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A Bay of Blood (1971)
Kino Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/3/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/6/2013
Most film fans like to think that their memories are razor-sharp and that their opinions on older films are just as accurate today as when they were first viewed. As someone who is constantly surprised by how all of the horror films from the early 80s which I swore were great are truly awful, I can attest to this. Many things can cloud and shape these thoughts. Obviously, time and exposure to other films can affect this. Here worship, or the belief that a certain filmmaker can do no wrong can skew our outlook. If a movie has influenced other movies, it can be remembered for being better than it was. All of these factors may play into the love for Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood. For decades, I've read about how great this film is. Now that I've experienced it, I have to disagree.
As A Bay of Blood opens, Countess Federica (Isa Miranda), a wheelchair bound woman, is murdered by her husband, Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti). But, he is then stabbed to death by someone unseen. Following the Countess' death, several players swoop in, hoping to take control of the property and lake which she owned. Frank Ventura (Chris Avram) is a real-estate agent who, not realizing that Donati is dead, hopes to have the man sign the property over to him. Renata (Claudine Auger) and her husband, Albert (Luigi Pistilli), arrive in the area. Renata is Donati's daughter and she feels that the bay is rightfully hers and she's stop at nothing to get it. Paolo Foscari (Leopoldo Trieste) is an entomologist who lives near the bay with his wife, Anna (Laura Betti), a tarot card reader. Paolo is afraid that someone will take over the bay and destroy its natural beauty. As these individuals clash in their attempts to become the Countess' heir, the bodies begin to pile up.
Again, A Bay of Blood is one of those movies which I'd read about for years, but had not seen until now. (Although, I do remember trying to watch a public-domain DVD version I picked up somewhere and the image was so bad I had to stop after a few minutes.) The film has garnered quite a reputation amongst horror fans. For starters, one of the most famous murders from Friday the 13th Part 2 was clearly lifted (almost shot-for-shot) from this movie. Secondly, for the period, the movie was outrageously violent and contained a very large body-count (which also probably influenced the Friday the 13th films). Third of all, it was directed by Mario Bava, the Italian horror master who had directed Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, and Planet of the Vampires. In addition, the movie is infamous for having been released under so many different titles, such as Twitch of the Death Nerve, Blood Bath, and (oddly enough) The Last House on the Left, Part II.
Now that I've seen the film, I can tell you that it's not very good and its reputation certainly over-hyped it. Any movie is a sum of its parts, and the downfall of one of those parts can ruin a film. For A Bay of Blood, it's the story, or lack thereof, which stymies everything. This is one of those movies where you read the synopsis on the Blu-ray Disc box or online somewhere, and while watching the movie think to yourself, "Where is the story I was expecting?" The story described above does occur in the movie (sort of), but not in any conventional way. The movie opens with the Countess' murder and then cuts to a few scenes of Frank Ventura talking about the bay. It's literally not until 43 minutes into the movie that the actual plot concerning the quest for the property is truly explained. Prior to that, we are treated to a lengthy series of scenes in which four teenagers (?) come to the area, find an abandoned nightclub, break into a house, and then are killed. None of this has anything to do with anything. Then, during the last twenty minutes of the movie, we are bombarded with plot, with multiple schemes and double-crosses being revealed. And then we have the ending. Wow.
Of course, this movie isn't famous for its story, but for the many murders which occur. Are those impressive? Well, I'm sure that they were at the time, but, seen today, the movie doesn't look all that different from the many similar films which followed it. Again, for the time, the gore effects are good, and one can't deny that the spear murder is inspired. Still, the fact that the story is all over the place makes the movie feel like a reel of murders rather than a movie. I guess that most would call A Bay of Blood a giallo, but it actually falls outside of that genre, as A) there are multiple murderers (5?) and B) we learn the identity of the killer(s) early on.
If you go into A Bay of Blood expecting a serious film or a classic whodunnit? you will be disappointed. This movie is best viewed as a wacky, nearly campy movie where everybody is out for blood and everybody dies. The film's opening is very well-done and the third act has some interesting moments, but, again, it's that mid-section with the kids which really hurts the movie. A Bay of Blood came along during the second half of Bava's career and it's certainly not the best example of his talents. While it's really weird, I would recommend Bava's last film, Shock, over A Bay of Blood.
A Bay of Blood should trust no one on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing a slight amount of grain and only very minor defects from the source material. For a low-budget foreign film which is over thirty years old, the picture looks pretty good. The only issue here is that the image is dark, and some of the nighttime landscape shots appear to contain nothing. The colors look good and the image is never soft. The Disc carries a LPCM 2.0 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is free from obvious hissing or popping. Obviously we don't get any dynamic effects here, but the dialogue and the music work well.
The A Bay of Blood Blu-ray Disc contains at least one interesting extra. The Italian-language cut of the film is presented here in its entirety, which is one-minute longer than the English dubbed version. This is presented with easy-to-read English subtitles. The image isn't nearly as sharp as the other version, and defects like black and white specs are present on the image. The overall image is too bright and colors aren't as good. Still, it's good for Bava completists that it's included here. The other extra is a TRAILER for the film, along with some trailers for other Bava films.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.