Mario Bava Collection, The (DVD)

The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 DVD Box Set (click for larger image)Starring John Saxon, Mark Damon, Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Boris Karloff

Directed by Mario Bava

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Where can you possibly start when speaking about the great Mario Bava? The godfather of Italian horror has garnered as much praise as he has controversy over the years, and for far too long it seemed as if his films were destined for less than stellar DVD treatments. However, times … they are a changing. The Mario Bava Collection: Volume 1 kicks off an all new high for Bava fans, and hopefully this stellar package will even serve to introduce him to an all new audience as well.

Black Sunday

Servants of the dark lord, Satan, have waited hundreds of years to return to the land of the living. With just a few drops of blood the beautiful and deadly Eva awakens from her tomb and plots to take the life of a certain young woman to regain her full power. Will true love be enough to stop the deadly forces from beyond the grave?

Here it is! Mario Bava’s directorial debut that left its mark on many horror films and fans to come. This international version of Black Sunday features insane Gothic visuals and quality gore. Everything from the opening sequence all the way down to the final burning moments will send your flesh crawling. If you’ve never experienced this classic you need to click the link below and order this ASAP! And not just because Barbara Steele manages to remain one of the sexiest women in horror even 47 years after this films original release. Bravo!

Black Sabbath

The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 DVD Box Set (click for larger image)The legendary Boris Karloff is our guide to three macabre tales of murder, revenge and the supernatural in Bava’s 1963 color feature Black Sabbath. This film is split up into three separate features that are dramatically different from one another entitled: The Telephone, The Wurdalak and The Drop of Water. As much as Bava could scare us with a black and white film, he becomes even more potent with the use of color. By today’s standards the use of many neon lights and psychedelic effects would seem foolish but in the hands of the right master they help to create some wondrously ghoulish sights. Not only are these stories a treat for the eyes but they also hold a special something for the male viewers. Though the female form is not really shown in its full beauty, the audience gets just enough of it to make the brow sweat and the heart pump a little faster. Please keep the corpse lady from The Drop of Water segment far away from me though. Just as Steele continues to be a beauty, this wretch continues to frighten immensely and is one female form that even I never want to get close to. This story is easily the most frightening of the bunch and dare I say it, possibly one of the scariest things Bava has ever put to film.

Kill, Baby … Kill!

When your only daughter is accidentally killed while chickenshit villagers look on should you just go about your life and mourn? No, of course not! You need to bring that little kid back from the dead to wreak havoc on the weak minded, superstitious citizens of your secluded little town damn it! Kill, Baby … Kill! features Bava’s best use of lighting and color. Sadly this was his last Gothic film before moving on to other genres. The atmosphere he creates with both real locations and sets are stunning in every aspect. There may not be a ton of gore, or any blood at all for that matter, but the pure wickedness of the film’s main villains helps to carry the feeling of dread all the way through to the credits.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Knives Of The Avenger

The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 DVD Box Set (click for larger image)These two films don’t exactly fit into the horror genre. The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a Hitchcock-esque send-up with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that is more humorous than it is thrilling. The scenery is beautiful but something about it just doesn’t hit the right spot for this horror fan. Knives Of The Avenger is another case of a out of genre experience; an excellent film in it’s own right, this Viking epic strums all the chords of the great chest-pounding Hercules films of old but some horror fans might not feel the same way.

As far as extras go … it would be hard to ask for anything more. Though obviously there are no interviews with Bava, there are an abundance of bonus features for fans to sink their teeth into. Included on most of the DVD’s are both the international and U.S. trailers for each film. A word of caution should follow as the international trailers tend to be lengthy and spoil quite a bit of their respective films for newcomers to Bava’s work. Also to be noted are the way in which the US trailers tone down the violence and sexuality of some of the films. Were naked backs and legs really that risque in the 1960s?

Oddly enough, despite the inclusion of five films, there’s only two featurettes to be found in this set. While the text bio of Mario Bava is compelling in its own way, it leaves a void that should be filled with a video presentation of the maestro’s achievements and life. Maybe next time. Be that as it may, the two featurettes that do appear in this collection are not to be missed. A Life in Film: An Interview with Mark Damon and Remembering The Girl with John Saxon give us a look back at what it was like working with Mario Bava. Mark Damon found his way out of the Hollywood rat-race thanks to Italian cinema, which by the 1960’s was a power house that was putting out more films than we were here in the states. Now, it is not really because of Damon’s experience with Bava that makes this featurette interesting, it is what he did after he finished acting that is especially note worthy. Damon went on to produce some of the most memorable erotic films of the 80’s and 90’s: 9 – 1/2 Weeks, Wild Orchid, TV’s Red Shoe Diaries, and Short Circuit. What? I’m the only one that found that film sexy? Johnny 5 was kind of hot.

The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 DVD Box Set (click for larger image)Remembering The Girl is a bit more on target while centering itself around John Saxon’s experience making Mario’s Hitchcock-like thriller The Girl Who Knew Too Much. With this short we finally get a look into what it was like working for the maestro and the hard work Saxon put into learning a whole new language just to get the job done. It certainly paid off though as Saxon launched quite a healthy career after playing the suave doctor in Bava’s last black & white film.

Where this set really hits the nail on the coffin is by including commentaries, by Mario Bava buff author Tim Lucas, on three films: The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Black Sunday and Black Sabbath. Lucas is a better source of information of Bava’s works than all the Internet combined. Everything from the tiniest detail to the most trivial of plot connection never escapes his carefully scripted commentary. Scripted? Well, the delivery sounds more like someone reading than just commenting on the film before them, but that is a small price to pay to have such a wide array of knowledge poured into a films audio track. It is just a shame that all five films didn’t have a track from him.

The Mario Bava Collection is an outstanding source for all that was right and great in the Italian horror genre. These incredible films have finally gotten the love they deserve with a quality box set that doesn’t skimp on special features or even box art to save a buck. If this is any indication of future collections of Bava’s work then Italian horror fans will definitely be pleased.

Special Features

US Trailers
International Trailers
Talent Bios
TV Spots
Radio Spots
English Subtitles
Commentaries with author Tim Lucas
Poster and Still Galleries
Remembering The Girl w/ John Saxon featurette
A Life in Film: An Interview with Mark Damon

Film Collection:

5 out of 5

Special Features:

4 1/2 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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