Mario Bava

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Mario Bava
Mario Bava 75.jpg
Mario Bava in 1975
Born(1914-07-31)31 July 1914
Died25 April 1980(1980-04-25) (aged 65)
Other namesJohn M. Old
John Foam[1]
OccupationFilm director, cinematographer, special effects artist, screenwriter
ChildrenLamberto Bava
Parent(s)Eugenio Bava

Mario Bava (31 July 1914 – 25 April 1980[2]) was an Italian filmmaker who worked variously as a director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and special effects artist.[3] He is frequently referred to as the "Master of Italian Horror"[4] and the "Master of the Macabre".[5] His low-budget genre films, known for their distinctive visual flair and stylish technical ingenuity, feature recurring themes and imagery concerning the conflict between illusion and reality, and the destructive capacity of human nature.[1]

Born to sculptor, cinematographer and special effects pioneer Eugenio Bava, the younger Bava followed his father into the film industry, and eventually earned a reputation as one of Italy's foremost cameramen, lighting and providing the special effects for such films as Hercules (1958) and its sequel Hercules Unchained (1959) (both were lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000).[6][7] During the late 1950s, his eventual career trajectory as a director began when he was relied upon to complete projects begun by or credited to his colleague Riccardo Freda and other filmmakers, including I Vampiri (1957) (the first Italian horror film of the sound era), The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) (the first Italian science fiction film), Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) and The Giant of Marathon (1959).[1]

Although most of Bava's films as director failed to achieve major commercial success upon release, many of them would eventually find acclaim as cult classics, with their content and production values being favourably compared to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Several of them have been noted for their revolutionary impact on their respective genres: Black Sunday (1960), his official directorial debut, was the forerunner of the Italian gothic horror film cycle; The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) is considered to be the first giallo film; Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) heavily influenced the iconography of modern J-Horror; Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970) is regarded as one of the earliest self-parodying Spaghetti Westerns; Four Times That Night (1971) was an early Italian sex comedy; and A Bay of Blood (1971) was a precursor to slasher films. His other notable films include Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Erik the Conqueror (1961), Black Sabbath (1963), The Whip and the Body (1963), Blood and Black Lace (1964), Planet of the Vampires (1965), Knives of the Avenger (1966), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), Baron Blood (1972), Lisa and the Devil (1974), Rabid Dogs (1974) and Shock (1977). Despite his reputation as a talented artist during his lifetime, Bava's shy, self-deprecating demeanour prevented him from taking advantage of opportunities that would have furthered his international standing within the film industry, and he turned down multiple opportunities to work in Hollywood.[1]

Among the filmmakers Bava and his work have influenced include Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Federico Fellini, John Carpenter, Nicolas Winding Refn, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, John Landis, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, Edgar Wright, Jennifer Kent and Quentin Tarantino.[8] His son and frequent assistant director, Lamberto Bava, later became a noted fantasy and horror film director in his own right.

Biography[edit]

Mario Bava was born in San Remo, Liguria on 31 July 1914. He was the son of Eugenio Bava (1886-1966), a sculptor who also worked as a special effects photographer and cameraman in the Italian silent movie industry. Mario Bava's first ambition was to become a painter. Unable to turn out paintings at a profitable rate, he went into his father's business, working as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers like Massimo Terzano. He also helped his father at the special effects department at Benito Mussolini's film factory, the Istituto Luce.

Bava became a cinematographer himself in 1939, shooting two short films with Roberto Rossellini. He made his feature debut in the early 1940s. Bava's camerawork was an instrumental factor in developing the screen personas of such stars of the period as Gina Lollobrigida, Steve Reeves and Aldo Fabrizi.

Bava completed filming I vampiri (a.k.a. The Devil's Commandment) for director Riccardo Freda in 1956, a movie now referred to as the first Italian horror film. Bava was originally hired as the cinematographer, but when Freda walked out on the project midway through production, Bava completed the film in several days, even creating the innovative special effects that were needed. He also handled the cinematography and special effects on the 1955 Kirk Douglas epic Ulysses and the 1957 Steve Reeves classic Hercules, two films credited with sparking the Italian sword and sandal genre.

