Art Imitating Art

As I watched Danger: Diabolik, I thought that hitchhiking scene looked very similar to something from a Heavy Metal comic strip from my degenerate youth. Not a direct copy, but a similar idea.DD-HM

Today I was fortunate to get a DVD copy of Diabolik through interlibrary loan, with commentary from Tim Lucas and John Phillip Law. Lucas points out a relationship between the placement of the jewels on Eva’s skin and a painting by Rene Magritte. The painting is titled “The Drop of Water” which has a Bava connotation.Untitled 11

Also included on the DVD is the Beastie Boys video for Body Movin’, a Danger: Diabolik spoof/homage that had somehow completely escaped my notice all these years:

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bavafridaymornings: Kill, Baby….Kill!

The great Paul Bond and I did another installment of the bavatuesdays film festival, which means we are on a three week roll after a long hiatus. I’m hoping we can move off Google Hangouts for this coming Thursday’s episode of Danger: Diabolik (1968), but we’ll see if dreams can come true. Once again the conversation was a blast, and we covered a lot of ground as Paul notes here. Kill, Baby….Kill! is Bava’s homage to Hitchcock‘s Vertigo as well as a return to earlier themes he explored in Black Sunday (1960), but this time in color and with a particularly counter-cultural frame (at least that’s my argument). Paul and I also discussed how much this film reminded us of Kubrick‘s The Shining (1980) in terms of spatial disorientation and creepy ghosts of young girls. That last bit was inspired by Rob Ager’s brilliant video essay on spatial impossibility in The Shining.

Below are links to the various moments we talk about throughout the episode. Some of the scenes are included in the episode, but given the entire film is on YouTube I figured I’d take a little time and share each moment in the film we discuss at some length. In fact, this is a practice I want to try and do more when the film is available online, particularly for episodic film discussions like this. Anyway, that’s another bava in the box!

1:00: Opening titles

Kill, Baby....Kill! titles

15:36: The swing shot

Paul Bond’s GIF of the swing shot from Kill, baby….Kill!

23:11: Melissa appears at the window to the innkeeper’s daughter
Kill, Baby....Kill! Melissa Window

26:05: Ruth whips the innkeeper’s daughter

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 5.29.35 AM

38:15: Melissa greets the coroner followed by the disorientating staircase

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 5.28.50 AM

59:23: Burgemeister Karl’s exit
Kill, Baby....Kill! Melissa Wardrobe

109:55: The coroner chases himself

Kill, Baby....Kill! Coroner chasing himself

1:16:57: Mario Bava’s homage to vertifo

Kill, Baby....Kill! Staircase screenshot

Posted in Hitchcock, Kill Baby Kill, Kubrick, mario bava, movies, The Shining, Vertifo | Tagged | Leave a comment

Friday Morning Bava Breakfast

swinging

We had a morning edition of the BavaFilmFest today, discussing Kill, Baby… Kill!. I said a little about the Hitchcock connection before, but today Jim brought up similarities to The Shining which hadn’t even occurred to me, being as dense as I am. He also brought in some of Andrew Forgrave’s Gilliamized GIFs. We also had a good discussion of some of the visual and cultural themes that Bava is working with.

Next week, we’ll dig deep deep down with Danger Diabolik.

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bavathursdays: Planet of the Vampires

Paul Bond and I are rolling again with the Mario Bava film festival. This week we discussed Bava’s only foray into science fiction: Planet of the Vampires (1965). If nothing else, watch this film for the first 18 minutes of leather-clad, gravitationally challenged, analog scifi magic. I have a soft spot in my heart for this film because it’s my first exposure to Bava. I picked this film up in the mid-90s on a lark at a variety store in Borough Park, Brooklyn. After watching the first 18 minutes when the groovily-outfitted crew gets pulled onto the mysterious planet I was sold. I loved the offbeat pacing and analog scifi aesthetic. I mean check out this control panel, it could be something from a 1960s VW bug:

This discussion went smoothly, and we’re starting to dig deeper into to some of the larger themes that recur in Bava’s films thanks to Paul. What’s more, it’s hard to resist the similarities between POTV and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) as well as John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), and we covered this at some length. This was a fun discussion, and I think we got the hang of using Google Hangouts to share our screen, play scenes, and generally share the media we are talking about. And while the quality of the final video is pretty rough, I find it hard to argue with how easy it is do something like this with no overhead.

