Sunday, 13 June 2010
What ive read about this film (and that ry little by the way) is that Bava only did this due to money and contract obligations. And judging by the film, i would have to agree. After seeing the vast majority of Bava's filmography, all his creativity and aesthetic trademarks are not present in this slapstick parody of the James Bond sereis. From what i gather there are two versions of this film, the Italian and the English speaking. Now, being i watched the Italian and have not seen the English speaking (and at present not able to find) i can only judge on that. The main difference apparently is that the Italian version concentrates more on the 'Chuckle Brothers/ Laural & Hardy'-esq duo Franco and Ciccio, while the English is more on Vincent Price. So with that in mind i'll move on to the plot.
Dr.Goldfoot, played by Vincent Price, is an evil scientific genius, who attempts to destroy the heads of various nations military by using robotic clones of female's he knows the generals who attempt to pull. After a couple of successful blow ups, SIC (an MI6 type secret agent agency) decides to do something about it and so they hire 2 agents Franco and Ciccio (who got into the agency by accident and were previously hotel doormen). So with the help of another agent played by singer Fabien, who's been suspended for being too attractive to the female of the species, Franco and Ciccio set out to stop Dr.Goldfoot complete his main goal of destroying the Kremlin.
Now obviously this is a Bond parody. But i found at times it was amusing, particuarly Franco and his weirdness. But because it was the Italian verison, Prices apparent performance is lost in the Italian dubbing. It is very 1960s European humour and very Benny Hill (particuarly the chase scene at the end, but a nice refelction of the period. The best i can compare it to in Bava terms is Danger:Diabloik (Bava, 1968), but only in terms of period placement and not aesthetic and innovition. I did enjoy the spaghetti western style soundtrack though.
Finding this difficult to express in Bava terms, because this film could have been made by anyone. So the term 'for completists only' seems to be the best opinion i can give it. Amazingly though it is influential, particuarly with the idea of the girl bombs which was ripped off by the Austin Powers films. It is watchable and not at all a bad film, and i would be interested in seeing the alternate English version. But overall its not a film i would fully express as a Bava incarnate.
And here's the trailer if interested.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
And so we begin....
Mario Bava's career started out as a cinematographer and special effects designer through the pre and post years of WW2. After which Mario established himself as a leading and sought after member of the Italian film industry. This leads us to I Vampiri in which originally was directed by Riccardo Freda.
Basically the story of the production pans out something like this. Freda and Bava's partnership began with Freda placing a bet with 2 producers he was friendly with that he could film a horror picture in 12 days. The Italian film industry at that time had not produced a horror film since the silent era, but due to Freda's insistence and knowing Bava's mastery in special effects and more importantly his quickness, Freda was able to come up with a basic story the next day and convinced the producers it could be done.
So in a matter of weeks, Bava and Freda began production. However, after 10 days Freda had changed his mind and demanded more time to finish the film. The producers refused and Freda left the film, leaving Bava the opportunity to complete the film in a whole 2 days, which he did. This would bode well for Bava establishing himself as a reliable and quick member of the industry and so Bava's directorial career began.
Its easy to see the influence the film has on Bava's preceding films. The mood is Gothic and expressionist, much like Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963)which shares similar aesthetic and tone. But it would also be an early influence on the Giallo with the use of the black gloved 'killer' in the film, particularly the way Bava chose to film him. This to me is probably the defining film in Bava's early career that established the aesthetic he would later embrace.
As for the plot....
The film is set in 1950s Paris, France (Freda used this setting to keep the plot far enough away from Italy for the producers to accept his proposal). A mad scientist is employed by a Duchess with the task to keep her forever young. Of course, this is without its consequences, as the mad scientist uses a doped up maniac to find young women to drain their blood to transfer it to the Duchess (hence the title). A young reporter is assigned to investigate the murders happening around Paris and thus leads him to the Duchess.
The use of expressionist camera, lighting techniques and the special effects is what stands out in this film. The plot is a bit blase - but really what do you expect from a film produced on a bet??? Whats interesting is that this film was released a full year before Hammer embraced this aesthetic with their release of Cushing and Lee's Frankenstein and Dracula films. This is not to say that this film is a direct influence on them, because these are obviously influenced by the early German Expressionist films in the early part of the century as well as the Universal monster movies released in the 1930s out of the States.
Overall this film is rather enjoyable, but more for its techniques than the plot and what have you. But if you love Bava as much as i do then its worth watching as its not a bad film at all, just not one of his best. Here's a link to a little 3 min clip of Bava explaining the way he used a technique in the film. Its in Italian and subtitled in French, but you can still get the jist. I would add a trailer, but there isn't one, so this'll have to do.