LA VENERE D’ILLE is an awkward movie to consider for this blogathon — for one thing, it’s not so much a movie as an episode of an anthology show called I Giochi del Diavolo. For another, is it late Mario Bava (his last directorial credit) or early Lamberto? I’ve been inclined to refer to Lamberto as “the idiot son” on occasion but this is unfair — his uncredited co-direction of SHOCK resulted in some of that film’s most memorable moments. I’m just not sure, from the samples I’ve seen, if he’s ever managed a solo effort that could compare to his fathers’.
Since Bava Snr crept into film directing rather reluctantly, forced to pick up the slack when Riccardo Freda started taking longer and longer siestas (in an effort to compel his talented but reticent collaborator into the director’s chair), his first movies were really collaborations, so it’s fitting that his last ones should be too. SHOCK is a twisty, knotty, surreal affair which only suffers from a cheesy synth score and a rather dull suburban home location — Bava worked better with more baroque accompaniment, and I prefer what he did in the studio to his location-set thrillers (though the robustly unconvincing ways he combines the two are among the particular pleasures of his oeuvre).
The curtains Daria Nicolodi is filmed through seem to prefigure the flames licking around Venus in the image up top.
The most intriguing part of LA VENERE, which deals with an ancient bronze statue of Venus, possibly possessing supernatural powers, which is unearthed on a Portuguese country estate, is that it’s barely a horror movie at all. It’s bucolic fantastique, and it takes a certain effort from the Bavas — shambling nocturnal handheld shots inserted more or less at random — to try and amp up the suspense to suggest a horrific denouement may be en route from somewhere or other. Stretched out to the length of its slot, the show suffers a bit from a passive protagonist and not enough plot going on to occupy our attention, but the finale is very satisfying — it might have played even better without the directorial hints of sinister goings-on, as a purely left-field plunge into terror.
Visually, the film does feel like piecework, alternating from handheld to tripod-n-tracks from moment to moment. This isn’t necessarily the result of two directors sharing the workload, however — it might merely be the result of shortages of time forcing a more fast-and-loose shooting method in some scenes. Impossible to say without doing the research. I should buy the e-book version of Tim Lucas’s All the Colors of the Dark, which no doubt provides chapter and verse. Maybe for Christmas!
A minor work compared to the v. interesting SHOCK and the savage RABID DOGS, let alone LISA AND THE DEVIL which really serves as a madcap summary of all Bava’s film-making concerns.
Mario Bava : All the Colors of the Dark or better yet.