Tag Archives: Mario Bava

Rabid Dogs (1974)

rabid dogs 3

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

Not Rated

Director: Mario Bava

Studio: Spera Cinematografica

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

lisa and the devil

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is the plot?

Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Spain who gets lost and finds shelter inside a large mansion run by a butler Leandro (Telly Savalas) and a Countess (Alida Valli). Soon Lisa begins to experience strange occurrences and visions. People turn up dead and then alive again. When she tries to escape she finds that she can’t and is now stuck in a surreal world with no exit.

I am use to watching Italian horror films being strong on the visual end and weak with the plot, logic and character development especially when they attached to either Mario Bava or Dario Argento, but this one goes to the extreme. Nothing makes sense and scenes are thrown in haphazardly and go nowhere. The basic premise is too general and unfocused and the entire production seems to be an exercise in interesting camera work and nothing more. Yes there are a few atmospheric moments, but it all adds up to very little.

Had the special effects been gory or impressive I might have forgiven it, but for Bava standards they are lacking as well. For one thing there is very little gore to begin with and what we do see looks amateurish. The scene where a man gets run over by a car clearly looks like a mannequin and as the driver backs up and runs him over several more times it becomes even more obvious.

Sommer makes for a weak heroine. Her character is as vague and mysterious as all the others, so the viewer never gains any empathy or concern for her fate. Her short shoulder length haircut makes her look middle-aged and dowdy. Also, Sylvia Koscina her costar has facial features that are too similar to Elke’s and for a while I thought she was Elke with a brunette wig. Her best moment is actually her nude scene of which she looks great although I noticed her eye lids constantly fluttering when her character was supposedly asleep.

Normally I love Telly Savalas and he can be effectively menacing, but here he is sorely underused. The character pops in and out sporadically, but really doesn’t do much. I did like that he is constantly sucking on lollipops, which later became his trademark during his run on the ‘Kojak’ TV-series.

I was hoping for some grand over-the-top finale to make up for having to sit through all this, but it never came. The climax, which takes place inside a jet airliner no less, is as underwhelming as everything else. Not surprisingly this film was edited into a completely different story and reissued as The House of Exorcism, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mario Bava

Studio: Leone International

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming