A Blade in the Dark (1983)
By: CJ on April 28, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. 108 minutes
The Movie
Director: Lamberto Bava
Starring: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Stanko Molnar, Lara Naszinski, Michele Soavi
Screenplay: Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti
Country: Italy
AKA: La Casa Con la Scala Nel Buio

At one time, American DVD distributor, Anchor Bay, used to pretty much specialise in bringing to DVD obscure and cult items – like the one that's under review here. Sadly, in recent years, Anchor Bay seems to have abandoned the arena of Euro horror, though thankfully we now have the likes of Blue Underground, NoShame Films and Mondo Macabro to fill the gap. So, anyway, I thought now would be good time to revisit one of Anchor Bay's Euro horror releases and decided to once again let my eyes feast upon Lamberto Bava's A Blade in the Dark and let you know my thoughts on the film and its presentation on DVD.

Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti) is asked by his friend Sandra (Anny Pappa) to write a score for her new horror film. Bruno agrees and moves into a secluded villa to write the score. Whilst there he encounters two women both looking for Linda, the previous occupier. Mysteriously, the women vanish as quickly as they arrive and Bruno begins to suspect foul play. He becomes convinced that a murderer is at work and that the clue to his/her identity lies within Sandra's film. A string of red herrings and grisly murders are paraded before the viewer until the identity of the killer is finally revealed….and trust me, you won't guess this one!!

It's not an overly complex plot, as you can see, but here Bava relies more on style than content, borrowing heavily in his directorial style from the likes of Argento and his father Mario. Unfortunately Lamberto Bava is no Argento or Bava Sr. and the film runs out of steam very quickly. The film tends to drag and is overly talky - not that dialogue is a bad thing in a film, but it is when it's boring dialogue. The cast do their best with a rather uninteresting script but sadly fail to save the film from being a rather mundane Giallo-by-the-numbers.

However, where Bava does excel is in his handling of the brutal murder sequences, which are obviously his forte. The bathroom murder midway through the movie is particularly vicious and shocking, the nastiest scene I've witnessed in a Giallo for a long time. Sadly though, even these standout scenes fail to make this film anything special. Not Lamberto Bava's best by a long shot. This was, I think, a wasted opportunity and would probably have turned out better in the hands of someone more experienced in this genre.

The disc is to the usual standard of an Anchor Bay release. Remastered from vault materials this is a very nice-looking clean transfer free from defects. The image is a little grainy, but this is probably down to the source elements and the stock the film was shot on more than to any fault with Anchor Bay. Purchasers will be more than happy with the quality of the image presented here.
The audio is presented in basic mono and is really nothing special. The sound levels tend to fluctuate rendering some scenes extremely quiet whilst others boom out deafeningly. There was much that could've been improved upon in the audio department, but it's serviceable, and if you crank up the volume it's not too much of a problem. The sound is crisp and clear though and does reasonable justice to the soundtrack score.
Extra Features

The extras are a little sparse and a commentary track is conspicuous by its absence. But a trailer is provided along with a talent bio section. Also included is a 10 minute featurette with interviews with director Lamberto Bava and writer Dardano Sacchetti. This is a great feature with both Bava and Sacchetti providing insights not just into the making of A Blade in the Dark but on Italian horror cinema as a whole. Bava tells of how A Blade in the Dark was originally intended as a four part television series but ended up as a feature instead. It's also interesting to note that Bava prefers the English titling of the film rather than the Italian La Casa con la scala nel buio which translates as The House with the Dark Stairs. And in closing Sacchetti says the important thing he's learnt in the last 30 years is not to trust anyone in the movie business!!

The Verdict
A more than acceptable release from Anchor Bay and purchasers will not be disappointed with the quality of this product. Unfortunately the film itself is nothing special, having said that however, it's not completely without entertainment value and the murder set-pieces are very impressive. It is certainly an essential purchase for Giallo completists and I'm more than happy to have this in my collection. When all is said and done, I'd still rather watch something like this than the latest blockbuster offering from the likes of Michael Bay.
Movie Score
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