Monday, July 7, 2014

Mario Bava Collection, The: Vol. 1

Film & Disc Review, Mario Bava Collection, The: Vol. 1
by Rusty White
reviewed: 2007-04-06

Mario Bava Collection, The: Vol. 1 (2007)
Director: Mario Bava
Movie rating: 8/10
DVD rating: 9/10
DVD Release Date: 04/03/2007
Running Time: 430 minutes
Rating: NR
Disc Details

Anchor Bay

List Price: $49.98

Running Time: 430 minutes

Special Features:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Feature film: Black Sunday AKA The Mask of Satan
Commentary by author Tim Lucas
International trailer
US trailer
Poster and still galleries
TV spot
Mario Bava bio
Barbara Steele bio
Feature film:
Black Sabbath AKA The Three Faces of Fear
Commentary by author Tim Lucas
A Life in Film: An Interview with actor Mark Damon
International trailer
US trailer
Poster and still galleries
TV spot
Radio spot
Mario Bava bio
Boris Karloff bio
Feature film: Kill, Baby...Kill! AKA Curse of the Living Dead
International trailer
Curse of the Living Dead trailer
Mario Bava bio
Feature film: Knives of the Avenger AKA Viking Massacre
Mario Bava bio
Feature film: The Girl Who Knew Too Much
Commentary bu author Tim Lucas
Featurette: Remembering the Girl With John Saxon
International trailer
US Trailer
Poster and still galleries
Mario Bava bio

Video Format:
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)

Language Tracks:
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0)


Closed Captions:

5-disc Keep Case

Mario Bava's influence on the world of horror films is quite profound. He co-directed Italy's first sound horror film. Bava directed the first Giallo film. He directed a proto-slasher film over a decade before such films became the rage. Bava's cinematography was as influential as his direction. Bava's films were released in Italian versions as well as English language versions in the US and UK by American International Pictures. The rights to his AIP versions are tied up in a legal limbo. Producer Alfreado Leone holds the rights to the films licensed to Anchor Bay. While this is not a definitive Bava collection it is a good start. The "Volume 1" in the title of this set gives me hope that Anchor Bay will continue to release Bava's films until his complete output is available. Author Tim Lucas is considered by many to be the top expert on Mario Bava. He provides much background information concerning the state of the legal rights to the various versions during several of the commentary tracks found in this boxed set. The reviews are in chronological order based on release dates.


British actress Barbara Steele cemented her place in scream history as one of the hottest film fatales in history with her dual performance in "Black Sunday." "Black Sunday" was the US title of this film. That version was 84 minutes long and featured a new score by Lex Baxter as well as a new dubbing track. This DVD is the "The Mask of Satan" version. It is Mario Bava's original, uncut international version of the film. This version features the original Italian score as well as the original English dub.

"The Mask of Satan" is Bava's gothic horror masterpiece. The story combines elements of satanic cults and vampirism to tell a tale of revenge from beyond the grave. Barbara Steele plays the witch Katia Vajda, a condemned witch in service to Satan. She and her lover are killed by having a bronze mask of Satan's face nailed on to their heads. Before their bodies can be destroyed by burning at the stake, a storm quenches the fire. Both bodies are buried. The witch placed a curse on the descendants of her executioners before having the mask impaled on her face.

Two centuries later we are introduced to Dr. Gorobec (John Richardson) and Dr. Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi). They are passing through the area on their way to a doctor's conference. As fate would have it, the two doctors stop at the ruins of the crypt that house the cursed Katia. All hell rises from the grave. I'll leave it for you to discover. If you are familiar with the film, this DVD provides you with the most graphic and complete version available. There is a smoldering eroticism to Barbara Steele's performance that was only mimicked by many of the great Hammer scream queens. Overlook to rubber bat scene and you have one of the greatest horror films in history.


This is one of the Bava films that is tangled up in a legal mess. The US version was called "The Evil Eye" and included a comedic edge that has been cut out of this version of the movie. This was Bava's final Black & White film. Nora Davis (Leticia Roman) is an American Tourist obsessed with murder mysteries. She is staying with her sick aunt while in Rome. Her aunt is attended by the handsome Dr. Bassi (John Saxon). Nora's first night in Rome is marked by the death of her aunt. Nora runs outside to summon help where she is mugged. When she comes to, Nora sees a young woman murdered. She passed back out, only to aroused by a policeman the next morning. Nora tells the police what she saw, but there is no body or blood to be found. Was it all a dream? Did Nora see a murder from the past? Just how much marijuana was in that cigarette Nora smoked?

This was my least favorite film in the set. Granted, Leticia Roman is a real beuaty. She is lovingly photographed throughout the film. Ah, to have been John Saxon in 1963! There are three great set pieces in this film. Bava creates a menacing atmosphere too. I guess I was disappointed by the ending. Sure, the ending includes a great performance by the villain, but it seemed to come out of left field. Oh well. Film historian Tim Lucas points to this movie as the first Giallo film. It does contain elements of the genre. I won't dispute that. To me, the film was more like a grown up version of Nancy Drew.


