Editrix Note: Final Girl chose A Bay of Blood as the August 2013 Film Club choice. Here’s my retrofitted entry!
So I’m back from my Bloody Birthday Vacation. New Jersey is about a gazillion degrees hotter than I left it and I miss the Poconos already. At least it cools down at night there. On the plus side, my mom has Netflix streaming. I spent four glorious nights watching the most random, obscure horror movies I could find. Can I just say that it’s a chore and a half finding good horror on Netflix streaming? Sure, they have a bunch of recent titles and they probably have the entire Asylum catalogue. But they have no Fulci and only one Argento picture. I was in the mood for an Italian movie so I decided to watch Mario Bava’s 1971 movie A Bay of Blood. In the grand Italian tradition of giving your movie a dozen different titles, it’s also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve (My favorite), Last House on the Left–Part II, and Bloodbath Bay of Death.
This movie was clearly from a time when movie poster art was actually an art and not photoshopped closeups of actors. This poster tells you absolutely nothing about what you’re going to get but it looks like it’ll be a fun ride.
A Bay of Blood is what’s called a “giallo” film. “Giallo” means “yellow” in Italian and this refers to the color of covers of the cheap paperback crime thrillers. I think this could be loosely analogous to pulp and noir fiction in the U.S. In Italy, giallo can refer to any kind of thriller but in the U.S. and U.K. it has different connotations. The more common definition is a psychosexual crime thriller that’s way more violent than the standard thriller in the U.S. There’s usually a psychopath wearing black leather gloves getting his stab on and there are lots of closeups on people’s eyes. The giallo style first evolved in the sixties so the genre was pretty well established by the time this movie came out.
Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) is wheelchair-bound and home alone. An assailant attacks her and hangs her. It turns out it’s her husband, Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti). Donati leaves a page of Federica’s diary as a suicide note but he in turn is stabbed by a black-gloved psycho (See?!). Real-estate developer Ventura (Chris Avram) and his lover, Laura (Anna M. Rosati) want to take possession of the bay and have plotted with Donati to kill his wife because she won’t sell. They’re going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. They just need a document signed by him. His death will really put a cramp in their plan.
Also complicating things are a group of twenty-somethings that arrive, break into Ventura’s home, and party. Was all the furniture in the seventies made out of particle-board and plastic? Renata (Claudine Auger), Donati’s daughter, and her husband, Albert (Luigi Pistilli) arrive, hoping to claim Donati’s fortune. Renata’s plans for the money are cramped when she discovers that Federica had an illegitimate son, Simon (Claudio Camaso.) It turns out that Simon killed Donati and the group of partiers. Renata is determined to get her inheritance so she and Albert kill anyone who could possibly get in their way. If the trade dispute in Star Wars Episode One was this interesting and this bloody then people would have paid attention to that movie, since this is basically a movie about a real-estate dispute. A Bay of Blood may be the only movie ever to center on real-estate and be interesting.
The ending is shocking in the sense that you won’t believe what happens to Renata and Albert. It’s pretty appropriate, though, so you won’t necessarily disapprove.
I may be a bit overenthusiastic but I think pretty much every slasher movie of the seventies and eighties was influenced by this genre. In one scene, Duke (Guido Boccaccini) and Denise (Paula Rubens), are having sex and are both impaled by spear. It just reminded me of Kevin Bacon’s death scene in Friday the 13th. I’ve heard that there are several scenes inspired by this movie in Friday the 13th II but it’s been so long since I’ve seen that movie, all I can remember is Mrs. Voorhees’ head.
What elevates this movie from the average slasher is the gorgeous cinematography and actually good acting. If you want to understand slashers, it’s recommended that you watch movies like Psycho and Peeping Tom (One of my favorites) because they form the basis for the modern slasher but I think you should have a good understanding of really good giallo and A Bay of Blood is one of the best.
Additional Notes; I added these reflections just for the Final Girl Film Club.
This movie is gorgeously shot even though it was made on the cheap. The crew ended up holding up tree branches for some scenes when characters had to look like they were running through the forest. Apparently, it was hard to keep people from laughing at this while filming.
I had never really seen a Bava movie until I watched this. My only exposure had been to the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they riffed Danger: Diabolik. Diabolik was campy but kind of cool, but A Bay of Blood is much better.
Past Film Club Entries
Children of the Corn (2009)