Off the Map

City of Dreadful Night

The Sea of Phrenology

Smoke and Mirrors

These imaginary landscapes from Mario Bava’s HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, composited in-camera from miniatures, magazine cut-outs, and occasionally some actual life-sized live-action (tiny figures on the cliff on the right of [3]) may not be REAL, per se, but they have a physical existence beyond that of the digital landscapes of Zemeckis’ BEOWULF, and that seems to matter to me.

I hope I’m not a Luddite — I’ve used C.G.I. with pleasure in my short INSIDE AN UNCLE and the TV show INTERGALACTIC KITCHEN. But there’s a tendency to use it to tackle every problem nowadays, when maybe it’s only the right solution SOME of the time. For instance, did anybody find the computer generated bugs-crawling-under-the-skin in Stephen Sommers’ THE MUMMY half as disturbing as the bulges that traverse the body of the hapless inhabitee in Cronenberg’s SHIVERS? The difference is, one thing is incontestably THERE, in front of the camera, and the other, we know, isn’t.


I don’t think I need SAY anything to connect this post to our Nibelungen Week here at Shadowplay. A picture (or two) tells it better:

Cave canem

clan of the cave, bare

Lang’s DIE NIBELUNGEN is a magnesium-tipped arrow fired at the rooftops of epic entertainment, which overshoots and ignites a mausoleum of APOCALYPTIC GRANDEUR.

Bava’s HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD is a piece of cheeky matinee fun, with a slightly off-colour malaise lurking somewhere behind its Technicolor dioramas. Bava’s dark side always provides a subtly bitter aftertaste, while Lang’s is like swallowing one of those booby-trapped Monty Python chocolates where steel bolts shoot out through your cheeks.


6 Responses to “Off the Map”

  1. Both Bava’s Hecules in the Haunted World and Vittorio Cottafavi’s sublime Hercules Conquers Atlantis star the British bodybuilder Reg Park.

    Bava’s film, however, also features Christopher Lee as a vampire.

  2. Yes, Lee is always welcome, especially when he was so young and devilishly handsome. A shame he doesn’t have his own voice though, and that’s even more of a pity in The Whip and the Body.

    The only Cottafavi I’ve ever managed to lay hands on is The Legions of Cleopatra, in Italian without subs. Would love to see more.

  3. Cottafavi was one of the MacMahonist Gods — along with Lang, Preminger, Losey (circa Time Without Pity), Walsh and DeMille.

  4. So why has Cottafavi faded from view to the point where NONE of his stuff can be seen? Even in Italy, I could only find one lousy disc.

    Bava seems to be going from strength to strength, which is nice.

  5. Riccardo Freda needs rediscovering — lots of weird stuff going on there!

  6. Doon’t know what to say about Cottafavi’s eclipse. Bava is bigger than ever, with Tim Lcas’ book the most lavish and grandiose ever devoted to any filmmaker.

    Freda is still very much a 60’s figure, whose muse is my muse.

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