This is the one DVD which will divide Bava fans. I've heard from a number of people who refuse to purchase this set because it does not include the voice of Boris Karloff. That would be a shame for a number of reasons. Yes, I too have the VHS version of AIP's "Black Sabbath," which includes the English language track dubbed by Boris Karloff. Yes, I will rejoice the day that the AIP version is disentangled from legal troubles and be released on DVD. That said, this uncut, original Italian version of the film: "Three Faces of Fear" is an excellent horror film with more of an adult edge than the US version released by AIP.

"Three Faces of Fear" is an omnibus film with three tales of the macabre. Boris Karloff introduces the film, stars in the middle (and best) episode and returns at the end in a humorous coda. This original Italian version has the stories in a different order. It also shows a very different, and adult version of the story "The Telephone." "The Telephone" is a claustrophobic tale of a woman alone, being terrorized by her former boyfriend VIA the telephone. This version involves a very adult subplot and dénouement. This version of the story is more of a Giallo story than a horror tale than found in the AIP version.

Boris Karloff delivers his last great film performance in the middle tale : "The Wurdalak." Yes, Mr. Karloff was excellent in Peter Bogdanovich's later film "Targets" but this was his last classic horror movie performance. Set in Russia in the 1800s "The Wurdalak" is an eerie vampire tale that presents a different legend from that found in "Dracula." Boris Karloff plays the patriarch of a rural family who has set out to kill a vampire that has terrorized the countryside. Karloff has warned his children that if he does not return before five nights have passed, then he is to be destroyed as he would now be a wurdalak (undead vampire). As fate would have it, Karloff returns after five nights have passed. Even with the dubbed Italian language soundtrack, this segment is excellent. Sure, I miss Karloff's voice, but his mannerisms and facial expressions also evoke terror and emotion in the viewer.

"The Drop of Water" is the third installment in this great film. It is a nightmare inducing chiller with a number of goose-bump inducing scenes. You want to scare the crap out of little kids, let them watch this segment in a dark room. The tale involves a woman who steals a ring from an old dead woman. Bad mistake. Scary movie!


Cameron Mitchell stars in this action, adventure film. Though Mario Bava is best known for his horror genre films, he also directed Spaghetti Westerns, Sword and Sandal and Viking films. "Knives of the Avenger" is a tale of revenge. Viking King Arald (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) has been missing at sea for three years. His beautiful wife Karin (Lisa Wagner) flees into hiding with her son Moki. The brutal criminal Hagen (Fausto Tozi) is searching for her in order to force her to marry him so he can become king. Karin and Moki are rescued from Hagen's first attempt to capture her by a stranger named Helmut (Cameron Mitchell). Helmut saves the beautiful woman. He stays with her and teaches her son how to fight, hunt and become a man. Turns out that Helmut is really prince Rurik, the man who killed her husband's father when he mistook Hagen's actions for those of her husband's father. Lots of conflicting emotions and lots of fighting. I've never seen a Viking film before. Bava directed several during his career. This is a fun film. Not as memorable as his horror films, but still fun.

KILL, BABY...KILL! (1966)

Mario Bava's 1966 film "Kill, Baby...Kill!" is a neat little chiller set in a remote superstition filled European village at the turn of the last century. A demonic little girl is driving the town's folk to commit some very bloody suicides. Each victim it turns out also has a silver coin embedded in their hearts. All of his information is established in the films first ten minutes. It's the whys and wherefore's behind these strange occurrences that makes for a spooky evening with the lights out. This was Bava's last gothic film. Some say it is among his best, I can't say that I disagree.

The film opens with a bloody suicide and the laughter of a child. Following the credits, Dr. Eswe (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, king Arald in Knives of the Avenger) arrives via a reluctantly driven horse and carriage. This seems to be a staple of gothic horror movies. No matter how hard you try, the coach driver is going to make you walk the last mile so he can get out of Dodge before sundown. Chances are, when you reach the town, you will find it inhabited by terrified rubes who are tightlipped except to say "you're now welcome here." Of course, the visitor never heeds their advice and usually pays dearly for it. Bava spins a unique yarn which breaks free of this standard launching pad to become something special. Dr. Eswe is a coroner who has been called in by an Inspector (Piero Lulli) to examine the body of the impaled woman from the opening scene. The Inspector is also an outsider called in by the town mayor, Karl (Max Lawrence). No one wants to answer the questions of the Doctor or the Inspector. It turns out that the body he was supposed to examine has already been moved to the graveyard. The two interlopers arrive just in time to prevent the burial. The good Doctor begins his autopsy, aided by the mysterious Monica (Erica Blanc). Monica has also just arrived in town due to the recent death of her parents. It is during the autopsy that Doc discovers a silver coin in the heart of the dead woman. Monica has a superstitious explanation for why it is there, but no one can explain how it got there.

