Hollywood Gothique: Mario Bava Film Fest

The American Cinematheque launches its film festival Mario Bava: Poems of Love and Death at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood tonight. Up first is a double bill of BLACK SUNDAY (a.k.a. “The Mask of the Demon,” 1960) and BLACK SABBATH (a.k.a. “Three Faces of Fear). Director Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR) will introduce the event.

Barbara Steele as the pock-marked vampire in BLACK SUNDAY

Bava was a cinematographer-turned-director, who also knew how to do old-fashioned, in-camera special effects. In the 1960s, he used his visual skills to craft a series of delirious beautiful films of various shapes and sizes, but his greatest achievements were in the realm of cinefantastique: Gothic horror, giallo thrillers, science-fiction, and mythical fantasy.

The Cinematheque’s festival runs through March 23. Besides Dante, directors Eli Roth (HOSTEL) and Ernest Dickerson (TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT) will introduce many of the screenings. The schedule (listed below the fold) includes most of the major highlights of Bava’s career. Take note: some are not available on DVD!

  • Black Sunday/Black Sabbath – Introduced by Joe Dante: March 13 @ 7:30pm
  • Five Dolls for an August Moon/Blood and Black Lace: March 14 @ 7:30pm
  • Lisa and the Devil/Baron Blood – Introduced by Joe Dante: March 15 @ 7:30pm
  • Kidnapped/Shock: March 16 @ 7:30pm
  • DangerDiabolik/Planet of the Vampires: March 20 @ 7:30pm
  • Bay of Blood/Four Times That Night – Introduced by Eli Roth: March 21 @ 7:30pm
  • The Whip and the Body/Kill, Baby, Kill – Introduced by Ernest Dickerson: March 22 @ 7:30pm
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much/Hatchet for the Honeymoon/Caltiki, the Immortal Monster- Introduced by actor Dante DiPaolo: March 23 @ 6:00pm

Although I am not a huge fan of BLACK SABBATH, tonight’s double bill is a perfect introduction to the work of Bava, who excelled at creating on-screen atmosphere, especially in the black-and-white vampire film BLACK SUNDAY, which stands as one of the classics of the genre.

All of the other films are worth seeing on the big screen, surrounded by an audience of appreciative fans, but the closing night triple-bill blow out of GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON, and CALTIKI is absolutely essential viewing. The last of these is not available on DVD, and GIRL is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek mystery thriller that is usually available in the U.S. in dubbed form as THE EVIL EYE.

I would also highly recommend the double bill of THE WHIP AND THE BODY and KILL, BABY, KILL. The former is a bit weak narratively, but it features Christopher Lee as an evil s.o.b. who returns to the family castle to claim his inheritance and resume an S-and-M relationship with Dahlia Lavi. She kills him, but he comes back from the grave to continue abusing her. The later film, despite the ridiculous English title, is an excellent experiment in Gothic atmosphere, about a European village bedeviled by the ghost of a small child. Bava milks the contrast between the innocent appearance and the horrific action, and there is at least one moment of pure uncanny vertigo when the camera assumes the ponit-of-view of the ghost-child riding up and down on a swing.

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  • UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times writes up the festival here, complete with quotes from Dante, Roth, and Tim Lucas, author of the Bava biography All the Colors of the Dark
  • You can get more information on the Mario Bava festival at the Cinematheque’s website.
  • You can keep track of fantasy film events in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Gothique website.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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