Bava co-directed The Day the Sky Exploded in 1958, the first Italian science fiction film, predating even the sci-fi films of Antonio Margheriti. Because he had no earlier credited experience as a director, the film was credited solely to Paolo Heusch. In 1959, Bava completed Caltiki - the Immortal Monster, again for Riccardo Freda who left the project prematurely, and also worked on the lighting and special effects for 2 Steve Reeves epics, Hercules Unchained and (was also as a co-director of) The Giant of Marathon.

In 1960, Bava directed the gothic horror classic Black Sunday, his first solo directorial effort, which made a genre star out of Barbara Steele. His use of light and dark in black-and-white films is widely acclaimed along with his spectacular use of color in films such as Black Sabbath, Kill, Baby... Kill!, Blood and Black Lace and The Whip and the Body.

Bava in 1962.

His work has proved very influential. Bava directed what is now regarded as the earliest of the Italian giallo films, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964). His 1965 sci-fi/ horror film Planet of the Vampires was a thematic precursor to Alien (1979). Although comic books had served as the basis for countless serials and children's films in Hollywood, Bava's Danger: Diabolik (1968) brought an adult perspective to the genre with its' Pop art influence of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein.[9][10] Many elements of his 1966 film Kill, Baby... Kill!, regarded by Martin Scorsese as Bava's masterpiece, also appear in the Asian strain of terror film known as J-horror. 1971's A Bay of Blood is considered one of the earliest slasher films, and was explicitly imitated in Friday the 13th Part 2.

Mario Bava was very disappointed with the theatrical distribution of some of his later films. His Lisa and the Devil (1972) was never picked up by a distributor, and had to be later re-edited by the producer (with new 1975 footage) into an Exorcist-clone retitled House of Exorcism in order to get released. Bava's Semaforo Rosso (1974) was never released theatrically during his lifetime; the film only appeared on Video in the late 1990s, re-edited with some new footage, as Rabid Dogs, and was released again later on DVD in 2007 in a slightly altered version under the title Kidnapped.

In 1977, Bava directed his last horror film, Shock, which was co-directed with his son Lamberto Bava who did the work uncredited. Bava later did special effects matte work on Dario Argento's 1980 film Inferno. Mario Bava died of natural causes on 27 April 1980 at age 65. His doctor had given him a physical just a few days before he died from a sudden heart attack, and had pronounced him in perfect health. Right before Bava's death, he was about to start filming a science fiction film titled Star Riders, a project on which Luigi Cozzi had hoped to collaborate. [11]

Mario Bava's son Lamberto Bava worked for 14 years as Bava's assistant director (beginning with Planet of the Vampires), and went on to become a horror film director on his own. On several of Mario's movies, Mario was credited as John M. Old.[12] Later, Lamberto was sometimes credited as John M. Old, Jr.[13] When Lamberto directed his first solo film Macabre in 1980 and screened the completed work for his father, Mario commented jokingly to Lamberto: "I am very proud of you. Now I can die in peace". (He actually did die less than two months later.)

Several books have been published about Mario Bava: Mario Bava by Pascal Martinet (Edilig, 1984) and Mario Bava edited by Jean-Louis Leutrat (Éditions du Céfal, 1994) in French; Mario Bava by Alberto Pezzotta (Il Castoro Cinema, 1995) in Italian; The Haunted Worlds of Mario Bava by Troy Howarth (FAB Press, 2002) and most recently, the massive critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog, 2007; ISBN 0-9633756-1-X).

A documentary about him entitled Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre was released in 2000.[14]

Filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]

