One of the most influential 'genre' directors of all time, Mario Bava was responsible for some of the finest seminal works of horror to come out of the golden age of the Italian film industry. A master of his craft, his influence is still felt today and even years after his death people continue to discover and re-discover his films. Anchor Bay Entertainment has once again compiled a slew of entries from the man's filmography in its aptly titled The Mario Bava Collection Volume Two boxed set release. Image Entertainment previously released a few of these films and the Kidnapped disc in this collection is identical to the single disc release from Anchor Bay from last year, but a few improved transfers and new extra features make this set worth a look for those not opposed to the double dip. Here's a look at the set...
Five Dolls For An August Moon (1969):
Obviously influenced by Ten Little Indians, the film follows a group of ten different people all brought together to take part in an island retreat held by a strange, and very well to do businessman. One of the guests is a brilliant inventor named Gerry Farrell (William Berger) who has created a resin that could revolutionize a certain manufacturing process. While he's on the island, Gerry is constantly harassed and pressured by certain men to sell the formula to his host. Substantial checks are passed his way, and there's no small amount of pressure put on him but Gerry doesn't want to sell, end of story.
Meanwhile, the ten men that have been brought to the island, many of whom have brought their respective wives and/or girlfriends along for the trip, are indulging themselves, creating more tension and pressure and soon there's quite a bit of bickering and fighting going on amongst the group. When one of the servants turns up dead, the group starts to realize that something might be amiss and this is compounded by the fact that they're completely cut off from the mainland. Soon the bodies start piling up, the corpses are being stashed in the freezer, and the surviving members of the group have to figure out who among them is the murderer.
A sort of giallo-lite, Five Dolls For An August Moon is a decent Agatha Christie knock-off even if it doesn't look like Bava's heart was really in it. Don't expect the lush stylistic lighting and thick, rich atmosphere seen in films like Blood And Black Lace or even Bay Of Blood. The film looks good but compared to some of his better giallo's it is rather tame. It's nice to see the always lovely Edwige Fenech show up in a supporting roll and the score courtesy of composer Piero Umiliani is quirky and interesting but the murders are tame (they happen off screen and we are shown only the aftermaths, though this can sometimes be enough) and the story derivative. Bava does play up the sex appeal of the female cast members very effectively and the film is certainly framed nicely but it's obvious that he made this one quickly as it just doesn't feel as inspired as some of his better known pictures.
Ultimately, Five Dolls For An August Moon is stylish enough to look good (the opening scene with the zooming towards Edwige is a stand out scene) and suspenseful enough to be interesting - it just isn't particularly original or inspired. It's a good movie that unfortunately has to pale in comparison to some of Bava's truly great movies. It's enjoyable and the director's talents shine through where they can, but the characters are shallow and the story is fairly predictable.
Roy Colt And Winchester Jack (1970):
One of a few westerns that Bava would be involved with throughout his career, the film follows the titular Roy Colt (Brett Halsey) and his outlaw partner, Winchester Jack (Charles Southwood). After an argument, Roy decides to leave his life behind and start over, this time going legit. He winds up taking a job as the sheriff of Carson City and ultimately winds up in possession of a map revealing the location of some Native American treasure. Of course, everyone wants a shot at this map and Colt has to uphold the law and protect the peace, all the while dealing with a prostitute (Marilu Tolo) accused of murder and a gang of murderous bandits lead by a man known only as 'The Reverend' (Teodoro Corra).
On the surface, Roy Colt And Winchester Jack is little more than a simple Italian spoof of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid with a few nods towards Leone's films thrown in for good measure. Bava does show a knack for comedy here, however, and a few inspired shots (cactus forming horns behind a certain character or the sun coming through the eye of a bleached skull) remind us who is behind the camera. Some fun slapstick comedy and oddly placed poop jokes makes the picture enjoyable enough in a goofy sort of way but the script doesn't exactly set the world on fire.
