Well, the American Cinematheque’s Mario Bava retrospective “Poems of Love and Death” is now a matter of the past; this evening saw a big triple feature blow out of The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959) to end this feast of fun and other freak-outs. Time and other commitments prevented from attending any but one night of the festival, and lucky for me it was the one I most wanted to see. I was there this past Friday night for A Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, 1971), the movie template from which all slasher films from Black Christmas (1974) forward owe at least a nod of respect. (Sean Cunningham and Friday the 13th owe Bava a lot more than that.) Blood remains a nasty, ironic stunner, and the print we saw Friday night, supplied by producer Alfredo Leone, was a beauty, accentuating all the ripe color schemes and visual tropes of Bava's trickster poetry. (Bava was, as he often was, his own cinematographer on this film.) The movie was introduced by Eli Roth (Hostel, Hostel Part II) who gave the movie its due props, and then introduced actor Brett Halsey, who worked with Mario Bava twice, both times in genres atypical for the director—a western, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (1970), and a comedy, the night’s second feature, Four Times That Night, the Rashomon-inspired sex farce about four different perspectives on a wild date between Halsey and ex-Miss Italy Daniela Giordano.
This candy-colored absurdity was a real hoot, genuinely erotic, with some good laughs and lots of visual invention, especially for a set-bound bon-bon like this one. Four Times also highlights some nice comic turns by Halsey, Giordano, Valeria Sabel as Giordano’s mother, and Pascale Petit as a goldilocked lesbian who, in one version of the night’s adventure, sets her sights on Giordano. That the fixation goes unconsummated was an audible disappointment for several men and women in the audience. In reference to the movie’s obviously cribbed structure, Roth actually asked Halsey if he and Bava sat around the set discussing Kurosawa, to which the nonplussed Halsey responded in perfect deadpan, “No, not really.” I bumped into Halsey coming out of the men’s room after the show and if I’d had my wits about me I would have asked, was it incredibly maddening doing nude scenes with the super-sensuous Giordano, or was it as much fun as it seemed while watching this surprisingly genial, if slightly overlong, romp? But I suppose I did have my wits about me, for I chose not to ask him yet another dumb question, figuring that Roth had done his duty in that regard for us all. (I did enjoy the director's enthusiasm as a moderator, however.) I’ll be seeing Four Times again soon, as it is the second feature attached to the DVD I have coming from Netflix of the other Bava feature in the series that I very much regret missing, Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), featuring the breathtaking giallo icon Edwige Fenech. I also regretted missing Planet of the Vampires on the Egyptian’s big screen, but apparently even those in attendance didn’t really get a chance to see it. Apparently the print that the Cinematheque expected to receive was rerouted elsewhere, so they ended up having to use a “digital source” to project the film—a real disappointment, to be sure.
I only know of the snafu because longtime SLIFR reader Mr. Peel, writer and proprietor of the excellent blog Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur told me so. Mr. Peel’s site currently features some excellent readables on Bava, The Young Girls of Rochefort and director Fred Dekker-- in order words, it’s all over the place, kinda like another blog I know… Anyway, I was sitting there thumbing through the new Film Comment waiting for the lights to go down when this gentleman who I’d never met before came up to me and asked me if I was Dennis Cozzalio. Usually this inquiry is followed by the sound of clasping handcuffs, but he looked friendly enough. So I admitted my identity, Mr. Peel identified himself and we had a nice little chat before show time. This was the first time I’d been recognized from this blog (to my knowledge, anyway), and it was a really nice experience, helped immeasurably by the fact that Mr. Peel has been a frequent and friendly commenter here as well as a writer of a fine site of his own. And when I read my e-mails on Saturday, I was surprised to hear from Nate Y. who said he was at the Bava screening Friday and also recognized me, citing the ever-present ball cap as evidence. Nate Y., and anyone else who reads this here journal, if you ever do see me at a screening in the future, I do hope you’ll introduce yourself, as Mr. Peel did. My enormous ego could use the massage!
As a way of saying good-bye to Bava on the big screen here in Los Angeles, I’ve got what I hope will be a special treat for the director's fans. There’s a new site in town, a free high-res video stop-and-shop called Hulu, and among their somewhat meager selection of movies which one can watch in their entirety, for free, there is a Mario Bava title. It may not be of the caliber of Blood and Black Lace or Lisa and the Devil, but it is Bava just the same. So if you have the time to spare, sit back, press play and enjoy, at no charge, this full-length feature starring Vincent Price, Fabian and (watch out!) 1966-vintage Laura Antonelli, the sequel to the AIP smash-hit Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine entitled Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. (You'll have to hit the link to see the feature-- I tried embedding it, but the code played havoc with the 2.35 aspect ratio, which is preserved when you see the movie directly at the Hulu site. Enjoy!)