Mario Bava, Master of Smoke and Rich Color Palettes

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cinemalover
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Mario Bava, Master of Smoke and Rich Color Palettes

Post by cinemalover »

Italian director Mario Bava may be best known for his horror movies (Black Sabbath 1963, Black Sunday 1960, Planet of the Vampires 1965, etc...) but he dabbled in many genres. He directed everything from comedy (Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs), to westerns (Roy Colt and Winchester Jack 1970), strongmen epics (Hercules in the Haunted World 1961) to my personal favorite of his, the super spy/villain in Danger Diabolik! 1968.

Bava created a visual look that centered around the use of smoke and vibrant color schemes. Most of his films create a rich visual palette (sometimes at the expense of character depth or storyline, as the "look" seemed to be his priority) that instantly identifies them as a "Bava" film.

Are there any Bava fans here? Any particular favorites of his films? Or if you can't stand him or his work that's okay too. Tell me why you can't stand his films.
Chris

The only bad movie is no movie at all.
Mr. Arkadin
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

I like his work. I am mostly familar with the horror films and have the Volume One set. I have not seen much of his other films. If you would like to reccomend something, feel free.
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Post by cinemalover »

Good afternnon Mr. Arkadian,
I just ordered the second set myself and am curious to see several of those films for the first time in ages.

As I mentioned in the first post I would definitely reccomend Danger Diabolik! if you've never seen it (it has been out on DVD for about 3 years). John Phillip Law plays a super villain who is right up there on the cool scale with James Bond, and he has more gadgets. The sets and costumes are stunning and there is a fantastic scene where one of the "heroes" is literally swimming in money. A great, fun film that captures the spirit of spy films of the sixties. Another treat, if you're a fan of Peblum movies at all, is Hercules in the Haunted World. There were hundreds of Hercules knock offs in the early sixties, and most of them were garbage, but this one is visually inventive and a treat for the eyes. Erik the Viking is another interesting choice worth seeing.

Which film in the first DVD set was your favorite?
Chris

The only bad movie is no movie at all.
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

I have only gotten through Black Sunday & Black Sabbath so far (so much to do!). I had seen both of those before, my favorite being Black Sunday.

I also like Black Sabbath the band as well. 8) Sorry, Just had to throw that one in. :wink:
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Post by cinemalover »

Mr. A,
Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) from 1960 stars the unusual Barbara Steele. Many found her to be a beauty, and if photographed from the right angle she was, but she could sure look scary at times without the help of much make-up. She was ideal for that movie.
Chris

The only bad movie is no movie at all.
MikeBSG
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Post by MikeBSG »

I will probably offend all sorts of Bava fans, but I prefer "Black Sabbath" to "Black Sunday." The opening scene (the execution) of "Black Sunday" is great, but the rest of the plot gets rather silly. All the errors the one doctor must make to bring the vampire woman back from the dead ultimately became comic for me. Also, the castle seems to have more secret passages than rooms for the use of living people, and when the Orthodox priest complained about how hard it was to read Cyrillic I stopped taking the film seriously. (Okay, I know Bava wasn't responsible for the subtitles, but still...)

My heresies continue... In "Black Sabbath," I've never been that taken with "A Drop of Water." it is okay. I like "The Telephone," (although I know it was seriously cut for American release). However, to me the glory of "Black Sabbath" is "The Wurdulak." I love the use of winter scenery in this stark tale, and I find how the vampire uses family love as a weapon to be utterly terrifying. Karloff is masterful as the evil patriarch, and I just find this episode a dark gem.
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Post by cinemalover »

Mike,
I don't know that your thoughts would offend most Bava fans. People that follow his career and enjoy his films tend to look at most of them as incomplete masterpieces. There are parts of each of his films that are wonderful, and there are parts that he didn't seem to lavish his normal attention to. The fans of his work that I talk to can rarely agree on what is his best film, even their top 5 lists vary greatly. I think he was very flawed as a filmmaker, but each movie has at least a few scenes that make the movie a worthwhile visit. His concentration on the visuals, as a priority over character development, will always leave the end result less than perfect.
Chris

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Post by MikeBSG »

I think I read that the last thing Bava directed was the fiery climax of Dario Argento's "Inferno" around 1980.

"Inferno" is one of my favorite Argento films, and the climax is a fine piece of work. I much prefer "Inferno" to "Suspira," in which the heroine destroys 600 years of black magic by one stab with a holy hatpin which the evil witches just happened to keep on hand.

"Inferno" had a real dream logic to it, starting early in the film with the "sunken room" scene, and the blaze that ends the film is truly magnificent.

As for Bava's own work, I really like "Black Sunday," as I said before, especially "The Wurdulak," which I think is underrated.
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

cinemalover wrote:Mr. A,
Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) from 1960 stars the unusual Barbara Steele. Many found her to be a beauty, and if photographed from the right angle she was, but she could sure look scary at times without the help of much make-up. She was ideal for that movie.
I totally agree.

With Fellini (8 1/2):

Image

With Bava (Black Sunday):

Image
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on November 8th, 2007, 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by cinemalover »

Eeeewwwwwhhh! That's some nasty acne!
Chris

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La Frusta e il corpo aka The Whip and the Body (1963)

Post by movieman »

I've watched two Bava films:

"Black Sunday" and "The Whip and the Body".

"Black Sunday" I'd say is overrated. It may be a bit better with Italian dubbing, but it's overrated the same. It doesn't flow as gracefully as "Whip and...".

TWATB is one of my favourites.
What it lacks in plot it has in abundance concerning cinematographic wizardry. And when you now it was made on such a low budget it's even more impressive. I've watched this movie about 5 or 6 times now and it's beauty never ceases to amaze me.

Daliah Lavi in the part of Nevenka is very beautiful too. Barbara Steele was originally intended for this part, but she was busy doing other film work at the time.
Many consider TWATB her best film work.

It's a pity you can't hear Christopher Lee's voice on neither of the Italian or English dubbing options. Daliah Lavi actually did the Italian dubbing herself.

Christopher Lee considers his Kurt Menliff role his favourite.

The color palette in the film is beautiful. The use of green, blue, red and yellow (to name a few) is done like a painting.

Bava's cinematography is unique in film history.
So, the forget the plots and enjoy a visual treatment you'll not soon forget.

Anyway, most of the plot of TWATB may be conventional gothic horror, but the open ending leaves you wondering...

I won't say the ending is modernistic, what do you think?

Two of the stylistic plot points of a modernistic movie are:

1. Female protagonist

2. Open ending

But, the female protagonist is conventional in gothic horror literature, so that leaves us the open ending.

What do you think concerning this?

Sincerely

Mr. Even
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Post by cinemalover »

movieman,
Your comparison of Bava's visual pallette to a well designed painting is a perfect point of comparison. It is both his strength and weakness as a film-maker. Sometimes he would have done better for the film by putting down his paint brushes for awhile and doctoring up the character development.
Chris

The only bad movie is no movie at all.
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Post by MikeBSG »

I watched "Blood and Black Lace" (1964) recently. This film, supposedly the first "giallo," makes Dario Argento look like Orson Welles. I found it badly structured, with much of the film dealing with characters who were just red herrings and scenes, like when the police have a gas station attendant try to recognize the sound of a specific car's horn, to be utterly irrelevant to the plot.

"Bird with Crystal Plumage" is far, far better.
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