DIR: MARIO BAVA
GEN: ITALIAN GIALLO
With Blood and Black Lace, Mario Bava showcased his ruthless inventive nature through each murder in his art deco nightmare to give Giallo its singular eccentric look. In A Bay of Blood, Bava tears away from the serene colours to a grimier aesthetic with a muted colour scheme and guerilla filmmaking style. (In doing so, Bava heavily influenced the Slasher horror genre, as can be particularly seen in the Friday the 13th series, with a couple of scenes being recreated shot for shot in Part 2!). This is a gorier follow on from Bava’s previous entry in Giallo canon to compete with Argento’s heavily violent pictures. But, where Argento focused upon detective stories of isolation, Bava delivers an intriguing and sprawling film that uses its brief runtime to eschew tropes of the genre.
Much like Blood and Black Lace, there is no gentle introduction into A Bay of Blood. We are thrown into the scene of the first murder, the victim of which is the wealthy Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) who is killed in her home by the archetypical masked Giallo murderer, swiftly revealed to be her husband before he is taken out moments after by another masked figure. What follows is a twisted story of deceit and pettiness, as Federica’s surviving family members clash for control of her bay side estate.
Right from the reveal and subsequent death of the Countess’ murderer there is a palpable sense of paranoia driving A Bay of Blood as we watch the greed driven acts of brutality unfold. Bava’s outlook is undeniably bleaker than in his previous Gialli, but there is also a vicious sense of humour that unfurls as the film draws to its ridiculous conclusion. The family’s desperation to come out on top elicits intense contempt from the viewer for nearly every member, with the more violent kills acting as a sense of retribution for their meandering schemes. However, as Troy Howarth suggests in his book So Deadly, So Perverse, A Bay of Blood features characters that are almost endearing, a rarity in a genre where nearly everyone is attuned to being loathsome, disposable, or both. Howarth singles in upon the character of Paolo played by Leopoldo Trieste (who also starred in the Godfather Part 2 and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now) as the film’s sole innocent drawn into a grotesque conflict where proves to be too good-natured to survive. Another male character who subverts the Giallo confines of toxic masculinity is Luigi Pistilli’s Trieste whose spineless ineffectuality sees him in a directly contrasting role to Your Vice’s Olivero. Trieste is ruled over by his domineering wife Reneta (Claudine Auger), who masterfully switches another Giallo trope, of women predominantly as victims, on its head. Bava consistently presents the women as the driving forces in their partnerships here, showing the men as having the illusion of control but exposing their facades once the bodies start piling up.
When A Bay of Blood is running through its game it’s not hard to see why it inspired American stylistic imitation in the following decades, given its quick pace, compelling characters, and unflinching brutality. However, it's hard to ignore just how convoluted the plot becomes, as each new murder casts aside previous intertwined plot points and creates new questions with little regard for what came before. Its ending is similarly messy, with a final scene where Bava goes for broke on the dark comedy prevalent within the film. Den of Geek’s Ryan Lambie describes it as “One of the most glorious rug pulls in cinema, or a wry comment on the corrupting nature of violence”. There may be some truth in this, but it mostly feels like a sudden full stop where some explanation, without the over-expository tendencies of previous Gialli, may have been appreciated.
A Bay of Blood was never to be viewed as a piece of storytelling brilliance though, but rather as the perfect midnight movie. Driven by a knowing sense of dark humour and shocking set pieces, it’s a very fun watch that has held up well to this day. If you want to see where horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were crafted from, your hunt would best begin here.
Where to watch
Looking Back at A Bay of Blood by Ryan Lambie, featured in Den of Geek
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick is a freelance journalist working in Edinburgh, currently writing for ShortCom. He has always been interested in cinema, but developed particular obsessions for horror and Studio Ghibli. He post written reviews on his social media platforms and will soon be starting a podcast.
ABOUT NEON EYE
Neon Eye is a film production company based in Edinburgh. As well as offering a platform for these curations and an accompanying video podcast, the company also creates and produces creative films of varying forms, from documentary to drama, and commercial videos for other companies, individuals, and enterprises.