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The Dead Eyes of Dr. Dracula

dr draculaNext in line on the Bava film fest is Kill, Baby… Kill! - Operazione paura (Operation Fear) in Italian, and known in Germany as Die Toten Augen Des Dr. Dracula (The Dead Eyes of Dr. Dracula). Bava’s titles frequently played off of other films of the day. The American title is reminiscent of Russ Meyer, which is bizarre and misleading, if it was intentional. The Italian title is more like a spy adventure title. Someone connected to the movie or the studio told Lucas this was because one of the actresses starred in such a film, but Lucas found no evidence to support this. The Dracula connection implied by the German title is certainly misleading, and nonexistent in the script. It seems like this kind of marketing effort would backfire, although it was probably common enough among B movies at the time that it didn’t fool many ticket buyers.

Untitled-1In all the Bava films we’ve looked at up to this point, Ubaldo Terzano had been the cameraman. Lucas spoke of his importance to the look of Bava’s films in the commentary on Blood and Black Lace. He had stopped working with Bava by the time of Kill Baby Kill, and I think it shows. There is a subtle but definite difference in the look of this movie. There are a lot of things that could account for that: budgetary pressures could impact the quality of the lighting, the type of film stock used, or the quality of the film processing. But I suspect the eye behind the camera had a part in it as well.

melissa-in-windowOne of the recurring themes we’ve seen in Bava’s work is the idea that appearances are deceiving. It manifests itself here with Ruth, the black-garbed witch who is the true hero of the story, and with Melissa, the angel in white kill baby who brings doom to whoever sees her. The part of Melissa was played by a young boy, Valerio Valeri. I’m not sure why Bava chose a male to play the character, but I think it does provide a creepiness to her appearance. You can tell by looking at her that something isn’t quite right.

feetHitchcock connection – we saw this before in The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and it’s here again in the spiral staircase in Villa Graps. Steve Kaye pointed this out before. The part of the opening scene focusing on the feet walking down the stairs is also reminiscent of the beginning to Strangers on a Train. Spiraling seems to be a theme in this movie. The camera spirals around during the opening credits, the spiral staircase, Dr. Eswai chasing himself in circles, Ruth’s talk of the circle of death at the end, all suggest the idea that what goes around comes around.

Flickr set for the week

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Monster Bash 2014 starring Barbara Steele

Monster Bash 2014

I already posted about how awesome the recent issue of Filmfax is, but I also wanted to share an advertisement from the recent issue extolling the virtues of the 2014 Monster Bash that will be held outside Pittsburgh, PA  next June (the 20th -22nd to be exact). I’ve been  subscribing to Filmfax for a spell now, and I’ve seen the ads for these festivals for some time. I’ve been hankering to go to one of them for a while, but I still haven’t fallen far enough down the geek hole to realize that ambition.

Barbara Steele

But that all might be about to change because it seems Barbara Steele, the queen of 1960s b-movie horror and long-time poster girl of this blog, is on tap for signing autographs and taking pictures. Given the unholy amount of time I’ve spent staring at images of her with spike scars on her face, I think it’s high time to meet the woman behind the “Mask of Death.” I’m imagining meeting up with my bavatuesdays film festival co-conspirator Paul Bond at the Monster Bash in less then a year so that we can get an image with and autograph from this b-movie horror film legend. I’d also love to interview her about her experience on the set of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960).