Title Year Credited as Notes Ref(s)
Director Screenwriter Screen story writer Cinematographer Other
Scipione l'africano 1937 Yes Uncredited title designer. [15]
Il dottor Antonio 1938 Yes Uncredited camera assistant. [15]
Princess Tarakanova 1938 Yes Uncredited camera assistant. [15]
Giuseppe Verdi 1938 Yes Uncredited camera assistant. [15]
Inventiamo l'amore 1938 Yes Uncredited camera assistant. [15]
Il socio invisible 1939 Yes Uncredited additional photography [15]
La Comédie du bonheur 1940 Yes Uncredited camera assistant [15]
La compagna della teppa 1941 Yes Uncredited camera assistant [15]
Uomini sul fondo 1941 Yes Additional photography and special effects [15]
Capitan Tempesta 1942 Yes Camera assistant [15]
La nave bianca 1942 Yes Camera assistant and special effects [15]
Alfa tau! 1942 Yes Additional photography and special effects [15]
Uomini e cieli 1943 Yes Additional photography and special effects [15]
Le avventure di Annabella 1943 Yes [15]
Sant'Elena, piccola isola 1943 Yes [15]
Montecassino nel cerchio di fuoco 1946 Yes Uncredited additional photography [15]
Il barbiere di Siviglia 1946 Yes Uncredited camera assistant [15]
Elisir d'amore 1947 Yes [16]
Natale ai campo 119 1947 Yes [16]
Follie per l'opera 1948 Yes [16]
I pagliacci (amore tragico) 1948 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Antonio de Padova 1949 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Miss Italia 1950 Yes [16]
Il leone di Amalfi 1950 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
E arrivato il cavalieri! 1950 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Canzone di primavera 1950 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Quel bandito sono io! 1950 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Vita da cani 1950 Yes [16]
Guardie e ladri 1951 Yes [16]
Amor non ho, pero... pero... 1951 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
La famiglia Passaguai 1951 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
La famiglia Passaguai fa fortuna 1952 Yes Additional photography, uncredited Special effects work [16]
Papa diventa Mama 1952 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Gli eroi della domenica 1952 Yes [16]
Sins of Rome 1953 Yes Uncredited as cinematographer [17][18]
Perdonami! 1953 Yes [16]
Il viale della speranza 1953 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Balocchi e profumi 1953 Yes [16]
Villa Borghese 1953 Yes [16]
Terza liceo 1954 Yes [16]
Cose da pazzi 1954 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Graziella 1954 Yes [16]
Hanno rubato un tram 1954 Yes Yes Special effects [16]
Theodora, Slave Empress 1954 Yes Additional photography and uncredited special effects artist [16][18]
Buonanotte... avvocato! 1955 Yes [16]
Non ch'e amore piu grande 1955 Yes [16]
Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova 1955 Yes [16]
La donna piu bella del mondo 1955 Yes Yes Special effects artist [16]
Da qui all'ereditta 1955 Yes Uncredited additional photography and special effects [16]
Beatrice Cenci 1956 Yes Special effects creator [19][20]
Mio figlio Nerone 1956 Yes [16]
Roland the Mighty 1956 Yes Yes Special effects [16][21]
I Vampiri 1957 Yes Yes Yes Completed the film after Freda left production. Also did uncredited special effects. [22][23][20]
Hercules 1958 Yes Yes Special effects artist [16][24]
Citta di notte 1958 Yes [16][24]
The Day the Sky Exploded 1958 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator. Actors on set state Bava directed the film. [16][25]
Toto a Parigi 1958 Yes Yes [16]
Sheba and the Gladiator 1959 Yes Uncredited as cinematographer [26]
The White Warrior 1959 Yes [27]
Caltiki – The Immortal Monster 1959 Yes Yes Yes Special effects. Took over direction from Freda. [16][28]
Black Sunday 1960 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Bava developed the matte paintings and special effects uncredited. [29]
Hercules in the Haunted World 1961 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [16]
Erik the Conqueror 1961 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [16]
The Witch's Curse 1962 Yes Uncredited special effects creator [30]
The Girl Who Knew Too Much 1963 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Black Sabbath 1963 Yes Yes Yes Bava is uncredited as cinematographer on some scenes. [32][33][34]
The Whip and the Body 1963 Yes [35]
Blood and Black Lace 1964 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
The Road to Fort Alamo 1964 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Planet of the Vampires 1965 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Knives of the Avenger 1966 Yes Yes Yes Special effects [31]
Kill, Baby, Kill 1966 Yes Yes [36]
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs 1966 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Danger: Diabolik 1968 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Hatchet for the Honeymoon 1970 Yes Yes [37]
Five Dolls for an August Moon 1970 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator and film editor [31]
Roy Colt & Winchester Jack 1970 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Four Times That Night 1971 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
A Bay of Blood 1971 Yes Yes Yes Special effects creator [31]
Baron Blood 1972 Yes Yes [38]
Lisa and the Devil 1974 Yes Yes Yes [39]
Shock 1977 Yes Yes Bava is uncredited as cinematographer [40]
Inferno 1980 Yes Bava created some optical effects, painted maquettes, and other trick shots. [41][42][43][44]
Rabid Dogs 1998 Yes Yes Yes Uncredited cinematographer and on screen as the man in the parking lot. [45]