Brett Halsey, returning after his stint in Four Times That Night, is charming enough as Roy Colt but Charles Southwood is too hammy to help things much. Marilu Tolo is easy on the eyes and plenty fun to look at. She's quite decent in her supporting role, and Teodoro Corra is actually quite good as the malicious bandit leader. Unfortunately the film looks pretty drab when contrasted against many of Bava's other films. While much of this obviously has to do with the fact that the film looks like it was shot outdoors on location, it's likely that given the fact that Bava wasn't really all that into making westerns that the director just wasn't as inspired as he had been and would be again on other films. It's a film that is certainly worth a look for western fans or established Mario Bava fans but not particularly the best place to start for those new to the director or the genre.
Bay Of Blood (1971):
Also known as Carnage and Twitch Of The Death Nerve, Bava's Bay Of Blood is not only a really solid and fantastically bloody giallo, it's also one of the most influential horror films of the seventies.
A wealthy old countess (Isa Miranda) trapped in her wheelchair is murdered one dark and gloomy night, and her killer is then murdered himself! It turns out the killer was the countess' husband and that the body is nowhere to be found. The motive for the slaying? The countess was the sole owner of a sizeable amount of land surrounding a large bay - someone wanted it, and she wouldn't sell. Shortly after her death, four teenagers show up in the area to party on the grounds once owned by the countess. They start off having a great time until slowly but surely someone begins slaughtering them one by one.
Noted as the film responsible for launching the slasher film craze and an undeniable influence on Sean Cunningham's Friday The 13th, the film is famous (or maybe notorious is a better word) for it's creative kill scenes. Brigitte Skay returns after her stint in Four Times That Night to have her throat whacked with a machete. A man and a woman are punctured by a spear while having sex in the bedroom (a scene blatantly swiped later on in Friday The 13th Part 2) and one unlucky man gets a machete blow to the face. Certainly gorier than any other film Bava would make, Bay Of Blood's murder set pieces are aided considerably by the inventive special effects work of Carlo Rambaldi and an excellent and tense score from Selvio Cipriani.
Performances from Luigi Pistilli (from The Case Of The Scorpion's Tale) and Claudine Auger (who starred in Black Belly Of The Tarantula) stand out in the film and the script not only provides ample opportunity for creative bloodshed but also for a fair bit of genuine mystery and suspense. Bava plays the selfish and greedy characters off of one another nicely and it's interesting to watch as the killer eliminates almost everyone who gets in the way. The strong script, good performances, inventive camerawork and stylish cinematography all work alongside the impressive body count scenes to make for one of Bava's most enjoyable films.
Baron Blood (1972):
An American named Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) decides to learn more about his ancestor, Baron Otto Von Kleist, and so he travels to Austria to stay with his uncle, Dr. Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti), and do some detective work. As it turns out, Baron Von Kleist was a sick and twisted individual with a penchant for cruelty who died under some rather unorthodox circumstances.
Soon Peter meets up with a foxy student named Eva (Elke Sommer) who decides to help him uncover the truth about his distant relative. The two travel to the late Baron's massive old castle and find an old piece of parchment paper. When they read aloud what the parchment says, they resurrect the Baron who, rotted face and all, soon gets up to his old tricks and starts murdering a few unlucky locals. Once he's back in the swing of things, the Baron morphs into a healthier looking version of himself (played by Joseph Cotton) so that he can buy back his castle and get back to torturing people to death. Of course, Peter, Eva and Uncle Karl decide it'd be best if they didn't let the Baron get back to his old ways and so the three of them set out to stop him before it's too late.
A fantastic looking and wonderfully colorful film shot on location in Austria, Baron Blood has a lot more in common with Bava's gothic classics Black Sunday and Kill, Baby... Kill! than with the carnage laden giallo that he made only a year before. While the script isn't the strongest he'd ever had to work with, it's obvious that the director was having fun on the film as there is plenty of insanely stylish lighting and cinematography and a fun comic book feel to the picture. The contrast provided by the swinging mod culture of the Europe of the early seventies playing against the bleak, dreary gothic castle provides some interesting eye candy and a few fun chase scenes allow the director to play with some genuine tension.
