BAY OF BLOOD
*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- They Came to Play, They Stayed to Die
Release Date- September 8th, 1971
Running Time- 84-Minutes
Screenplay- Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni & Giuseppe Zaccariello
Director- Mario Bava
Starring- Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati, Chris Avram, Leopoldo Trieste
Mario Bava is one of the most influential filmmakers and not just in Italy, but the States as well and has influenced a wide range of filmmakers and I suppose the horror genre is where his impact is most seen. Mario Bava paved the way for the Giallo and without him who knows where filmmakers like Dario Argento would be. Released in 1971 A Bay of Blood, which also goes under such titles as Carnage, Blood Bath, Twitch of the Death Nerve and when released in the States in 1972 it had the title Last House of the Left Part II. A Bay of Blood while a giallo seems to have a bigger impact on the slasher films in particular Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2 (more on that later). However the giallo and slasher are sort of cousins and many films that are slasher films had they been made in Italy would be seen as a giallo and many of the Giallo if released in the States or anywhere else outside of Italy would be seen as slasher films. While there is a difference the line between them is thin. There are some that consider Bay of Blood to be Bava’s best film and I suppose a case could be made for it I’d disagree.
The story was written by Franco Barberi & Dardano Sacchetti and the screenplay by Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni & Giuseppe Zaccariello. I really can’t say much about the plot as I don’t wanna spoil things. The story for Bay of Blood is very good and basically all the murders have to do with getting the land around the bay. However the problem is the story is a little overly complicated (though easy to understand). I’m not sure if this was due to the story concept or the actual screenplay, but the script is the biggest issue, which does hinder the film in spots. While Italian horror isn’t really known for great writing, but more so of the visuals, beautiful women and gory murders, but many Italian horror films were fairly well written in the 70s. It was more the 80s when the scripts were a bit weak, but all the things I mentioned were present to help make up for any shortcomings in the writing. But with Bay of Blood the script is weak and characters lack depth and are inter-changeable. As I stated the story is complicated, but easy enough to follow. What’s interesting is pretty much every character is somehow tied to murder and again the premise was great though the story by Barberi & Sacchetti could have used a little more work and the script by Bava, Ottoni & Zaccariello could have done a little more with the solid story presented. There is also a subplot of four characters looking to party at the bay and this is where the influence on the slasher film really shows, which I’ll get into in a bit.
As director Mario Bava crafts a stylish thriller only brought down by some sluggish pacing. The first half of the film was the strongest with about 6-murders in a 40-minute span, but even than the film had some pacing issues. The 2nd half has about 7 murders in the final 44-minutes, but this is when the pacing is the biggest problem despite the high body count. With all the plot twists in the 2nd half it does make Bay of Blood a bit uneven. However despite the pacing issues, Bava does craft some solid suspense and an eerie tone, which does help make up for the shortcomings. Like I mentioned there is a subplot, which has a few characters looking to party at the bay and you can clearly see the influence in the slasher film and on Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2. His was in my opinion the strongest scenes of the film and Bava does a great job with them. The death scenes are very much in tune what we would see in slasher films with one guy getting a cleaver to the face, which was clearly the influence of the axe to the face in Friday the 13th and one scene has a couple getting impaired while having sex and this almost shot for shot would be used in Friday the 13th Part 2. Even the setting of the film seemed to inspire Friday the 13th. Like I said many consider this Bava’s best film and even if I disagree its quite easy to see why many feel that way. While the pacing of the film can be an issue despite only running 84-minutes it features a high body count with some strong suspense and while a Giallo, Bay of Blood made a much bigger impact on the slasher film.
Overall Bay of Blood is a solid film and again while pacing is an issue it’s made up for with some excellent murder scenes and suspense while the film isn’t confusing it is a little overly complicated. However despite the flaws this film comes highly recommend and the ending of the film is quite hysterical. Some say it was brilliant and others idiotic and I think both have a point. Mario Bava’s influence on film can’t be denied and while films like Psycho helped pave the way for the slasher film, Bay of Blood did as well. Dardano Secchetti whole wrote the story went on to have a great career and wrote or co-wrote a good portion of Lucio Fulci’s more popular titles such as Zombie and City of the Living Dead among many others. He also was a writer on A Blade in the Dark & Demons, which was directed by Mario Bava’s son Lamberto.
Bay of Blood has two blu-ray releases one from Kino, which has the English and Italian versions than there is the UK release from Arrow Video (which is multi-region disc). Based on screenshots the Kino version seems to have the best print, which is for the English version as the Italian cut is rough looking. I have the Arrow release, which features an excellent HD presentation on the English version with the Italian version also looking rough. Based on screenshots edge seems to go to Kino, but the Arrow release is very good with only little grain, but its natural looking and just happens to be a very good print. If even the slightest difference in video is important I guess Kino is the way to go, but if extras are also important than its Arrow all the way. The Arrow release comes with 4 different covers plus a booklet and double sided posters with a slew of features on the disc that features Dardano Sacchetti, Joe Dante and Edgar Wright. I don’t wanna undersell the Arrow HD quality since its terrific and even if based off screenshots Kino might have an edge I really can’t see it making that much of a difference. The colors on the Arrow release might be a little on the dull side and the overall image a little dark, but I prefer this as it adds to the atmosphere whereas other prints colors pop a bit more and the image a bit brighter. Best advice is if its quality on video that matters most look up some screenshots of both to help you decide.