Archive for Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark

Venus Envy

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by dcairns


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.

Disneyland Blue

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2008 by dcairns


I had to show an example of this particular colour in the Bava palette. While it’s probably correct to call it Prussian Blue, and while one can imagine Erich Von Stroheim looking good in it with matching plume and sash, and while you can also see it in Tashlin and Jerry Lewis films shot in Gorgeous Lifelike Colour By Deluxe, I submit that Walt Disney and Tinkerbell totally OWN THIS COLOUR.

Cinematographer and director Mario Bava also had the use of it, as shown here in ESTHER AND THE KING, because he had All The Colors Of The Dark.

“That’s the kind of window faces look in at!”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 3, 2007 by dcairns


Still from Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH (yes, that’s where the band got their name from).

Reading from right to left (I’m still in Japanese mode):

Boris Karloff IS Kurt Vonnegut Jnr, somehow.

A Scary Child seemingly strayed in from VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (“You’re not thinking of atomic energy. You’re thinking of…a brick wall!”)

Some woman.

I love how they all have totally different lighting, and seem out of scale with each other and totally disconnected, like paper cut-outs. Which is actually possible: Bava would use pictures cut from magazines to stand in for anything he couldn’t afford for real, and he was such a great special effects man, and his regular images were so uncanny anyway, that the trick was never obvious. I think, though, that here he has managed the even greater trick of making a real, simple image, look impossible and wrong.

Another trick of scale: Tim Lucas’ magisterial new book, MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK —

— is so vast that you can never open it at the same page twice.

— contains secret passages, unread by human eye for centuries.

— reproduces Bava’s trademark hues, Disney Blue and Emerald City Green, with the intensity of madness.

Barbara Steele (she of the fifty-foot eyeballs) was purportedly tricked into believed Bava had invented a device that enabled him to film THROUGH an actor’s clothing, to capture magical images of Stealth Nudity. If we were to train this Nude Lens on Mr. Lucas’ book, we would instantly pierce the Veil of Reality and plunge headlong into the kaleidoscopic ghost-vortex known only as The Olderness.

Dr. James Xavier: I’m blind to all but a tenth of the universe.
Dr. Sam Brant: My dear friend, only the gods see everything.
Dr. James Xavier: My dear doctor, I’m closing in on the gods.

(From X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES, Roger Corman)

Order Tim Lucas’s mega-magnus opus from


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