As far as the performances go, Antonio Cantafora doesn't exactly light up the screen as the male lead but Elke Sommer looks great and at least shows some genuine enthusiasm for the part, even if it isn't the most demanding role. Massimo Girotti is good as the Uncle but the real start of the show is Joseph Cotton as the Baron's alter-ego (in a part originally intended for Vincent Price). He throws himself into the part and looks to be really enjoying playing the bad guy. If Baron Blood isn't Bava's best films it is certainly a really enjoyable and classy looking B-movie. Think of this one as an homage to some of the director's earlier pictures or as a nod to the Vincent Price movies made for AIP in the sixties and you're bound to have a good time with it.
Four Times That Night (1972):
The first Mario Bava film to be produced by Alfredo Leone (who would go on to become the producer most often associated with Bava's output), Four Times That Night is pretty far removed from the horror films that Bava is best known for. Judged on its own merits, however, the picture turns out to be a pretty enjoyable little sex comedy.
Tina (Daniela Giordano) is asked out on a date by a swinger named Gianni (Brett Halsey). She agrees and off they go and from there we're shown four different potential scenarios for how the evening may or may not have turned out.
Considerably raunchier than anything else Bava would direct, Four Times That Night stands out not because it's a great film but because it's the one movie in the director's filmography that contains a considerable amount of female nudity, so much so in fact that it landed the film in a hot spot with the censorship board in Italy after it was finished. That said, by today's standards the picture comes across as randy and playful rather than exploitative despite the copious amount of bare flesh on display in certain scenes.
Performance wise, the gorgeous Giordana (a former Miss Italy) steals the show. She's quite fetching and she turns out to have a real knack for playing her character in a few different ways as the script calls for it. Brett Halsey, a regular on the Euro-cult circuit for years, proves as sturdy a leading man here as in any of his other films. He's a charmer and he's well cast as the playboy type. Dick Randell (yes, the man who produced For Your Height Only and Pieces) has a small role as the doorman and he appears to be having run playing the seedy character while Bay Of Blood's Brigette Skay pops up for an obligatory nude scene.
Much of the humor is fairly slapstick in nature with plenty of sight gags included in each of the four scenarios. Don't expect a whole lot of witty dialogue here (though the film has its moments in that regard), instead sit back, and enjoy the highjinks. While Bava certainly made more interesting films in his career, Four Times That Night is not without its share of director related quirks. The film really plays around the with whole notion of truth and deceit being easily manipulated which is something that we'd see him experiment with in different ways down the road. The film also looks quite good and there are some interesting painted backdrops used here and even some odd looking scenes that exhibit the director's flair for visuals, giving the film a really unique look that separates it from other sex comedies of the era. If the film isn't a classic, it's at least quirky, genuinely funny, and as such, quite entertaining.
Lisa And The Devil (1972)/House Of Exorcism (1975):
Elke Sommer plays Lisa, a very pretty young woman who decides to vacation in Spain. After running into a truly strange painting of the devil, she winds up getting separated from the tour group she was traveling with and finds herself lost in an old city. As she wanders around the town, strange things start to happen to her and eventually she meets up with the butler of an old Spanish villa (Telly Savalas) who looks suspiciously like the devil she saw earlier in the painting.
A slow and dreamlike film, Lisa And The Devil proves to be a genuinely unsettling film that builds to a truly eerie conclusion. Rich with metaphors and strange imagery, the film toys around with the connections that may or may not exist between the spiritual world and the physical plain. For the first time in his career, Bava was given a clean slate to work with and producer Alfredo Leone basically let him shoot his dream project. The result is a very creative, beautifully shot and obviously quite personal project that is both horrifying, mesmerizing, and at times, more than just a little bit sad particularly when you consider how the film's commercial failure almost destroyed the director's will to work.
Those issues aside, the film is a true gem. Telly Savalas is truly sinister in his role as the servant/prince of darkness and his odd discussions with the countless mannequins that litter the villa are both amusing and a little disturbing at the same time. Sommer plays her part with a great sense of innocence and naive charm, and she's pretty far removed here from the sex pot roles she's most often associated with. That's not to say she doesn't look great - she does - but she's given a chance with this film to prove that she's more than just a good looking woman, she's also quite a capable actress. Carlo Savina's melancholy soundtrack fits the subtle nightmarish atmosphere of the film perfectly works hand in hand with some fantastic camerawork ensuring that everything falls into place quite nicely.
Although the picture was shown once at Cannes, and to some critical acclaim at that, Lisa And The Devil ran into distribution problems and was ultimately put on the shelf for a few years. Alfredo Leone decided to add some newly shot footage to the picture and re-release a few years later as House Of Exorcism in hopes cashing in on the massive box office success of William Friedkin's The Exorcist. This time around, Lisa is literally possessed by the devil and an exorcist named Father Michael (Robert Aldo) is called in to save her soul - the result is a disaster when compared to the artistic and poignant original version but it proved to be a large commercial success and allowed Leone to recoup the money he'd invested.
By adding exploitative elements through new scenes (some shot by Mario Bava, some by his son Lamberto Bava and some by Alfredo Leone) the film reached a larger audience looking for more visceral thrills. Lisa vomits all over the place, just like Regan in Friedkin's film, and even upchucks frogs during one key scene! She spews venomous insults and thrashes around in bed using some rather amusing profanity while Aldo basically plays the part of Max Von Sydow's character. While this turned out to be quite a crowd pleaser, one has to wonder why. It's certainly entertaining in a trash film sort of way but by inserting the new footage and excising other scenes to keep the running time workable, much of the actual story is simply thrown out the window. Regardless, both cuts of the film have their place in Bava's filmography, for better or for worse, so it's certainly good that the two very different films have been preserved on home video even if it's obvious which one is an actual Mario Bava film and which one is a strange bastardization of a Mario Bava film.
Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs) (1975):
The plot of Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs (or, if you prefer, Kidnapped) is deceptively simple. In short, a trio of men (Maurice Poli, Aldo Caponi and Luigi Montefiori) who attempt a daring robbery of a payroll truck hijacks a car and its drive, Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla) after they screw up their getaway plan. They bring with them a female hostage named Maria (Lea Lander) and force the man to drive them out of the city, really giving him no choice but to comply. Complicating the matter is the fact that the man also has a very sick boy with him who is in dire need of medical attention. As the road trip progresses, tensions start to rise with the various people inside the vehicle caught in a game of wits until it all boils up to a shocking conclusion.
In order to fully appreciate Rabid Dogs one has to first understand where Bava was at around the time that the film was made. His last picture, Lisa And The Devil, was a very personal project that wound up a complete disaster from a financial standpoint and the last few film's he'd made prior to that hardly set the box office on fire. It was as if Bava's style had gone out of style and so the director decided that for his next project he needed to go in a very different direction. Casting problems and budgetary restraints plagued the production but photography was finished on schedule but by then, it didn't matter. The production had gone bankrupt and the rough cut of the movie that Bava had assembled was confiscated and there it sat, unfinished, until Lea Lander eventually rescued the work print from the producer's creditors years later. By the time this happened, Bava had passed away from a heart attack at the age of sixty-five. Lander and Mario's son, Lamberto Bava, used Mario's original script and shot an opening scene for the picture and then scored and pieced together using the materials that they had available. The results of this project saw the light of day on a DVD released by the long defunct Lucertola which was only in print a short time and, until this Anchor Bay disc was released, was quite collectable. If that weren't enough, a few years ago in 2002 Lamberto and long time Bava producer Alfredo Leone decided that the Rabid Dogs cut wasn't good enough so they took it all back to the editing room once more, added in some different footage and completely rescored the film. This new version of the film was titled Kidnapped. Thankfully, both versions of the movie are included on this release.
