Posts Tagged ‘Mario Bava


Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

As I probably have mentioned before, October is a triple-treat month: my birthday, my wedding anniversary AND Halloween, all within 31 days! Best month ever! Being the total romantic that I am, I insisted we continue 31 Days of Horror on our first wedding anniversary. The movie I chose was, of course, Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Q happily complied; that’s why we’re married, folks.
John Harrington is a studly fashion designer, whose expertise is in wedding gowns, bridal lingerie and murder. His favorite kind of murder involves newlyweds; preferably women who are still wearing the bridal gowns they’ve purchased from his shop. He knows he’s mad, but he can’t stop murdering brides! It’s just something he must do; every bride he cleaves will bring him one step closer to solving his insanity, or so he thinks.

John Harrington: Normal Guy

John Harrington: Normal Guy

At first, it seems obvious why John thinks the only good wife is a dead wife: his own wife Mildred is an absolutely miserable human being. She goes out of her way to make John’s life a living hell, and constantly holds over his head the fact that it’s her money that funds his whole fashion operation. Meanwhile, she holds seances so she can speak to her long-dead previous husband, whom she actually loved. All John wants is a divorce, but of course she won’t grant him one. Instead, she vows to be with John forever and ever, no matter what. I guess John decides to test her resolve and kills her in an almost understandable fit of rage. Sure enough Mildred hangs around, if only as a ghost to make him look insane to others.

Mildred said they'd be together forever...

Mildred said they’d be together forever…

Now with Mildred out of the way, perhaps John won’t be so batshit? Not so; he’s still got mommy issues to deal with, namely getting over her violent death. And what about that detective who keeps snooping around his shop, his house, his fashion shows for chrissakes? Could it be he knows John has been slaying newlyweds?
I think most Bava fans would agree Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of his best movies, but it is definitely a better-than-average horror movie. It is especially a better-than-average giallo! While I love the style of the giallo films, I have to say a lot of the time they are pretty darn disappointing; the plots are always going in a million directions too many and I am never genuinely surprised by the endings. At least with Hatchet we already know who the killer is. Instead, Bava is asking a more interesting question: why is John a killer? Though the answer doesn’t surprise you, it is still a fun ride.

Holy shit he's wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

Holy shit he’s wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

What is interesting about Hatchet is it seems to be the predecessor to a few other flicks I wouldn’t have expected. Comparisons to American Psycho are pretty obvious: both John Harrington and Patrick Bateman are self-obsessed rich guys who hide their murderous identities from the fools around them. But the whole mommy-issue thing reminds me a lot of my least favorite Cronenberg movie Spider.  Both Spider and Harrington are nut jobs who didn’t like to think of their mothers having sex. Throughout Hatchet we see John as a little boy re-experiencing his mother’s violent end, an awful lot like the scenes we see in Spider when the main character is transported into the past. I can’t help but think Cronenberg took a few cues from Hatchet; it doesn’t seem out of the question!

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon...

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon…

But, as always, my favorite thing about this Italian horror flick is its style. If only I’d watched this when I was shopping for wedding dresses, I would have had so many more ideas! And what about John’s pajamas? Wow, if that’s what dude lounges in just imagine what he’s hiding in that closet (aside from the cleaver, of course). And of course the film itself is just stylish beyond words, because that is what Bava does best. It just looks so good. This one is definitely worth a watch or two.

I want those pajamas.

I want those pajamas.


Lisa and the Devil (1973)



Dear Mario Bava, I’m starting to think you only depict women in one of two ways: creepy battle-axe or needy damsel in distress.

Oh, wait, you’re right, three ways: I forgot sexpot.

Yes, Mr. Bava you have a point, I haven’t watched enough of your stuff to make such a claim. Fair enough. I promise, I’ll most-likely never give up on you, no matter how shallow your view of women seems to be. It’s just that after watching Lisa and the Devil, I’m really getting tired of watching your ladies writhe around painfully in ineptitude.

