One night, the wheelchair-bound Countess (Isa Miranda) who owns this estate was taking a look around the house where she lived before retiring to bed, checking that her illegitimate son Simon (Claudio Camaso) was in the cottage she had ordered built for him by the bay. Satisfied, she wheeled around but began to wonder if she was truly alone in the place, which she soon found out not to be the case when a noose appeared, was hooked around her neck and proceeded to strangle her to death. The killer? Her own husband - but who killed him soon afterwards?
If you've ever enjoyed a good slasher movie, or more likely if you've ever enjoyed a bad slasher movie, then A Bay of Blood would be the film to thank, as it set out pretty much every cliché of the genre other than the masked killer, and even then its director Mario Bava had introduced such characters into his previous horror-themed thrillers. Bava was, and still is, a very influential figure in the field of shockers and suspense, and while the low budget was often evident, so was his ability to do wonders with the slim resources he had, making it look almost too easy to shoot one of these, as many following on found to their peril.
But what of A Bay of Blood, it may have been influential but does it stand up now we're all too familiar with its stylings from other sources? While it may seem hard to follow at first, the answer is yes, because Bava brought a cynical humour to his story that would work itself out in your mind as long as you remembered that near every person depicted here was only too willing to kill to get what they wanted. And kill they did, although there's a mini-Friday the 13th predecessor about a quarter of the way through where a group of four teens of various nationalities camp out in an abandoned house at the bay, and find that they have unwittingly stumbled upon their own doom.
It's probably this section more than any other that the majority of slashers took their cue from, what with its easily imitable murders, nudity, and foolish young people wandering off on their own to investigate - indeed, Friday the 13th Part 2 lifted the whole lovemaking pair speared through the bed death that originated here. In that film, it was just another novelty, but here Bava uses it as a commentary on the bankrupt morals of those committing the crimes for earlier we have seen the entomologist Paolo (Leopoldo Trieste) pin one of his insects to a table. Is this how the schemers see their fellow humans, as something to be squished as one would a bug?
Bava appeared to think so, and while you could laugh at this, it wasn't really a comedy, even a black one, and if you did chuckle at its audacity it wouldn't be with much enthusiasm due to its bleak view of behaviour when money enters into the lives of the characters. The bay is a proposed site of a holiday resort which could make the family the Countess belonged to a lot of cash, but there are complications in that everyone wants a piece of that pie and are willing to debase themselves into murder to get what they want. Former Miss France and Thunderball Bond Girl Claudine Auger was possibly the most famous face here in the role of an ice queen henpecking her husband into carrying out her dirty work, but most of the cast made an impression with some frankly basic personalities to work with. There's very little warmth to A Bay of Blood, but here it's the method in the madness which made it memorable. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.
Aka: Twitch of the Death Nerve (a better title), Reatzione a catena, and umpteen other names.
Italian director/writer/cinematographer and one of the few Italian genre film-makers who influenced, rather than imitated. Worked as a cinematographer until the late 1950s, during which time he gained a reputation as a hugely talented director of photography, particularly in the use of optical effects.
Bava made his feature debut in 1960 with Black Sunday/The Mask of Satan, a richly-shot black and white Gothic gem. From then on Bava worked in various genres – spaghetti western, sci-fi, action, peplum, sex – but it was in the horror genre that Bava made his legacy. His sumptuously filmed, tightly plotted giallo thrillers (Blood and Black Lace, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bay of Blood) and supernatural horrors (Lisa and the Devil, Baron Blood, Kill, Baby...Kill!) influenced an entire generation of Italian film-makers (and beyond) – never had horror looked so good. Bava’s penultimate picture was the harrowing thriller Rabid Dogs, while his last film, Shock, was one his very scariest. Died of a heart attack in 1980.