darkly comic Giallo. One of the things that struck me the most about the film were just how kinetic the feel of it all is, due to some really interesting camera work, done on a shoestring budget from what I have read. Many of the tracking shots were accomplished using a child's toy wagon. Add in some far out angles and the film manages to have a slightly surreal off kilter atmosphere that really works. The other word I would use to describe the film is vibrant. Bava always had an artist's eye when it came to the use of color and design in his films, and this is on ample display here. Even having much of the action taking place outside, Bava acting as his own cinematographer, manages to bring a slightly unnatural vibrance to the shots. The sky at dusk looks just ever so slightly bluer than you would think it should. The performances too, reflect this vibrancy, everyone in the cast is just on the verge of over-playing their roles, yet it all works quite well in concert. This is what adds to the black comic undercurrent in the movie. I will say that, although all of the characters in the movie are somewhat cartoonish, Bava's female characters seem to all fall somewhere between trollop and harpy. There are some structural elements to the film that any one who has seen many stalker films will recognize as almost cliche, however, Bava did many of these things first. There are also many touches that became staple elements in Giallo cinema. If you are a fan of Giallo or slasher films, or just like a good gory black comedy on occasion, you could do much worse than giving Mr. Bava ninety minutes of your time.
-Mike

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