Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bay of Blood (1971): Or How I Learned To Stay Out Of The Real Estate Market

Do not fret, my dear ones, the Duke of DVD has returned, no worse for the wear after my foray into snow sculpture, to give thee succor. Cling to my bosom, oh ye of frail mind, and let me take away your pain. Give pause as you sit on the side of your bed, bearded neck scratching as you let your head slump forward onto your pale chest, your sausage-like fingers gripping the handle of grandpappy's revolver. Stay your hand! Life is worth living once more, for I bring you once again the gospel of Mario Bava!

Cease your blubbering as Bava's genius washes over you, much like Jesus jumping out from behind a bush to scare you during your morning jog. Only this Jesus has a last name of Sanchez and is dressed only in a fertilizer sack, his turgid member tenting the front as he screams incoherent Spanish obscenities at you. You turn to run but trip over your iPod Shuffle's headphone cord, a moan escaping your lips as Jesus mounts you and begins to thrust in time to the tinny sounds of "Come On Eileen" issuing from your device lying nearby in the grass.

Such is Bava. Let us explore, shall we?

Bava's 1971 flick Bay of Blood opens with a twirling camera whisking us around the woods. We're following a fly, which promptly plunks into the water to its death. This is a fantastic way of establishing the movie we are about to see, which deals with a lot of themes, not just blood-letting. Next we see an old woman in a wheelchair, wheeling her way through an opulent home. She stops before a window, gazing out as rain streaks down. The scene is very lonely, and we get the sense that the woman lives in isolation.

She doesn't, however, live for very much longer! As it turns out, she is the Countess Federica, owner of a wide tract of desirable land around a bay. As she leaves the melancholy window-scape, her husband Filippo jumps out, throws a noose around her neck, then kicks the wheelchair out from under her. Bava's camera lingers for quite sometime, cutting back and forth between the bulging eyes of the Countess and her shuffling, useless feet as she tries in vain to save herself. Soon enough her struggles cease. Filippo thinks he hears a noise and goes to investigate. Finding only the wind causing the front gate to bang, he returns to the scene of his crime, pulling out a doctored-up suicide note, leaving it on a table near the spot where the Countess still hangs.

"This auto-erotic asphyxia thing just isn't working for me."

Suddenly, an unknown assailant stabs Filippo to death! The movie just got way more interesting, to say the least! We next meet Frank and his secretary/lover Laura as they lie in bed, the two wrapped in the hide of a dead animal, as all Italian lovers are in such scenes. Frank discusses how they are set to acquire some lucrative land just as soon as the Countess is taken out by her husband. Seems they have planned this out between them. Frank has to leave, but not before Laura drops the animal hide to display her goodies for him. Alas, we do not get to see this, for which I was greatly saddened.

"Please dear, be gentle. I only agreed to this because I love you."

Next we meet two other players, a bug enthusiast named Paolo and a local fisherman named Simon. Paolo is out trying to catch a rare bug, while Simon literally takes a bite out of a still-living squid in order to kill it. Right off we know that, while Paolo is kind-hearted and aloof, Simon is definitely the type who might do a little of the ol' stabbity-stab-stab when the need calls for it. We then cut to a carload of hippies, two couples in fact, driving around in their Dune Buggy of Love looking for a place to crash so that they can get their drug-fueled hippie sexing on. They end up, of course, choosing the late Countess's house.

Herbie the Love Buggy carries more hippies to their deaths.

First, one of the chicks gets the brilliant idea to go swimming in the bay (of blood!) by her lonesome. She's not in the water for five minutes before running into the floating, bloated body of Filippo. She runs screaming, but doesn't get very far before someone cuts her throat.

"Must... squeeze... out... final... fart..."

Meanwhile, back at the house, the chick-less hippie dude makes the last mistake he'll ever commit: answering the door. He pays for it with a sickle to the face that nearly splits his head in two! Elsewhere in the house, the other hippie couple are gettin' jiggy with it, when our killer arrives and runs them through, mid-coitus, with a stone-tipped caveman-esque spear.

"I only wanted to buy some Girl Scout Cookies..."

I was really impressed by the depth of Bava's perversion in this scene, as he has the couple continue their sexual writhing even while impaled, for a good 20 seconds, which feels like a long time when you are watching two impaled people continue to fuck.

"Stick it in me!"

Very soon, we find out that Simon the Squidman is the killer. He hooks up with Frank the Real Estate Man, who is quick to accept the death of his former partner in crime, Filippo. Arriving next on the scene is Renata and her simpering husband Albert, along with their two kids, who we see in their travel trailer (more on them later). It seems that Renata is the daughter of the Countess, and is assuming that the estate is hers by right. Soon, however, we find out that Simon is also the son of the Countess, and presumably rather a black sheep since he didn't live in the main house and was forced to harvest squid for a living. At any rate, with no will to be found, the two are instantly at odds, and neither hesitate to resort to murder to get what they see as rightfully theirs.

"I'm telling you, this bug had a dick this big!"

To add once again to the menagerie of characters, we are introduced to the bug guy's wife, who is a amateur fortune teller. Renata and her hubby pay a visit to the odd-ball couple, where the fortune teller insinuates that Simon may be at fault for the death of Filippo, Renata's dad. Renata and Albert leave to go investigate the estate, and when Albert leaves Renata for a moment, Frank (he's the real estate guy, remember?) jumps out of nowhere to try and kill Renata, only to instead be killed by her! Unbeknownst to her, the bug-guy is watching all this and tries to call the cops, only Albert intercepts him and ultimately strangles him with the phone cord!

"Switch your service away from AT&T, will ya?!"

