During the last few years, I’ve been seduced into thinking the Digital Versatile Disc was invented solely for the films of Mario Bava. You want gorgeous, eye-popping transfers brimming with bold, primary colours or magnificent monochrome images which segue into a filmography containing resurrected vampire queens, fashion houses of death and haunted villas where the (not-so) dear departed hold sway?Welcome to the world of the late, great Mario Bava: honoured at last by the reverential treatment afforded to some of his finest work. Now, the likes of Black Sabbath, Hercules In The Haunted World, Blood And Black Lace, Mask Of Satan and other choice cuts can be enjoyed via pristine picture quality.
Sadly, there are a number of films that, for various reasons, slipped the net: Lisa And The Devil, Baron Blood and Hatchet For The Honeymoon have all made the digital step-up and been found wanting, with the latter title stumbling through two unsatisfactory Region 1 releases.Thanks to Anchor Bay UK, HFTH can now be seen in all its glory, courtesy of the beautiful print used by Kosch’s recent widescreen release. Those of you still recovering from the remarkable re-spray afforded to Kill, Baby…..Kill! should prepare to be astonished again as the result is a simply staggering restoration of a film that now looks as though it was shot 28 days earlier (rather than later), with Bava’s colourful compositions leaping off the screen with customary style and finesse.
Film notes, a trailer and a Bava bio make for enjoyable, if par-for-the course extras but an excellent featurette is the real 'added value' deal here. While my review copy contained the worthwhile Argento documentary An Eye For Horror’, I can confirm the retail version of this disc features ‘Maestro Of The Macabre’: an absorbing overview of the great mans career, with film clips and valuable contributions from actors, technicians and critics.As for the film itself: well, a fashion house once again provides a colourful backdrop to the art of murder. In this case, however, it’s more a case of ‘why-did-he-do-it?’ rather than ‘whodunnit?’. From the opening scene, we’re made privy to the fact John Harrington (Forsyth) is a psychopathic killer and spend the rest of the film observing his attempts to discover just why he is compelled to slaughter a string of newly-wed brides. A series of altercations with his spouse, Mildred, (Betti) signpost the way we’re heading very early on, and the inevitable outcome does enable Bava to have some fun with a wayward spirit who can, in a nice twist, be seen by everybody except the object of her attentions.
Made during a period when Bava was faced with marital problems of his own, HFTH is his most personal statement and possibly his most underrated film; due, in part, to its departure from traditional giallo fare. Ingenious camerawork, delicious visual puns and a marvellous turn from Betti make it possible to forgive the rather cluttered screenplay (Psycho meets Dynasty by way of Freud), penned by Sebastian Moncada. Unfortunately, Forsyth's performance is harder to forgive. For a full account of HFTH, check out Daniel Auty's excellent review elsewhere on this site and then raise a glass to the sumptuous DVD. One of the years very best.
aka: il rosso sego della follia (The Red Sign Of Madness)/ Blood Brides/ Red Wedding Night
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.