What’s more, we can also seek out Judith (“They’re coming to get you, Barbara”) O’Dea from Night of the Living Dead and Tom Savini, the gore master behind Dawn of the Dead (1978) amongst  many other films.  The legendary exploitation director Jack Hill (who Quentin Tarantino called “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”) best known for the cult classic Spider-Baby (1964) will be on hand. I’m getting excited just writing about it, but the film personalties are only part of the allure. There’s also the memorabilia! All the beautiful 1950s and 60s tangible nostalgia. And compared to all the edtech conferences I’ve attended the last seven  years it’s a bargain at $50 bucks for three days of meeting the legends, watching the films, and browsing ALL the awesome things. Anyway, I embedded the trailer below because while writing this post I have officially become a Monster Bash fanboy, I’m gonna do everything I can to attend my first full blown fan frenzy!

Posted in americana, barbara steele, fun, mario bava, Monster Bash, movies | Tagged | Leave a comment

Black Sabbath: What is Browning to Bava?

Last night Paul Bond and I resurrected our bavatuesdays film festival. We got waylaid for a month or two, but now we are back. This experiment was in service to working out the details of how we will be collaboratively teaching  our True Crime class in a distributed manner, which is set to happen in just over a month and I’ll post more about that soon. Paul has already blogged about our discussion last night, and he notes we used a Google Hangout last night to broadcast and archive our video. It pains me to say it, but it was a lot easier than our custom video kit here at UMW. I’ve not given up on the kit option,  but for the rest of the bavatuesdays festival at least, we’re going to keep experimenting with Google Hangouts. We had a few glitches due to user error, but working through those was the point of this experiment from the beginning.

Last night’s discussion was off-the-cuff and informal, which is how I like it. My theory is that while a discussion might start slow and be searching for a rhythm, when you have two people talking about something they are passionate about (in this case Mario Bava’s films) sooner or later the conversation is gonna catch its stride. And by the end of this episode I think we did just that. We talked about a wide range of topics with this film from it being the inspiration for the more famous association of the English title for the film: the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath (Paul plays with this brilliantly here). Then we got into the dramatic differences between the American version titled Black Sabbath (embedded below)

And the Italian version titled I tre volti della paura, or the Three Faces of Fear (embedded below)

The differences are myriad, from the cut scenes with Boris Karloff to the ordering of the episodes to the music to the exclusion of a lesbian relationship to the bizarre ending scene with Boris Karloff. The final scene in the Italian version (which is not in the American cut) has Karloff riding off on a horse that the camera ultimately pulls back to expose the “magic” of the filmmaking, i.e., a mechanical horse with a bunch of people circling around shaking tree branches. As Paul notes, part of the reason behind this was that the Italian producers felt the film was way too dark and this would help lighten it up. He also notes, according to Tim Lucas, this is a moment wherein Bava exposes his now trademark, barebones approach to the amazing visual effects he creates.

After watching this scene I immediately thought of the final scene of Tod Browning‘s Mark of the Vampire* (1935) which does something very similar with Bela Lugosi. During our conversation—and this is why loose conversations are awesome—I started to think Bava is not only working with a titan of that era in Karloff while making Black Sabbath, but is obviously a fan of the 1930s U.S. horror films as evidenced by Black Sunday. So if Bava has Karloff riding a mechanical horse to expose the machinations of film at the end of Black Sabbath, it might be possible he was inspired by Browning’s direction of Lugosi at the end of Mark of the Vampire. Rather than truly being a vampire, it turns out Bela Lugosi was simply acting like a vampire in order to catch the real murderer in the film. A change-up that Lugosi thought was absurd, and that has since cast doubt about the value of Mark of the Vampire as a horror film. You can see the ending scene when Lugosi steps out of character behind-the-scenes below:

Interestingly enough, like the American version of Bava’s Black Sabbath, Browning’s Mark of the Vampire was cut drastically from its original 75 minutes to 60. The unsupported theories in the Wikipedia article as to why it was cut are fascinating. One theory states the film was cut to eliminate the incestuous overtones between the count and his daughter. Wow, there was fifteen minutes of that? :) Another suggests that most of the cuts were of comic material  surrounding the maid. I want to do more research around this to see which (if any) of these theories might be true. But of all the connections with filmmakers from the monster era of the 1930s and Bava, I hadn’t really thought of Browning because his career was prematurely derailed as a result of the outcry over Freaks. But now that I think of it, Freaks made Browning one of the earliest U.S. cult directors operating on the margins of the studios. So whether Browning was an influence on Bava is not something I can say without more digging, but I am starting to see a filmic affinity.