Whew. I hope you're taking notes, dearest friends. Bava isn't done yet! Renata, not to be outdone by her husband and wanting to take care of the increasingly annoying fortune teller, brutally decapitates her! Meanwhile, Laura shows up (Frank's lover/secretary/co-conspirator), looking for Frank. Finding only slack-jawed corpses, she finally finds Frank, whom it turns out is not dead just yet. He gives her the 411, and she takes off to find Simon. However, Simon is pretty pissed with the lot of them, having figured out that Laura was instrumental in his mother's death. Laura tries to flee, hurling boiling water into Simon's face, which doesn't even slow him down. He ends up strangling Laura in a very brutal and awesomely shot scene.

Even the dead can't resist Uncle Li's squid sushi!

Albert arrives and gets Simon to basically sign away his share of the estate in exchange for helping him get a new lease on life, and by "new lease" Albert means an end to Simon's life, as he runs Simon through with a spear! So, in the end, we only have Renata and Albert left, foul murder having been done on all sides by all parties involved, except for the unlucky hippies, who should have damned well known better than to have sex near mysterious bays/lakes/inlets.

"Never mind the Head & Shoulders...have you got any just Shoulders?"

In what can only be termed the biggest fucking surprise ending since the Vicar's wedding video (hint: he was drunk, marrying an ox, and it was consummated on film), Albert and Renata head back in triumph to their travel trailer, and while standing by their car the trailer door opens and a shotgun appears, gunning down both Albert and Renata, the shooter one of their own children!

"Ugh, this is worse than those burritos I ate yesterday!"

I'm not sure exactly what life lesson Bava is going for here, but damn if he didn't get some sort of point across to me. As the children run off to some sappy music playing, we hear one of them exclaim "Boy, mommy and daddy sure are good at playing dead!" Fin. The end. The end result is a body count second only to the aforementioned Vicar wedding video, and a moral lesson on the nature of, um, nature and man's greed brings nothing but death, and you can probably sprinkle a little bit about how bug-collectors shouldn't fornicate with fortune tellers, oh and how sexy secretaries draped in animal hides can only mean bad things for land developments planned around the murder of invalid Countesses.

"Critique my real estate skills, will ya!"

Got all that? Good. I must say that while this isn't the best Bava film (see my take on Lisa and the Devil for that honor!), it has immediately captured a place in my heart for many reasons. First we have Bava's trademark camera (he was the Director of Photography for this film as well as the director). Stunning shots of the bay, rain falling on water, and even the way a squid slides off a corpse's face. All of these things are rendered with an eye for detail, a nuanced control that few others ever achieved, and certainly a rarity in the realm of horror. The plot itself is also a wonder, taking us on a breathless ride through greed and murder, with some excellent special effects accompaniment that gives it that extra edge.

The WTF-ness of the ending is just the icing on the cake. The children murder the parents, thus completing the circle of how the movie starts. Bay of Blood was called Ecologia del Delitto in Italy (and also goes by the super-awesome name of Twitch of the Death Nerve), and the Italian title gives us a little more insight as to what the movie was intended to be. For me, it's a tour-de-force of crazy killing, fucked-up endings, and trademark Bava insanity. Two and a Half Thumbs Up for this one, kiddos.

"Yay, murder!"


dfordoom said...

While I generally adore Bava's films, this one left me cold I'm afraid. Too much reliance on gore, which Bava (a master of atmosphere) didn't need to do.

Jay Clarke said...

Big fan of this one. For its influence as much as its bodycount. Though not as flashy as Blood & Black Lace, I just love its if-five-minutes-goes-by-without-a-gruesome-death-something's-wrong attitude!

Anonymous said...

One of Bava's best and a real trendsetter in retrospect. And the big German girl is way hot!

Chet Of The Undead said...

Cling to my bosom, oh ye of frail mind, and let me take away your pain.

Ummm...thanks, but can I cling to the bosoms of the chick on the cover there instead and just PRETEND that they are yours? ;)

Cease your blubbering as Bava's genius washes over you, much like Jesus jumping out from behind a bush to scare you during your morning jog.

You are SOO right about that man!! The hijo de God is SUCK A FREAKIN' prankster, don't even get me started on the time he brought in the Holy Ghost to Pants me while he....or the time when he lit one of Buddha's farts and....uhh...nevermind! ;)

This movie sounds a little farmilar, like perhaps I may have perused it ina drunken, Cheetos fingers and mouthed stupor in the early hours before dawn.

I may have to try and watch it again sometime.

Thanks for the Memory Jog dude...oh and the review!

Al Bruno III said...

Once again this site offers up a fine sampling of prose and insight.

Also I laughed so hard at some of the parts of it I got a nosebleed.

Mark Hodgson, said...

Which DVD did you watch? I'm trying to find the best uncut version...

The Duke of DVD said...

Dearest readers, thank you for all the kind comments!

@dfordoom - I'm sorry it left you cold, but please give it another chance! Sure, there's gore, but it's tastefully done, and the cinematography more than makes up for some hatchet facials.

@Chet of the Undead - You may indeed cling to a busty Euro-babe's bosom, if you must. I'll *sniff* try to be understanding *runs off to cry in the corner*

@Mark Hodgson - I watched the Anchor Bay DVD that came in my Bava boxed sets. The transfer was fairly pristine, with only a minimal amount of grain and/or pubic hairs.

Tenebrous Kate said...

I'm really enjoying your Bava Appreciation Series, Duke!

In addition to what everyone else has noted about this justly-beloved movie and its justly-beloved director, I'm just going to chime in and note that Claudine Auger is really a stunner in her role as Renata. Seriously, is it just me or did Bava's films feature some of the loveliest leading ladies?! That lucky bastard...

dfordoom said...

I guess I've just always had a preference for Bava's gothic horror movies, rather than his giallos. To me gothic horror is where his true genius lay.

And science fiction! Surely his most underrated movie is Planet of the Vampires!

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