And I'm not gonna tell ya! You'll just have to get the movie and find out for yourself. I will tell you that there is a sorceress, Ruth (Fabienne Dali), a demonic ghost of a little girl who has a habit of popping up to ruin the day for many a townie, a sinister villa which may be the key to all of the carnage. This is a spooky little movie. Don't rent it is your looking for splatter. If you enjoy films such as Hammer's "The Horror of Dracula" and the like, then you will enjoy this one.

As in he did in "The Whip and the Body" Bava uses light and shadows to paint a creepy mosaic of suspense. Bava's pacing is impeccable. He has created some very creepy images which will stay with you, as he did in the final portion of "Black Sabbath." The little girl creeped me out. Maybe it is because I have two daughters and saw a little of them in her! (They are little heathens!) Seriously, the girl appears at the window of one of her intended victims at night. It is a shock. One particular death scene stands out in its twisted beauty. A young girl awakens to see the imp from hell at her window. She is drawn toward a lamp decorated with a sword. The victim's face vacillates between horror and ecstasy. She knows that she will soon be dead, but she also looks longingly at the metal that will soon penetrate her. As if shaking off the demonic seduction of her mind and will, the victim's face is overcome by the realization that she is not going to enjoy this, but will be powerless to stop it. It is a haunting scene which is not easily forgotten. The interplay between the two actresses is excellent. The imp shoots a look at the weapon the victim will use on herself. The victim looks to the weapon. The small nuances that Bava elicited from the two girls are great.

There is also an interesting chemistry between Dr. Eswe and Ruth, the sorceress. The Doctor is the product of the age of reason. If it cannot be empirically proven he does not believe in it. He soon realizes that there is more to be found under the sun than he imagined. Instead of ridiculing the witch, he seeks knowledge from her. He believes that there is a logical explanation (rather than a supernatural one) for the events in the town. It is interesting to see these characters interact in such a way. It goes against the mold for this type of film, and it was very refreshing.

The only distraction in the film is Bava's overuse of the zoom lens. The zoom can be a great tool if use sparingly ala the great ending of "Count Yorga Vampire." However, Bava's use of the zoom becomes extreme at times, and ends up taking away from the suspense. This little bitch aside, "
Kill, Baby...Kill!" is an eerie little gem. The title makes it sound more like an exploitive slasher film, but it isn't. It is a well paced, suspenseful little ghost story. If you go into the experience knowing that you will be better prepared to enjoy it. Carlo Rustichelli returns to provide a great score. Many an otherwise good movie had been ruined by a lame score. Bava chose well in Rustichelli as a frequent collaborator.

The movie is dubbed. They didn't do a bad job, but for some reason, I have to watch a movie twice to get past the dubbing. The first time around, I sit there wondering what the actors really sound like. Fortunately for me this movie is worth seeing twice. I think I'll put it away for sometime until the shocks and twists fade into memory, and then take it out for a fresh scare.

The Disc
A great set of films. Good picture and sound. Excellent extras.

Picture Quality: 8/10
There were a few delineation problems around the edges on "Black Sunday." "Knives of the Avenger" had the occasional scratch or other artifact.

The aspect ratios for the DVDs are as follows:
Black Sunday 1.66:1
Black Sabbath 1.77:1
The Girl Who Knew Too Much 1.77:1
Knives of the Avenger 2.35:1
Kill, Baby...Kill! 1.85:1

Sound Quality: 9/10
The sound on all five DVDs is excellent. "Black Sabbath" and "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" are presented in Italian only. The other three DVDs include both the original Italian sound and a dubbed English track.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 10/10
As always, Anchor Bay sets the standard when it comes to DVD extras. Author Tim Lucas is recognized as one of the top authorities on Mario Bava in the world. I enjoyed his commentary tracks on VCI's "Mario Bava Boxed Set" which was released in October 2000. Mr. Lucas provides three great commentary tracks for this set. Mr. Lucas fills you in on just about everything you would ever want to know concerning "Black Sunday," "Black Sabbath" and "The Girl Who Knew Too Much." If this boxed set is missing anything, it is a commentary track for "Kill, Baby...Kill!." These commentary tracks make one wish that the release date of Mr. Lucas's long-awaited book on Mario Bava were last week.

There are two featurettes in this set. One features an interview with John Saxon as he remembers working on "The Girl Who Knew Too Much." Actor mark Damon remembers working with Mr. Bava on Black Sabbath."

There are a number of trailers and TV spots for each of the films. Several of the trailers are for the US versions of these movies. You do hear Boris Karloff's voice in the trailer for "Black Sabbath."

The boxed sets also include poster and still galleries for the films as well as the excellent Anchor Bay text bios for Mario Bava, Boris Karloff and Barbara Steele.

The Final Word:

Bava fans may wish they had Karloff's voice in this set. What they do have are the most complete film versions of these great Bava classics as have been released in the US. I can't wait to see what Volume 2 will include.

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