Like some deranged, X-rated episode of Miss Marple, Mario Bava's giallo slasher crossover is a gleefully sinister tale where anyone and everyone is a suspect. Beautiful, blackly comic and disturbing it pre-dates the golden era of US slashers that owe so much to it by nearly a decade.
When Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda) is bumped off in the film's opening moments, it sets in motion a chain of gruesome deaths as an assortment of miscreants attempt to takeover the beautiful bay she owns. Amongst those vying for a piece of the pie (or indeed all of it) are an architect intent on development, the countess' daughter, son and husband. Add to this their various spouses and lovers, plus some fun-loving but doomed teenagers partying in a disused night club. The film opens with a pair of brutal deaths and continues in this manner as various characters are swiftly dispatched as they arrive at the lake to investigate what's to be done with the Countess' legacy.
The enormously contrived plot is pure giallo with mysterious hands of death around every corner, and though there's no detective involved as such, it's a murder mystery at heart - complete with extended flashback revelations at the end. The influence of Bava's film stretches far and wide, from the very specific lifting of death sequences by Friday 13th
(the arrow impalement and ice skate to the face in particular) to its broader influence on the slasher genre. It ushered in an era where fun-loving teenagers partied at their peril, and the gory mechanics of death became the attraction in their own right. Caldo Rambaldi's effects work stands up remarkably well after nearly 40 years too. Whilst there's a marked step up when you get to the Tom Savini era, the accomplished editing, combined with some horrible post death twitches - it wasn't called Twitch of the Death Nerve
in some quarters for nothing - make for some still-shocking demises.
What's perhaps most surprising about A Bay of Blood
is how much wit and pathos it manages during what is ultimately an absurd series of events. Aided by a highly evocative score and some wonderfully foreboding shots around the bay it manages to transcend the reductive exploitation label that would doom it (or cement its notoriety, depending on your perspective) during the video nasties debacle of the 80s. It certainly rewards multiple viewings, not just to unravel the convoluted plot, but also to appreciate the clever associative edits, and some canny foreshadowing. You can forgive the clunky revelations and exposition too, particularly in light of the ironic and hilariously dark denouement.
A top piece of Italian horror from the genre's glory days, it's a welcome re-issue that's as fun as it is influential.
Both the English language and Italian versions of the film are included on the disc, though only the English one is a new hi-def transfer. It looks fantastic though with night time scenes crisp, and the many deaths rendered in lurid detail. The sound is the original mono track and whilst it's fine, there's some background hiss and you'll need the volume high to pick up all the dialogue. That said, Stelvio Cipriani's often beautiful score comes through clear and true, and the English dub is really pretty solid.
The commentary track by Tim Lucas (author of Mario Bava: All The Colors of the Dark
) is insightful and erudite, if at times a little like he's reading from the pages of his own book. Still, it's compelling and makes you want to go straight back and watch this deceptively nuanced flick again. Argento! Bava! Fulci! The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti
takes us through the illustrious career of the film's writer and Shooting a Spaghetti Splatter Classic: Cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia on A Bay of Blood
does exactly what you'd expect. Both also, and perhaps more interestingly, provide some tantalising perspectives on Bava himself.
Edgar Wright provides enthused and breezy commentaries for two of the film's trailers - one retitling it Carnage
and the other using the altogether more awesome Twitch of the Death Nerve.
They're both fun and Wright is always engaging, but they appear to have been snipped from a longer piece.
A couple of radio spots from the original marketing campaign amusingly sell the film as the first to require a 'face-to-face' warning before you see it...
Not available for review, there's also Arrow's usual reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work, a double-sided fold-out poster and collector's booklet by Jay Slater, critic and author of Eaten Alive!
Overall the extras provide plenty of insight for both fans and Bava newcomers, ranging from in depth commentary to period marketing materials and once again betray Arrow as a distributor that truly makes an effort.A Bay Of Blood is out now on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Video.
Blu-Ray Edition contains;
Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work, double-sided fold-out poster, collector's booklet by Jay Slater, critic and author of Eaten Alive!, brand new high definition transfer of the English version of the film (1080p), Italian cut of the film, original Mono Audio.
Argento! Bava! Fulci! The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti (1080p), Joe Dante on Mario Bava (1080p), Shooting a Spaghetti Splatter Classic: Cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia on A Bay of Blood (1080p), audio discussion with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, A Bay of Blood Trailers: 'Carnage' and 'Twitch of the Death Nerve' with commentary by Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, ScreenAnarchy of the Death Nerve Radio Spots.
DVD Edition contains;
4 Panel reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work, Double-sided fold-out poster, collector's Booklet by Jay Slater, critic and author of Eaten Alive!, brand new transfer of the English version, original Mono Audio, Italian Cut, original Mono Audio.
Joe Dante on Mario Bava, shooting a Spaghetti Splatter Classic: Cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia on A Bay of Blood, audio discussion with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, A Bay of Blood Trailers: 'Carnage' and 'Twitch of the Death Nerve' with commentary by Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, ScreenAnarchy of the Death Nerve Radio Spots, Argento! Bava! Fulci! The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti