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- "If Bava had been making pictures in the United States or even England, today he would be known as the Equal of Hitchcock."
- ―Samuel Z. Arkoff
|Place of birth||San Remo, Liguria, Italy|
|Date of birth||July 31st, 1914|
|Date of death||April 27th, 1980|
|First appearance||I vampiri (1956)|
Mario Bava was an Italian film director, cinematographer, screenwriter and visual effects designer and considered by many to be one of the pioneers of gothic horror in Italian cinema. He was born the son of sculpter Eugenio Bava in the northwestern town of San Remo in the coastal region of Liguria on July 31st, 1914. As a youth, Bava was trained as a painter and assisted his father in his work shop, acquiring the insight and skills that would later serve him in his film career. During Italy's fascist epoch, Mario Bava brought his talents to bear as an effects technician and a director of photography on films such as L'avventura di Annabella and Sant'Elena, piccola isola. Bava contributed credited and uncredited work to many films at Mussolini's Cinecittá. In post-war Europe, Bava began doing second unit camera work for various projects where he developed a reputation for innovativeness and efficiency at minimal cost.
Bava's first work in the horror genre was the 1956 film I vampiri, Italy's first horror film with sound. Bava completed the picture after director Riccardo Freda departed the project. Bava also completed the directorial chores on 1959's il mostro immortale after Freda again abandoned the project. That same year, Galatea Films founder Lionello Santi approached Bava, offering him the chance to helm his own production.
Inspired by the works of Ukrianian-born Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, Mario chose to adapt Gogol's 1835 short story "Viy" into a movie. The film was titled La maschera del demonio (The Mask of Satan), or, Black Sunday and premiered on August 11th, 1960. Bava's next film was the 1963 thriller La ragazza che sapeva troppo (The Evil Eye) in which he made a cameo appearance as Nora Davis' uncle represented in a portrait that is later covered over with a sheet. Quickly following The Evil Eye was I tre volti della paura (Black Sabbath) and La frusta e il corpo (The Whip and the Flesh). The title Black Sabbath was coined by American International Pictures (who also produced the US release of Black Sunday) as an homage to the film, but also to help market Bava's work to American distributors.
In 1965, Bava directed Planet of the Vampires which, like many of Bava's later works, developed a cult following in the American market. Planet of the Vampires was an early example of blending elements of horror with the sci-fi genre and proved to be influential to later films such as Alien. In 1966, he directed Operazione paura or Kill, Baby... Kill, a film that auteur Martin Scorsese has come to regard as Bava's masterpiece. The film was also known as Curse of the Living Dead.
By the early 1970s, American theatre chain owners Stephen Minasian and Philip Scuderi established a film distribution firm known as the Hallmark Releasing Corporation, which managed to put obscure low-budget films into the public eye. Mario Bava's 1971 film Twitch of the Death Nerve was the precursor to the modern slasher film. This movie inspired producer Sean S. Cunningham, an associate of of Minasian and Scuderi's, to direct his own commercial hit Friday the 13th, arguably one of the most famous slasher films of all time.
Mario Bava was very disappointed with the distribution of some of his later films, ultimately causing him to retire in 1978 at the age of sixty-three. His 1972 film Lisa and the Devil was never picked up by a distrbutor, and was later re-edited (with new 1975 footage) into an Exorcist-clone retitled House of Exorcism in order to get released. Bava's Rabid Dogs was never released theatrically during his lifetime; the film only appeared on DVD in the late 1990's, re-edited a bit with some new footage, as Kidnapped.
Mario Bava passed away in Rome, Italy on April 25th, 1980 at the age of sixty-five. His work and his legacy have influenced a generation of film makers and he is considered a respected artist and craftsman of the horror genre.
Body of work Edit
Notes & Trivia Edit
- Mario Bava was forty-six at the time he started directing films.