Lisa is a tourist in Italy. She gets separated from her group, and after encountering a man who curiously looks exactly like the devil depicted in the main square’s fresco, becomes trapped in a

Lots of bald.

Lots of bald.

circular landscape. Eventually, she is picked up by some other folks, and their car breaks down. They’re lucky enough to find refuge in an old mansion, inhabited by a family of creepsters led by the Countess (Alida Valli, whom you might recognize as Miss Tanner from one of my personal favorites, Suspiria) who are all watched over by their housekeeper, Leandro (Telly Savalas) who happens to be the aforementioned devil look-alike.

Having no option but to stay through the night, Lisa and her new “friends” encounter some very strange shit indeed. Suffice it to say, this family is super messed up. As luck would have it, Lisa has stumbled upon the weirdos during their annual funeral recreation: the man of the house died years ago, and the Countess insists on reliving the

And this weird looking dude.

And this weird looking dude.

event each year on the anniversary of his death. Or… something like that. Leandro is, thankfully, really great at creating mannequin versions of the dead man, which, in the end, doesn’t really matter all that much since the Countess is blind and can’t even see!

Anyway, shit gets real, or unreal, and Lisa freaks out. She escapes. Or does she? I don’t know, it’s one of those movies where you can’t tell what the heck’s going on. And that’s usually totally cool. It’s even cool here, it’s just not that cool.

I want to like Mario Bava more. I will keep trying.


Black Sunday (1960)

The mask of SATAN!

The mask of SATAN!

Black Sunday is Italian horror god Mario Bava’s directorial debut (at least, it’s the first feature-length film he’s credited as directing). Years ago, I’d rented it, watched 10 minutes and shut it off. Frankly, I don’t know what was wrong with me all those years ago; my attention span must have been shorter than a nit’s. Thankfully, in my old age I’ve grown a little wiser, and knowing Black Sunday was necessary viewing, I gave it a second try.

Here’s the thing about Mario Bava: his movies are fucking gorgeous (I suppose it makes sense, then, that he’s credited as cinematographer on almost twice as many movies as he is director) and Black Sunday is no exception. Bava’s vision takes place is an eerie, foggy, strange Moldavia. Back in the good old 1690’s Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her lover Javuto are considered guilty of sorcery. Before the mask of satan is nailed into her face to seal her fate, Asa vows vengeance against her killer’s descendants, who just happen to be her own – it is her brother who is to put her to death.

The beautiful Barbara Steele...

The beautiful Barbara Steele…

Centuries later, a doctor and his protégé are taking the scenic route through the evil woods where the murders happened so long ago, and they come across Asa’s tomb in the family’s graveyard. Just like anyone would, the good doctor Krujavan snoops around and accidentally  breaks the glass of the coffin, cutting himself. His blood (don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming) brings Asa back to life. Her mission: bring back Javuto from the dead and take over the body of her identical descendant Katia. 

Pretty typical horror plot stuff going on here (one could call this movie ‘gothic as fuck’ if one were so inclined), and as I mentioned previously, it’s beautiful to look at. By all accounts, I should love this movie. But for some reason, I was really bothered by the way it portrays women: you’re either an evil,

I wouldn't horse around in this forest.

I wouldn’t horse around in this forest.

terrible witch vampire or a frightened babe-in-the-woods who can’t do a god damn thing for herself. Normally this type of thing doesn’t bother me; I don’t watch movies with an ultra-feminist eye (I love Cronenberg, for chrissakes) but here it frustrated the shit out of me. I found Katia so tiresome I could do nothing but sigh every time she cried for help. I wish I could pinpoint what made this movie so different from all the other old-timey horror movies where women are helpless, but I can’t quite do it. I’m not going to say it ruined the movie for me, but it definitely made it a three-star instead of a four-star. Either way, it certainly won’t keep me from watching more Bava; in fact I am interested to see how the rest of his filmography stacks up to this flick.


Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Diabolik & Eva

Diabolik & Eva

Ah, another stylish Italian movie! Based on a 60’s Italian comic, Mario Bava brings us Danger: Diabolik, the tale of a super-thief who never loses. He’s smart, good-looking, rich, quick, and unstoppable. He drives a black Jaguar, and his number-one lady Eva Kant drives a white one. Together they commit crimes of epic proportions. Next on the agenda: stealing millions of dollars from the government during its transport. Diabolik’s nemesis, Inspector Ginko, goes to extreme lengths to keep Diabolik away from the cash, including a decoy van – but there’s no fooling Diabolik.

He of course bests the inspector and escapes with all the money, showering himself and Eva in the green stuff.  The cops can do nothing

Sexy Money Bath

Sexy Money Bath

but wait for Diabolik’s next move, which they assume will undoubtedly be an attempt to steal an extremely valuable necklace from the local royalty (for Eva’s birthday, of course). The cops have the whole place surveilled in hopes of catching Diabolik red-handed, but of course he gets away with the necklace. This enrages Ginko and his fellow police and so they reinstate the death penalty in hopes of putting an end to Diabolik’s reign once and for all! Since Diabolik is ruining the game for

Clever Diabolik changes from black to white!

Clever Diabolik changes from black to white!

the other criminals, another super-villain named Valmont offers his services up to the cops in catching Diabolik, in hopes of gaining their favor and eliminating some competition.

A bunch of exciting chases and helicopter scenes happen [one which, I’m sure of it, Kathryn Bigelow rips off for Point Break (yes there I go talking about Point Break again)] and eventually the cops put a million-dollar bounty on Diabolik’s head. Well, Diabolik doesn’t like that and blows up the local tax office in retaliation. Now that the government has no revenue, they have to be very careful with the money they do have and opt for exchanging all the currency for gold and melting it all into one giant block (I mean really giant) that Diabolik possibly can’t steal…. Or can he?

To say this movie is awesome is an understatement.  It is thoroughly entertaining and incredibly stylish. Mario Bava can make

Seriously rad shower.

Seriously rad shower.

cheap (the budget was only $400,000!) look amazing! The music is by Ennio Morricone and so you can add Diabolik to the list of Italian movies with great soundtracks. The clothes and set are both super-mod and fantastic (I mean seriously, who wouldn’t kill for that shower?) In another moment of Point Break comparison, Diabolik had me rooting for both the hunter and the hunted: good and bad are not clear-cut in this film, and I really appreciate Diabolik’s commitment to Eva – unlike most other super-criminals, he is dedicated to one woman and does what he can to save her from danger.

Basically, this movie makes me want to watch everything Mario Bava ever did, even the ones I hear are duds.


Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Okay, so before I sat down and watched Planet of the Vampires, I didn’t really know that Mario Bava had some serious science fiction roots. Shows how much I know, right? After watching this, I want to see them all.

Yes, the whole movie looks this cool.

In response to a distress signal, two spaceships (Argos and Galliot) land on the unexplored planet Aura to investigate. As the ships are landing, members of the crew seem to go mad, and look to destroy the ship and their fellow crew-members. After a few episodes of violence, the crew members have no recollection of attacking each-other. Argos’s Captain was able to maintain control during the ship’s landing, and so was able to stop the crew members from destroying each-other. Once they land, the crew steps out onto the planet’s surface in search of the Galliot. Turns out the crew on that ship was not as lucky, and everyone is either murdered or missing.

What could be causing this mysterious psychic takeover? Only further exploration of Aura could answer that question, obviously, and so the crew continues on and finds a lot of really awesome-looking stuff, including giant skeletons,

Like any good sci-fi, there’s plenty of beep-boop-bop to go around.

spaceships that will look familiar to you, blue, red and green mist everywhere, and most importantly: walking corpses. 

I could focus on the plot if I wanted to, but for me this movie was all about atmosphere and visuals. Holy hell, this movie looked really, unbelievably cool. More proof that the Italians know what they’re doing (mostly) when it comes to movies.  What else is there to say? Oh yeah, the guy that does Wes’s voice in the English dubbed version is indeed the same actor who did Speed Racer‘s voice in the 60’s cartoon.


Old Wave