By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Terror filled car ride.
Four men decide to hijack a car that is delivering the payroll to the employees of a local Italian pharmaceutical plant. Both men inside the car are killed, but the four manage to get away with the money only to have the driver of the getaway vehicle shot in the back of the head by a security guard as well as having a bullet hole put into their fuel tank. The remaining three are then forced to find another car. There is the Doctor (Maurice Poli) who is the level-headed leader and mastermind. There is also Bisturi (Don Backy) a lanky child-like man prone to savagery without warning and Thirty-two (George Eastman) who can be equally savage especially with women. They kidnap a beautiful woman named Maria (Lea Lander) and then hijack another car driven by a father Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla) who is trying to take his sick son to the hospital. The six then go on a terrifying car ride through the Italian countryside while playing a game of cat-and-mouse with each other and eluding the authorities.
This film turned out to be Mario Bava’s swan song. His career had faded during the 70’s as his style of horror films were no longer considered chic and he made this film project a personal crusade to prove that he could keep up with the modern sensibilities by creating a film that was gritty, raw and violent. All things considered he succeeds valiantly. The film has a nasty edge right from the beginning and manages to stay at that tone throughout. The killers are truly mean and keep the viewer on edge with their unpredictable trigger-finger personalities. It achieves a level of ugliness reminiscent in a true crime that most Hollywood films never seem able to attain and its shoe-string budget and bare-bones approach becomes a major benefit.
For a film that takes place almost entirely inside a car the shot selections has an amazing amount of variety. Bava ended up having to do the cinematography himself because he couldn’t afford to keep the one he had hired on, which makes it all the more incrediable how brilliantly visual this is. The characters faces get up so close to the lens you literally feel like you can smell them and sense the sweat glistening off their bodies making you believe you are stuck in the car with them. The film is never boring or slow, the action well-choreographed with interesting plot twists proving what an underrated genius Bava was and making me believe that despite the many difficulties getting produced this is his finest effort.
Backy who was and still is today a singer/songwriter with limited acting experience gives a great performance and is possibly the most memorable of the villains especially with his shocked expressions after he commits a particularly vile act proving that even he himself is shaken at his own savagery. Leander isn’t necessarily the best of actresses, but her perpetual look of shock and fear is quite entertaining. I was also impressed with the child actor who manages to stay asleep despite all the violence and chaos around him.
I also enjoyed the similarities to Last House on the Left including an exciting foot chase through a cornfield where you think the women is going to get away as well as a scene where the women is forced to urinate in front of the men while they laugh and mock her.
If you are a fan of 70’s exploitation than this lost gem deserves to be on top of any true fan’s list as it delivers-the-goods without ever watering things down for good taste. I also enjoyed the neat twist ending, which I saw coming, but it’s pretty cool anyways.
Years later Bava’s son Lamberto used existing footage from this film while adding new scenes with a different ending to create a movie called Kidnapped although I prefer this version better.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Alternate Title: Kidnapped
Released: February 25, 1998 (Never released during Bava’s lifetime.)
Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes
Director: Mario Bava
Studio: Spera Cinematografica
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video