So how does the film hold up? The Rabid Dogs cut holds up extremely well. It's a dirty, tense and very mean spirited film but at the heart of it all is an extremely well written and tightly directed story made all the more interesting by some very believable performances. It's a very strong film that doesn't pull any punches and that features one of the best and most effective twist endings in crime movie history. You can feel these characters sweat as the tension builds amongst them and Bava seems to be controlling every facet of their development very, very tightly. Everything feels very bitter and very angry here and while it certainly doesn't make for happy viewing, the results are nothing short of compelling. While the cinematography is still top notch, it's nothing like the painterly visuals that Mario Bava was known for; instead it feels dirtier and as such is very much in keeping with the tone of the story. It's a very low-fi film, there aren't really any effects set pieces and the bulk of the movie simply takes place inside a car (not an easy task - for proof of this see the recent Penny Dreadful!).
Those who haven't seen the film probably won't notice much difference between the two edits, but those familiar with the old Lucertola release will no doubt prefer the Rabid Dogs cut to the Kidnapped cut. Differences are fairly minor but they should be noted. First and foremost is the fact that composer Stelvio Cipriani did finish some music that was used in Rabid Dogs but never really came close to finishing his work on the film. This has changed with the Kidnapped edit, and here Cipriani brings much more to the film than he did in the rough cut, for better or worse. Some scenes are missing, such as the pinball scene, but it also adds some bits and pieces in the form of some more recently shot material courtesy of Lamberto. Most of these scenes add nothing, but nor do they really hurt the film save for on bit tacked on to the ending. In its rough cut, the ending of Rabid Dogs hurts. It's a completely effective sucker punch and it makes you feel something. By adding to this and slapping some additional footage on, the film has effectively had its balls cut off. Regardless, with both versions included here fans can decide for themselves which take on the film they prefer.
Four Times That Night:
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen is quite clean with nice contrast and only minimal print damage. Some scenes exhibit a bit of grain but contrast looks good and even in the grainier scenes detail levels stay fairly strong. A slight bit of edge enhancement is present but it's never overpowering and there are no mpeg compression artifacts to complain about. This transfer appears to be slightly cleaner than the previous Image release but there aren't really any significant improvements here.
Five Dolls For An August Moon:
The film receives a nice, colorful 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does show some minor print damage in the form of the odd speck or scratch but which is otherwise very nice although you will probably notice a few moments or more obvious print damage around the reel changes. Detail is strong throughout and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. Black levels stay pretty solid and don't get murky or smudgy and there are no problems with heavy edge enhancement (though you will see it if you're looking for it) or mpeg compression artifacts. The previous Image release was non-anamorphic - Anchor Bay has corrected that oversight with this release.
Roy Colt And Winchester Jack:
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen is fine even if it isn't remarkable. The film just isn't as colorful as a lot of the other pictures in this set and so it's difficult to see the picture as anything but flat looking even if this transfer probably does a good job of presenting the film as it was meant to be seen. The picture is pretty clean with only some grain and minor print damage to complain about and the detail levels are fine. There's little to complain about in terms of picture quality.
Bay Of Blood:
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen is a slightly noticeable improvement over the fairly good looking transfer that was on the previous Image release. Colors look quite good, the reds in particular, and there's more detail present in pretty much every frame of the film. Contrast levels are fine and there are no issues with murky black levels. Flesh tones look dead on and there are no edge enhancement or mpeg compression problems here.
The new 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD is a marked improvement over the previous non-anamorphic release from Image. Colors are much stronger and considerably more bold, allowing some of the more 'pop' looking scenes to really come to life. Detail is strong, there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement and this is generally a very strong, colorful and impressive transfer.
