Masters of Terror Volume 1: Mario Bava
By: J.R. McNamara on March 22, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0, Italian DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 420 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Barbara Steele, Enrico Olivieri, John Richardson, Boris Karloff, Michele Mercier, Mark Damon, Steven Forsyth, Laura Betti
Country: Italy
Year: 1960, 1963, 1969, 1977, 2000

When you are talking the greats of Italian horror cinema, those who know will always bring up the name Mario Bava. Even though he was a genre crossing multi talented film producer, he is best appreciated by the horror crowd. Able to perform as director, producer, cinematographer, lighting designer, producer, visual effects artist, and even actor, Bava was incredibly well versed in the art of filmmaking, and it shows in all of his films. This box set has a great selection of his work to enjoy.

Black Sunday (1960) - (a.k.a. The Mask of Satan a.k.a. House of Fright a.k.a. La Maschera del demonio (original title), amongst others) (86mins 42 seconds)

Set shortly after the Napoleonic wars, Black Sunday tells the tale of an evil witch, Princess Asa Vadja (Barbara Steele) who, years after being put to death with a spike-filled mask and then burnt at the stake, returns from her tomb to create havoc again. She intends to possess the lovely young body of her look-alike descendent, Katia Vadja (Barbara Steele), but will her plans be thwarted by the her brother Constantine (Enrico Olivieri) and the young Doctor Gorobec (John Richardson)?

Based on the short story The Viy, by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, Bava has really captured the look and feel of classic Universal horror films such as Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), not at all scary but beautiful gothic set-pieces and mood abound. Bava really shows that a great gothic atmosphere is not just about smoke machines and oboes, but also has a lot to do with lighting and cinematography.

Black Sabbath (1963) (a.k.a. Black Christmas a.k.a. The Three Faces of Fear a.k.a. I Tre volti della paura (original title), amongst others) (92 minutes 15 seconds )

Hosted by Horror Legend, Boris Karloff, Black Sabbath is a trilogy of terror tales: The Telephone, the tale of a woman, Rosy (Michele Mercier), terrorized in her apartment by a caller, who seems to know exactly what she is doing…, The Wurdalak, the legend of a Russian count, Vladimire d'Urfe (Mark Damon) who gets involved with a family who have found themselves victims of a vampiric curse and A Drop of Water, this is clearly influenced by Poe, particularly The Tell-Tale Heart and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, tells the story of a nurse Miss Chester ( Jacqueline Pierreux) who ill-prepared the corpse of a medium, who died during a séance…

Presented on this disc in the original Italian, with English subtitles, this film is another example of Bava's beautiful directing and spectacular lighting nuances.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969) (a.k.a. The Red Mark of Madness a.k.a. Blood Brides a.k.a. Il Rosso segno della follia (original title), amongst others) (84 minutes 33 seconds)

Psychopathic bridal clothes designer John Harrington (Steven Forsyth) kills young brides in an attempt to reveal a piece of a puzzle from his childhood. Every time he kills one, a small bit of his memory of his mother's murder returns, a murder very similar to the ones he himself commits; eventually he hopes that the killers face will be revealed. Ultimately he kills his own repugnant wife Mildred (Laura Betti), who returns as a ghost that will not leave…

Another of Bava's fashion house locations, this film again is lit wonderfully, but lacks any real tension as the killer's identity becomes quite obvious very early.

Shock (1977) (a.k.a. Schock a.k.a. Beyond the Door II a.k.a. Schock (Transfert-Suspence-Hypnos)) (92 minutes 30 seconds)

This was Bava's final feature, although his actual final work, La Venere di Ille, which came out in 1981, a year after his death was completed by son, Lamberto. Shock is the tale of a young mother, Dora Baldini (Daria Nicolodi) who moves into the house that was once occupied by her and her now dead first husband, with her son, Marco (David Colin Jnr) and new husband Bruno (John Steiner). The problem is, the spirit of her dead husband occupies the house, or is Dora going mad…

This is a great movie with some really good performances by the actors. Probably my favorite in this box set.

Mario Bava: Master of the Macabre (2000) (60 minutes)

This documentary is misnamed as Mario Bava: Maestro of Macabre on the packaging, and is not just about Bava's work, but about his life and family as well. Directed by Garry S. Grant and written by Charles Preece, the writer of Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror, this documentary has many interviews with Bava's friends and family, his contemporaries and those who were influenced by him, including John Carpenter, John Saxon, Lamberto Bava, Tim Burton, Daria Nicolodi, and others. If you enjoyed Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror you should enjoy this 60 minute feature as well.

Unfortunately, early versions of this box set came with two faulty discs, being the Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Master of the Macabre discs, but the folks at Umbrella Entertainment are more than happy to replace them immediately, so if you find yourself with these discs, contact them through their website. That problem was weeded out fairly early though, so don't let that jade your purchase. This box set has a gorgeous, albeit occasionally badly edited (a few errors here and there, I am just being picky), cover that suits this showcase of Bava's work perfectly.
Video
The image quality of these films has not been re-mastered but retains the image quality of films of their age.
Audio
As with the image, the audio retains much of its original quality, and by no means would ever be mistaken for a THX digitally re-mastered soundtrack. That is not to say the audio is not great, in fact it is always clear, it just won't give those thousands of dollars worth of amps and speakers much of a workout.
Extra Features
Each disc in this set has its own set of Bava related extras.

Black Sunday has: a Bava biography and filmography, a Barbara Steele filmography, a Photo and Poster Gallery, a Black Sunday trailer (As The Mask of Satan) (3 minutes 25 seconds) and other Bava trailers (Shock, Black Sabbath, Master of the Macabre and Hatchet for the Honeymoon).

Black Sabbath has: a Bava biography, a promotional stills and photos gallery, an Italian Black Sabbath Trailer (3 minutes 23 seconds) and other Bava trailers (Black Sunday, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Shock and Master of The Macabre)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon has: A photo gallery, a Mario Bava Biography, a trailer for Hatchet for the Honeymoon (2 minutes 30 seconds) and other Bava Trailers (Shock, Black Sunday, Black Sabbath and Master of the Macabre).

Shock! has: a Mario Bava biography, the U.S. TV spots for Beyond the Door 2 and Beyond the Door Combo (Beyond the Door II and The Dark Double Feature), the International Trailer and other Bava Trailers (Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Master of the Macabre.)

Mario Bava: Master of the Macabre has: Mario Bava Biography and Bava Trailers (Shock, Black Sunday, Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Black Sabbath).

The fact that so many of the extras are repeated, I imagine they were either originally going to be released individually, or still may be released individually.
The Verdict
Both a nice introduction to the films of Mario Bava and a great collection of movies covering a span of about 20 years, the Mario Bava Box Set is a great addition to any horror fans collection.
Movie Score
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