Mark of the Vampire is in the public domain and available as a free download on the Internet Archive.

 

Posted in Black Sabbath, I Tre Volti Della Paura, mario bava, Mark of the Vampire, movies, Tod Browning | Tagged | Leave a comment

They’re back!

So we finally got back on track with the Bava film fest. I was woefully underprepared but remembered a little of what I had blogged about before. And we tried, with a couple false starts, a different recording method. I’m sure it all shows, but hey, at least we’re back.
We discussed Black Sabbath, less well known as I tre volti della paura (The three faces of fear). One of the things we brought up were the connection to the British heavy metal band, which I had touched on previously.

I totally forgot that I had some clips. We talked a little about the visual aesthetic, with this scene as an example:

That same otherworldly lighting is part of what makes this scene. The other is the expressiveness of the actress, and the way Bava captures that. Notice what happens at 1:36 to 1:40 in the clip, with the transition from the ghost’s hand to the woman’s right hand. It’s brilliant:

We talked about the use of sound. This clip features the buzzing fly and the dripping water:

We didn’t have the syncing problem that we had before, so that’s a plus, but we didn’t get enough clips and images in. We’ll do better next time.

Posted in blacksabbath, mariobava | Leave a comment

They’re back!

So we finally got back on track with the Bava film fest. I was woefully underprepared but remembered a little of what I had blogged about before. And we tried, with a couple false starts, a different recording method. I’m sure it all shows, but hey, at least we’re back.
We discussed Black Sabbath, less well known as I tre volti della paura (The three faces of fear). One of the things we brought up were the connection to the British heavy metal band, which I had touched on previously.

I totally forgot that I had some clips. We talked a little about the visual aesthetic, with this scene as an example:

That same otherworldly lighting is part of what makes this scene. The other is the expressiveness of the actress, and the way Bava captures that. Notice what happens at 1:36 to 1:40 in the clip, with the transition from the ghost’s hand to the woman’s right hand. It’s brilliant:

We talked about the use of sound. This clip features the buzzing fly and the dripping water:

We didn’t have the syncing problem that we had before, so that’s a plus, but we didn’t get enough clips and images in. We’ll do better next time.

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Radio Bava


AsaOzzyA while back I was looking through Youtube to see if anyone had done a fan video mash up of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath from the Black Sabbath album. I couldn’t find one – maybe it’s too obvious. Then I listened to David Kernohan’s FOTA Radio show, where he mixed dialogue from Twilight Zone and other sources with his drugged-out hippie dance music. I thought I’d take dialogue from Bava’s Black Sunday and mix it in with Black Sabbath to make it a kind of Asa/Ozzy duet. I guess it’s sorta like some audio assignments, Dialogue Mashup, Music Mashup, or Forced Collabo. Maybe. I thought of doing others and making it a Radio Bava show, but that might be taking it too far.

It was pretty easy to do. I used the Audacity/Soundflower trick to gat audio from the Netflix stream, and used Easy Youtube downloader plugin for Firefox to get the music. The song has long instrumental parts where I could dub in dialogue from the film. I had to amplify the dialogue quite a bit so it didn’t get drowned out, and I probably overdid it. To bring up the dialogue, I highlighted short bursts of it and used the Effects-Amplify function. I had to do it segment by segment because some parts were loud to the point where they would get clipped if amplified further. That was the tricky part.

Posted in AudioAssignments, AudioAssignments388, blacksabbath, blacksunday, ds106, ds106zone, mariobava | Leave a comment