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Blu-ray Review: Two by Mario Bava

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and THE WHIP & THE BODY
by Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain

Amidst the cultural wave of boutique Blu-ray labels, Italian terror titan Mario Bava’s work has perhaps been best served, with superior, often extras-packed editions of his gloriously distinctive shock popping up on a regular basis. This year alone has been particularly rich release-wise, with robust deluxe packages of his long-lost crime potboiler RABID DOGS, the ALIEN-inspiring PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and a striking limited edition of his magnum opus BLACK SUNDAY hitting shelves either side of the pond; a fitting way to celebrate what would have been the maestro’s centenary. And now two more can join the party: his 1963 double whammy of THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and THE WHIP & THE BODY, let loose by the UK’s Arrow Video and Odeon Entertainment, respectively.
With a luxurious wealth of Bava goodness to their name already – the aforementioned RABID DOGS and BLACK SUNDAY, and Bava’s third 1963 offering, the Boris Karloff-starring portmanteau BLACK SABBATH – Arrow’s GIRL is yet another impressive string to the companies bow. The quality of the film’s presentation is top-end: Though not quite free from the odd scratch and occasional frame movement, by and large the 2K HD master lovingly struck from the film’s fine grain interpositive – and, partially, internegative – is incredibly pleasing on the eye.
As well as porting over the three key special features from Anchor Bay’s solid 2007 boxset – Bava biographer Tim Lucas’ scholary commentary; a nice nine minute interview with co-star John Saxon; and Italian horror expert Alan Jones’ breezy introduction – Arrow also throw the snappy ‘All About the Girl’ featurette into the supplementary mix; a twenty minute or so appreciation of the film featuring Jones, and filmmakers Richard Stanley (robo-killer thriller HARDWARE) and Luigi Cozzi (goofy Video Nasty CONTAMINATION). Better still, however, is their inclusion of the equally nicely mastered alternative American cut of the film, retitled EVIL EYE by distributor AIP. Despite being just as entertaining, EVIL EYE is, of course, no match for Bava’s intended Italian language version; even if the director himself was unsatisfied with the end result.
THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a fluffy murder mystery; a Hitch-cocktail of suspense, thrills and gallows humour as a young tourist (Letícia Román) finds herself at the centre of a decade old set of serial killings. And though, as Bava once exclaimed, it’s wholly preposterous, as a technical masterclass it’s unbeatable; a sumptuously shot pulse-pounder, with Bava’s prowling camera and innovative accent on slick, macabre and violent imagery laying the groundwork for the myriad of gialli that would follow – a genre Bava himself would refine the next year with BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, and later re-work with slasher progenitor A BAY OF BLOOD.
With THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH being widely acknowledged as the first giallo, as author Troy Howarth suggests in his insightful liner notes for Odeon’s THE WHIP & THE BODY, WHIP too could belong to that genre with its overt luridness and mystery-themed narrative. Regardless, Odeon finally gives the film the love it deserves following years of showing up on TV in a washed out, soulless full screen print. The HD clarity is nothing short of astounding, perfect for what is, again, one of Bava’s most beautifully lensed films; from the familiar Anzio-based coastal sequences, to the lush, shadowy textures of the castle interior; dripping with atmosphere and melodrama.
Often – incorrectly – criticized for its supposed languid pacing, really it is here where Bava truly excels, delivering a slow-burning escalation of terror as the ghost of a sadistic nobleman (the immortal Christopher Lee) terrorises his family following his death. With cast and crew all credited with English pseudonyms, the film betrays producer-led aspirations of fitting alongside the gothic vogue of Hammer and the Corman-Poe cycle; Bava, however, may well have surpassed them all.
Just as he did on Arrow’s GIRL, Tim Lucas is present for Odeon’s talk-track duties, the Video Watchdog editor having re-recorded his commentary from VCI’s fourteen year old region 0 NTSC disc in the wake of his knowledge expanding friendship with the film’s lead, Daliah Lavi. It’s another typically comprehensive and rewarding listen. Elsewhere, Odeon have included an engaging and detailed twenty-two minute overview of the film by film historian Jonathan Rigby, and a leisurely forty-five minute conversation with Lee, taken from the the ‘British Legends of Stage & Screen’ series. It may not be quite as lavish as Arrow’s GIRL, but Odeon’s WHIP is every bit as vital for students of spaghetti scares and connoisseurs of charismatic classic horror.
Snap ’em up.

THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH DELIRIUM REVIEW 8/10
THE WHIP & THE BODY DELIRIUM REVIEW 8/10

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: SHOCK WAVES

By Jerry Smith
As far as zombie films go, if you’ve seen one, you’ve just about seen them all. With the exception of the original trilogy from Romero, a Fulci film or two and various other horror auteurs who have given breaths of fresh air into the zombie film subgenre, the flesh-eating undead have slowly crept through enough movies to fill the Grand Canyon, and very few do anything daring or unique. Ken Wiederhorn’s 1977 film SHOCK WAVES (aka DEATH CORPS) is not only that breath of fresh air that so many other zombie films fail at providing, but it’s just a damned good horror film in general, and the subject of Blue Underground’s newest HD release.
Beginning its tale with the finding of Rose (Brooke Adams from the 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), a dehydrated sole survivor of a mysterious attack, SHOCK WAVES establishes a mystery of wanting to know what happened, before providing an explanation that is truly one of the most original takes on the zombie film of all time. While aboard a small (and run down) commercial boat filled with a few other passengers, Rose and the others become stranded after a series of events, with everything from the ship’s captain (the late John Carradine) being less of leader and more of a grumpy old man, to engine failure and to top it all off, a massive (and somewhat invisible) ship causing them to wreck their boat.
When the morning approaches, and the gang http://www.buyambienmed.com/buy-ambien/ discovers the captain’s dead body floating through the water, it’s obvious that danger is soon coming. When the stranded passengers discover an old hotel, inhabited only by a recluse (played by Van Helsing himself, Peter Cushing), with a Nazi flag hung nearby. Almost directly after coming into contact with the reclusive old man, a group of undead Nazi zombies rise from the deep waters, murdering the passengers in interesting ways.
What sets SHOCK WAVES so far apart from every other zombie film, is how original it is, with its undead being so very different than any other take on the filmic ghoul. These zombies aren’t interested in flesh or brains and walking at a slow pace, they’re methodical and cunning, slowly stalking their prey before rising from the waters and taking the individual out. Eerie stuff…
The HD transfer is exactly what one would hope it to be, cleaned up, but not to excessively. It looks great in HD, but there’s still that grain and “film” look to it, making for a viewing experience that feels authentic. As far as supplemental material goes, there’s an impressive amount of new interviews with everyone from producer/cinematographer Reuben Trane, to stars Adams and Luke Halpin to Composer Richard Einhorn. Blue Underground never skimps on their releases, and SHOCK WAVES is yet another great release from them and is, in this critic’s opinion, an exceptional treatment of one of the five best zombie films of all time.
DELIRIUM REVIEW: 8/10

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