The Film (5/5)
There is a story, that I heard involving Mario Bava's film Bay of Blood, soon after the film was released the great Christopher Lee (quite possibly my favorite actor of all-time), went to see the film knowing it was the new film from his director on the Whip and the Body. Lee at the time felt that Whip... was one of his finest films , and having enjoyed the relationship he had with Bava on that film, he went to see the film. When he came out he was repulsed by the copious amount of violence present in the film.
Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve) is probably the most violent film Mario Bava ever made. It also progresses the Giallo genre which he helped create with his earlier films The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and his masterpiece Blood and Black Lace. It also works as a precursor to the slasher genre, which would become the ultimate horror genre trend following the success of John Carpenter's Halloween in the late 70's. Bay of Blood is also infamous, for providing the template for a few select death scenes in the first 2 Friday the 13th films, whether that is actually the case has never actually been confirmed by Sean Cunningham, or anyone involved with those films.
The film follows the fallout of the murder of a wealthy countess who owns the property surrounding a beautiful bay. The film is sort of like the domino effect of death, and everyone surrounding the bay is involved. From the various residents who have their reasons for wanting the property, to the four teenagers who have come to bay to party for the weekend. The film has a very limited story, and really has no main character to latch on to. It feels like the plot was essentially a device to string together the various death sequences.
That being said Bay of Blood even in account of it's obvious limitations is absolutely one of my all-time favorite Mario Bava films. The films grisly death sequences courtesy of effects artist Carlo Rambaldi still hold up nearly 40 years after the fact, and the direction from Bava creates a compelling, suspenseful, and well paced film. It also features that great Mario Bava atmosphere, and while the film does stray from what is considered the typical Bava color palette with it's use of garish lighting and glorious Technicolor, the film still retains the feel and look of a Bava film, albeit in a more natural setting. The film with it's outdoor settings, and less fantastic plot elements make it feel like a semi-companion piece to Bava's later (and final masterwork) Rabid Dogs. Bay of Blood feels like a giallo, in it's most pure form, the plot has enough twist to keep you guessing until the end, and violence is lurid and well-orchestrated. This film is one is definitely worthy of the attention it has received. If you are a fan or slashers and gialli, and have not seen this, it is a must see. If you have seen it, then you will know that this is the type of film that rewards multiple viewings.
Arrow Video has presented Mario Bava's Bay of Blood in a supremely amazing anamorphic widescreen 1080p transfer preserving the films original theatrical aspect ratio. There are 2 versions of the film included on this disc, the first English version is the only one in high definition, and the one I am concentrating on for this segment of the review. The level of detail is vastly improved over the prior DVD version (in my case the AB box set release), black levels are deep, flesh tones are accurate, and the colors while slightly more muted than prior releases still look great. No obvious compression artifacts can be seen here, and there is still a healthy amount of grain present, so it appears no or very little DNR has been applied to this transfer. The Italian version as previously stated is not in high definition, and lacks the detail and other advantages present in the HD English version.
The audio in both versions are a mono track in their respective languages, unfortunately this does not fare well in either case, and while the tracks are suitable for the film, there is a lot lacking here. The dialogue is clear for much of the film, but there are portions where it is muddled, and difficult to hear, and during these parts you'll probably find yourself like me fiddling with your volume control to hear what is being said.
Arrow Video has put together a nice slate of extras for their Blu-ray release of Bay of Blood. The most substantial extra is a roughly half hour long interview with Bay of Blood screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, who aside from writing this has written many gialli, and other Italian horror films. The interview primarily focuses on Bay of Blood, and his giallo work. There is also a 20 minute plus interview with cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia , and a third slightly unrelated interview with Piranha director Joe Dante that gives his appreciation for this film, and other Bava works.
There is also a commentary from Bava superbiographer Tim Lucas author of Mario Bava - All The Colors of the Dark (A book I am dying to read, but will probably never be able to afford lol). The commentary as expected is extremely informative, and honestly Tim is probably the best source of Bava information outside of resurrecting Bava himself and forcing zombie Bava to do a commentary for the film. The disc is rounded off with a series of trailers, and radio spots for the film. 2 of the trailers include the Trailers From Hell commentary and introductions from Shaun of the Dead/Spaced director Edgar Wright.
Bay of Blood is absolutely one of Bava's best films, and is definitely one of my favorites in his entire oeuvre. The A/V work here is solid with the English language versions transfer being the absolute high point. Unfortunately, the audio does not fare so well, and the Italian version is not in HD and lacks the advantages of the HD English version. The extras are excellent, and offer a mix of entertainment, and really interesting insight into the film. This BD comes highly recommended.