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Mario Bava: The Baroque Beauties of Italian Horror

August 4 - 29

"What interests me is the fear experienced by a person alone in their room. It is then that everything around him starts to move menacingly, and we realize that the only true ‘monsters’ are the ones we carry in ourselves.” — Mario Bava, from "The Haunted World of Mario Bava" by Troy Howarth

Mario Bava: The Baroque Beauties of Italian Horror is a series of nine suspenseful, darkly erotic, stylishly eccentric horror films by Italian director Mario Bava (1914-1980). Newly released in DCP, the films include new digital restorations of KILL, BABY…KILL and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. Bava was a pioneer in launching the Italian genre known as “giallo” (films based on pulp fiction) and brought an incomparably baroque vision to the horror film.

The son of an early Italian cinematographer, Bava studied art before entering his father’s profession. Exhibiting great talent as a cameraman, he worked for directors including Raoul Walsh and Jacques Tourneur, and was known for his ability to create special effects. He directed a number of short films in the 1940s, and some sequences of feature films for which he was the cameraman in the 1950s, but it was the abrupt departure of a director from the obscure horror film CALTIKI in 1960 that gave Bava his first directorial credit on a feature. The grateful producer subsequently bankrolled BLACK SUNDAY (or THE MASK OF SATAN), Bava’s first solo effort as director.

BLACK SUNDAY is a remarkable debut film, shot in velvety black-and-white. It ranks among Bava’s finest work, and already foreshadows his interest in gothic horror, and in exploiting literature, mythology, and the rituals of Catholicism to evoke the dark side of the human spirit. All of Bava’s films were low-budget, yet he succeeded in crafting evocative, richly imaginative films utilizing his superb skills as a cameraman and lighting technician to overcome his poverty of means. In color films including BLACK SABBATH and KILL, BABY…KILL, his use of a palette not usually associated with the horror genre is highly original, as is his hallucinogenic approach to art direction.

Bava has long been an influential cult figure, but just how influential has remained a secret due to the fact that his imaginative low-budget work was drastically altered in U.S. distribution and often limited to the drive-in circuit. Yet his brilliance shone through, and his films had a direct influence on the work of others. Directors including Dario Argento, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Tim Burton, and Quentin Tarantino have paid homage to him in interviews and in their films.

In appreciating Bava’s work, it’s important to realize that his films were made quickly on small budgets, sometimes with actors who had no language in common. In this, they anticipated today’s European co-productions. As was customary with all Italian films of the time, they were post-dubbed — meaning the dialogue was not synchronously recorded, but dubbed in a sound studio later — so that these films have no “original language” version in the usual sense.

— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming

Special thanks to Jonathan Hertzberg, Kino Lorber Films, and Bret Berg, American Genre Film Archive.

Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Bava film on any Saturday this month, and get a ticket for the second Bava film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.)