The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 1

DVD Watch

The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 1

Anchor Bay, $49.98

Arguably the most anticipated boxed set of the year, this is exhaustive genre excavators Anchor Bay's finest single-director collection to date, spanning five films and 460-plus minutes of essential works by legendary Italian genre-gun-for-hire Mario Bava, whose 1960 feature debut, Black Sunday, still raises hackles and hormones in equal measure. Bewitchingly shot in luscious, chiaroscuric black and white and sporting the hypersexualized charms (those eyes! those lips! that [dead] body!) of actress Barbara Steele, Bava's opening cinematic salvo set the stage for everything from Roger Corman's marginally more Poe-tic period horror outings to the voluptuous horrors of Karen Black. Black Sunday in particular celebrates the triumph of shadow over light, although his final B&W opus, 1963's The Girl Who Knew Too Much, which stars a young John Saxon alongside Italian bombshell Letícia Román, plays more like a wild, borderline giallic riff on Hitchcock, right down to the Americanized title. It's Black Sabbath that is the director's most fondly recalled film for those of us old enough to have caught it back in our preteen tee-vee horror-show daze. A trio of short films whose defining, disconcerting link is Bava's relentlessly outrageous use of colored minispots and some downright experimental audio trickery which, taken along with a healthy dose of Boris Karloff, render both the transcendent camera setups and the film's darkly unwholesome sense of omnipresent dread as close a descent into lunacy as world cinema has yet to match. And then there's Bava's viking Western, Knives of the Avenger (with the familiar megawhatage of Cameron Mitchell in the title role), shot in a single week by Bava after the original director was, I'd like to think, fed to the sharks off the shores of Capri. The collection is rounded out by Bava's 1966 masterpiece, Kill, Baby … Kill!, which, despite the garish stateside retitling (likely due to the success of Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! the previous year), is one of Italian cinema's most enduring works of profane beauty. See if you can shake the image of the creepy little nymphet b-baller and all that thoroughly twisted subtextual hellishness; if you don't wake up in a cold sweat post-screening, we'll send you on a one-way trip to Venice with Nicholas Roeg for bad company. Best of all, Video Watchdog founder and Bava's made man in America, Tim Lucas (author of the director's be-all, end-all, tell-all All the Colors of the Dark), provides savvy, enlightening, and very entertaining commentary tracks for Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, and The Girl Who Knew Too Much, about which, frankly, we didn't know much at all. So hats (and heads) off to Lucas' labor of love, and here's hoping Volume 2 includes the psycho-delic mind-warper (and Beastie Boys fave) Danger: Diabolik.
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The Mario Bava Collection:Volume 1, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Anchor Bay

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