A Bay of Blood. This has been a long time coming. With a name like Giallo Julian, you would think I’d have talked about it a lot sooner. Better late than never!
The topic in question is (of course) Giallo. The Italian sub-genre full of black-gloved killers, cherry-flavored gore, and more twists than a backstabber’s knife. Anyone can die in these flicks and, more importantly, anyone can be the culprit causing the others to die. It’s part of the fun and makes Giallo what it is! Mystery thrillers accented with copious amounts of ruthless blood-drenched slayings!
Nearly all Gialli (or “Giallos”, if you’re American like me) incorporate those listed elements, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all the same… okay, sure, there’s a good amount of them that are pretty cookie-cutter. But the ones that stand out tend to have their own spin on everything. Speaking of which…
A Bay of Blood (Directed by Mario Bava; Starring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso; 1971)
“The murder of a wealthy countess, which was erroneously deemed suicide, triggers a chain reaction of brutal killings in the surrounding bay area, as several unscrupulous characters try to take over her large estate.” – via IMDB.
A Bay of Blood! Directed by the fantastic Mario Bava! Known for such classics as Black Sunday, Planet of the Vampires, and Blood and Black Lace (which is also a Giallo). This man knew how to stretch a dollar better than anyone else, save for Roger Corman. Even then, I’d say they’re on par with each other. What makes Bava special is that even though his films are generally low budget, he took every opportunity to make them as stylish as possible. That, and he also never shied away from showing scenes as grotesque as his resources would allow.
Enough about the man, let’s talk about the movie! What is it about? Is it any good? Why is it so similar to Twitch of the Death Nerve? The short answers: murder, yes, and that’s another title used for the movie… I suppose I should elaborate on all this a bit.
This movie is pretty brutal by the standards of the early 1970’s. It predates The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I Drink Your Blood, all of the films that are widely remembered for first enacting graphic scenes of grisly violence. I’d even argue that this flick is way more violent than many of its successors. I mean, in the first ten minutes, you get TWO ruthless murders… and one of them is a crippled old woman! She gets a noose thrown around her neck, the wheelchair kicked out from under her, and is just left there to hang, slowly strangling to death. I mean… damn! What a way to start!
From there on, it becomes a “whodunit” as several characters connected to the rich elderly woman come out of the woodwork, all attempting to get her inheritance. Unfortunately for most of the crowd, one’s plan of action involves offing the rest so only they remain to collect the estate.
The flick manages to keep you guessing at the killer’s identity, mostly because every main character is an unlikable jerk with good motivation to dabble a bit in the old act of murder. This also helps with watching the cast get gruesomely slaughtered since you don’t feel too sorry for them, you know?… save for the teenagers that show up at one point, which brings up another aspect of this film.
Now, this flick is given credit for jumpstarting the “slasher” genre that became hugely popular in the 80s (Friday the 13th Part 2 even copied this scene). But this is no slasher. Not at all… there’s way too much plot.
That’s actually one of the reasons I like this flick so much, truth be told. Giallos have a reputation for storylines that are not entirely sensical, usually following “dream logic” in their narrative, focusing on style over substance. Which is fine, I think that stuff is rad! However, in this flick, Bava attempts to interweave a narrative that makes a certain amount of sense between all the hacking and slashing. Does it work? For the most part, yes, and it’s weird being able to follow along with a Giallo without having to make too many leaps in logic. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, it’s just different.
Depending where you’re at, this film may have been titled under one of many names. These include Twitch of the Death Nerve (as previously stated), Carnage, Blood Bath, and The Last House on the Left Part 2… sure, why not. This is par the course when it comes to Italian horror flicks, if you didn’t already know. It probably has something to do with distributing films to different countries. I’m not sure.
With gnarly gore, great cinematography, and that fantastic Italian dubbing we love so much, A Bay of Blood remains one of the best Gialli ever brought to the silver screen. Seriously, I’m not doing it justice by rambling about it. It well deserves a watch, which you can do digitally here or physically here. I can honestly say that no one does it quite like Bava! Until next time. Ciao, friends!