Influence and legacy[edit]

Mario Bava's directing style has heavily influenced many directors including Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, John Landis, and Tim Burton.[46][47][48]

The satirical TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 concluded their show in 1999 with Danger: Diabolik.[49][50][51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Mario Bava Biography". Tripod.
  2. ^ Howarth, Troy (2002). The Haunted World of Mario Bava. BearManor Media.
  3. ^ "Mario Bava". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Pezzotta, Alberto (1995). Mario Bava. Milan: Il Castoro Cinema.
  5. ^ Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre (2000)–MUBI
  6. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Hercules Unchained (TV episode 1992)-IMDb
  7. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Hercules (TV episode 1993)-IMDb
  8. ^ "Why your favorite directors love Mario Bava". Little White Lies.
  9. ^ Celebrating the Non-Horror Work of Mario Bava—Nerdist
  10. ^ All 24 Mario Bava Movies Ranked from Worst to Best - Page 3 - Taste of Cinema
  11. ^ "Planet of the Vampires". Monthly Film Bulletin. London. 53 (624): 59–60. 1986. ISSN 0027-0407.
  12. ^ Johnson, Gary. "The Golden-Age of Italian Horror: c. 1957-1979". imagesjournal.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  13. ^ "BAVA, Lamberto". bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  14. ^ Mario Bava: Maestro Of The Macabre|TV Guide
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Lucas 2013, p. 1063.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an Lucas 2013, p. 1064.
  17. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 310.
  18. ^ a b Curti 2017b, p. 311.
  19. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 312.
  20. ^ a b Curti 2017b, p. 313.
  21. ^ Lucas 2013, p. 161.
  22. ^ Curti 2015, p. 21.
  23. ^ Curti 2015, p. 23.
  24. ^ a b Lucas 2013, p. 202.
  25. ^ Lucas 2013, p. 216.
  26. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 296.
  27. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 314.
  28. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 315.
  29. ^ Curti 2015, p. 37.
  30. ^ Curti 2017b, p. 318.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lucas 2013, p. 1065.
  32. ^ Curti 2015, p. 78.
  33. ^ Curti 2015, p. 79.
  34. ^ "Credits". Black Sabbath (booklet). Arrow Films. 2013. p. 2. FCD778.
  35. ^ Curti 2015, p. 102.
  36. ^ Curti 2015, p. 159.
  37. ^ Curti 2017, p. 19.
  38. ^ Curti 2017, p. 53.
  39. ^ Curti 2017, p. 84.
  40. ^ Curti 2017, p. 177.
  41. ^ Curti 2019, p. 18.
  42. ^ Curti 2019, p. 19.
  43. ^ Curti 2019, p. 26.
  44. ^ Curti 2019, p. 27.
  45. ^ Curti 2013, p. 115.
  46. ^ Shock Video: Tim Burton Talks His Love of Mario Bava - ComingSoon.net
  47. ^ The Stylish Horror of Mario Bava on Fandor
  48. ^ 10 Essential Mario Bava Films Every Horror Fan Should See — Taste of Cinema
  49. ^ Why MST3K's Original Finale Is One of the Best Episodes Ever—Nerdist
  50. ^ Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Time
  51. ^ Viva Bava, Celebrating a Master Craftsman|Balder and Dash|Roger Ebert

Bibliography[edit]

  • Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980. McFarland. ISBN 0786469765.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Curti, Roberto (2015). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1989-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Curti, Roberto (2017). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970-1979. McFarland. ISBN 1476629609.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Curti, Roberto (2017b). Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker. McFarland. ISBN 1476628386.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Curti, Roberto (2019). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1980-1989. McFarland. ISBN 1476672431.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Lucas, Tim (2013). Mario Bava - All the Colors of the Dark. ISBN 0-9633756-1-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]