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 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 works as a precursor to the slasher genre, which would become the ultimate horror genre trend of the 80's 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 narrative 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.
Bay of Blood 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.
Thankfully, this latest batch of Bava titles from Kino Lorber made up for the dreadful last batch. I will admit the A/V on Kidnapped was fine, but Black Sabbath was not passable. Therefore, it was splendid to see such a wonderful job done with Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve. The film is presented in it's original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, and manages to reproduce Bava's color natural, Earth-y color scheme nicely. The prior release of this film by Arrow Video was more muted in the color department I am happy to report that this is not the case here. The level of detail presented here is excellent, black levels are solid, and flesh tones are accurate. There are a few instances of print damage throughout, but nothing distracting, and I'll be honest this is the best I've ever seen this film look PERIOD, so the minor damage makes no difference to me.
There is an LPCM 2.0 track in English present here, the track is solid, but nothing special. The dialogue is audible throughout, as are the effects and score. There are some instances where the dialogue sounds a bit hollow, and I detect some moments of popping and hissing on the track.
Kino Lorber have put together quite a solid package together for their release of Bay of Blood. The set kicks off with a commentary by Mario Bava Uber-Biographer and Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas. As per usual with his commentary tracks, Lucas offers a great deal of insight into the film, and is a completely fascinating listen. We also get an SD-sourced version of the Italian cut of Bay of Blood. The disc is rounded off with trailers for Kino Lorber's other Bava titles.
It's hard to select the greatest or most memorable film from director Mario Bava. He made so many wonderful films in such a variety of genres that his work though is almost too good to categorize in that manner. That being said, Twitch of the Death Nerve is certainly one of his many great achievements. The restoration from Kino Lorber is an absolute treat for fans of the film, and the extras a fantastic addition to the film HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.