Directed by Mario Bava
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs A.K.A. Kidnapped was in limbo for the longest time. Near completion in the 1970's the film was abruptly stopped and seized by an Italian court following the death of the films main financier. In the mid 90's the project was finally released on DVD, an occurrence which may have helped to kick-start the format's popularity overseas.
Let's start off by taking a quick look at the film's story line.
Things aren't going well for a trio of payroll robbers. Their getaway driver has been shot, cops are in hot pursuit and they've just taken three hostages who are turning out to be a handful. What could have been a simple grab-and-go may turn deadly thanks to greed and a dark secret.
Rabid Dogs is unlike anything we've seen from Mario Bava before. In this stage of his career Bava wanted to try new routes in the movie business and this film was the perfect opportunity. Gone are the wild colors, supernatural elements and insane camera work though some staples of his previous work still remain like the sexual perversion and still shots showing the aftermath of extreme violence.
The journey of the thieves and victims is a pretty lengthy one. The slow pace and lack of action during 90% of the feature really serves to bog down the experience. Numerous comments have been made about this, and speculation of the -- if Bava had lived long enough to edit this himself we would we have seen a totally different picture -- variety abounds. That mystery may never be solved but at least fans can make the most of what we do get here.
The movie itself is not really all that deep and not much is known about any of the five characters Bava keeps cramped inside a small car throughout most of the experience. We are given a glimpse that at least one character is hiding a secret which isn't totally revealed until the last few moments of the film, but other than that, we get near nothing in terms of character development. Once again, should Bava of completed the film this too could have been a different story.
It's great that Anchor Bay is not letting Bava slip under the radar this year, which is made obvious with the simultaneous release of The Mario Bava Collection and Kidnapped on the same day. But what if anything does this new release of "the lost Bava masterpiece" contain that could set it aside from previous incarnations?
This disc certainly does have special features unlike others. Both versions of the film are here for the picking with some added goods. The original Rabid Dogs has only a new opening credits sequence added to it, but the Kidnapped version --strangely enough-- runs at about one minute shorter than Rabid, yet features added footage recently shot by producer Alfredo Leone and Mario's son Lamberto Bava. A keen eye can catch the added material on a first viewing, but for those who missed it, these scenes are pointed out in the End Of The Road: Making Rabid Dogs and Kidnapped featurette. While both versions are just as potent Rabid Dogs comes out of top because of the music alone. The score is much more upbeat and gritty to match the film as opposed to Kidnapped's more melodic tunes.
Author Tim Lucas returns to provide another commentary track for Bava's film. Lucas laid down a few very informative tracks on the first volume of The Mario Bava Collection and doesn't fail here to fill the 96 minutes with as much behind the scenes and actor information as possible. The man has done his research and isn't afraid to show it. The audience will learn everything from an actors height, career specs, recent whereabouts, and even their genital size!
The End Of The Road: Making Rabid Dogs and Kidnapped featurette does what author Tim Lucas couldn't do visually. The interviews with cast and crew can't compete with Lucas's well delivered commentary but to hear experiences direct from those involved gives a little extra push towards greatness.
All-in-all this is one hell of a release. Both versions of the film have their ups and downs but that is no reason to pass up Bava's last independent directorial project. Mario set out to prove he could reinvent himself, and it's a pity this film ended up stashed away for 23 years. He tried something new and succeeded, but sadly the rewards just got reaped a little too late.
Rest in peace Maestro.
End Of The Road: Making Rabid Dogs and Kidnapped featurette
Audio Commentary with author Tim Lucas
Mario Bava Bio
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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