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Blu-ray Review: Four Mario Bava Films from Kino Lorber

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If there was ever a director who should’ve been part of the team behind HBO’s Tales from the Crypt it was Mario Bava. Murder, madness, and mayhem were all the rage when the show aired back in 1989 but sadly, Bava had passed nine years too soon. Kino Lorber has recently been churning out a few of his greatest hits on Blu-ray and one in particular (Hatchet for the Honeymoon part of Kino’s Redemption line) seems to have at least a few things in common with the Crypt episode Lover Come Hack to Me. There also seems to be a lot of mommy issues to deal with in Hatchet and Lisa and the Devil showing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho influencing filmmakers more than just stateside.

The rest of the Mario Bava Collection includes Black Sunday (The Mask of Satan) – featuring witches and vampires – and a double feature disc including two versions of one film: the superior original cut of Lisa and the Devil (featuring Telly Savalas as the Devil himself) along with its awful alternate cut retitled The House of Exorcism. The latter shows how you can take a masterpiece, chop it to pieces, and dumb it down beyond words. Whatever was going through producer Alfredo Leone’s (“directing” under the name Mickey Lion) head when he decided to interject the original with an all new subplot involving demon possession and throw in some out-of-place nudity we’ll never know. He claimed they needed to have the film “make sense” but all they did was make it not only more confusing, but unwatchable as well.

All four films come mastered in high definition from 35mm elements and look pretty incredible all things considered. Black Sunday fares the best which comes as no surprise considering it’s the only black and white film. Hatchet for the Honeymoon looks really good but suffers from the same things that get in the way of Lisa and Exorcism’s transfers. Hairs, strobing, nicks and scratches, and random fuzziness rear their heads, but there are also scenes with incredible clarity that make you wonder how some of it looks so much better than the rest. All four of the films look better than they ever have and Black Sunday is a slam dunk.

Bear in mind that none of the films have been fully restored, but thankfully the 35mm prints used are in better shape than they have any right to be. They also sound pretty great too, aside from Hatchet sounding like the audio track was dubbed off of an old LP. Each come with uncompressed PCM 2.0 tracks and all four commentary tracks from Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. The only other special features are the film’s trailers with Black Sunday getting a TV spot thrown in for good measure. The House of Exorcism gets its own audio commentary featuring star Elke Sommer and producer Alfredo Leone and an 18 minute interview with Bava’s son Lamberto called “Bava on Bava: An Interview with Lamberto Bava” brought to us by Daniel Gouyette.

Gothic, atmospheric, and beautifully photographed, these Mario Bava Blu-rays are here to prove he still deserves the praise received for his body of work. Considering he also worked as cinematographer (Hatchet and Black Sunday) and wrote (Lisa, Sunday, and Hatchet) his own films, there aren’t very many directors that can lay claim to having so much control behind the scenes. Maybe this is why his films are still considered classics, masterpieces, or both and still being watched today. All four are now available to own, along with Baron Blood that was featured in my Kino Lorber Holiday Gift Guide and are highly recommended for anyone looking to further their cinematic education.

Cover art courtesy Kino Lorber

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.