Lisa And The Devil/House Of Exorcism:
Both versions of the film are presented in solid 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers with Lisa looking considerably cleaner and more colorful than House. Both versions show some minor grain but are in otherwise very nice condition with solid color reproduction and strong detail in both the foreground and the background of the image and showing noticeably improved picture quality when compared to the previous Image release.
Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs):
Anchor Bay presents Kidnapped in a strong 1.77.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is noticeably improved from the 1.66.1 non-anamorphic transfer that was found on the previous DVD release from Lucertola. Some mild print damage is present as is some grain that you'll likely notice but aside from some mild edge enhancement there aren't a lot of transfer related issues here and the source material has obviously been cleaned up a fair bit. Color reproduction is strong while black levels stay deep and consistent. Some scenes are softer than others but detail is, for the most part, good (not great, mind you). Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and all of the grit and sweat that permeates the movie comes through quite nicely here. All in all, there's little to complain about. This is a fine transfer and a big improvement over the film's first DVD release.
Four Times That Night:
The Italian language Dolby Digital Mono track is fine, presented here with optional English subtitles. The English track has not been included. There are a few moments where you'll notice some audible defects in the form of hiss and a pop or two but aside from that the mix is fine. The English subtitles are easy on the eyes and there aren't any typos apparent though it would have been nice to see the English dub included for the sake of completion.
Five Dolls For An August Moon:
Anchor Bay provides audio options in both English and Italian, both presented in Dolby Digital Mono. The Italian track has a different and superior musical score that gives it the edge over the English option though both tracks sound reasonably good here. No problems with hiss or distortion and the music sounds nice.
Roy Colt And Winchester Jack:
Bava's western is presented in an Italian language Dolby Digital Mono track that isn't quite as strong as some of the other mixes included on the other films in this set but which fares reasonably well on its own. Levels are fine and if there's some very minor background hiss in a couple of scenes, it's easy to ignore it. Dialogue is clear though the score sounds a little bit flat. The optional English subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors.
Bay Of Blood:
The previous Image release of Bay Of Blood sounded terrible. There were distortion problems and there was a fair amount of hiss and it just didn't do the film justice. Thankfully, those problems have been corrected here. The music sounds great, the levels are properly balanced and there are only a few scenes that sound just a little flat. This is a very noticeable improvement over the previous release though it's a shame that the Italian language option hasn't been included.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono is again noticeably improved over the older Image release. Dialogue is cleaner and clearer sounding and there are no problems with muffled or distorted audio. The score sounds good, the track is well balanced, though again, the Italian language track has been omitted.
Lisa And The Devil/House Of Exorcism:
Both cuts of the movie are presented in English language Dolby Digital Mono and the sound quality is on par with the rest of the releases in the set in that it isn't going to become a home theater demo disc but it certainly sounds good. The added sound effects during the exorcism scenes in House come through with startling clarity while the dialogue scenes are clean and clear.
Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs):
Both cuts of the film are presented in an Italian language Dolby Digital Mono mix with optional English subtitles. There are no problems with hiss or distortion to report and the subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read. There are some spots where things are a bit on the flat side but given the history of the film this isn't really surprising and it sounds much better than anyone probably expected it ever would. As far as the subtitles go, Tim Lucas has posted on his blog that he was hired to create them for the original Lucertola DVD release of the film and that in doing so he adjusted things just a little bit to give the movie a harder edge by injecting more profanity into the script. Although Lucas references this in his commentary track, the subtitles that have been included on the DVD are not those that were prepared by Lucas but are instead a more literal translation.
Four Times That Night:
Aside from some spiffy menus and a chapter selection option, this disc is barebones.
Five Dolls For An August Moon:
This disc is also barebones save for menus and chapter selection, omitting the isolated musical score that appeared on the Image DVD.
Roy Colt And Winchester Jack:
Again, aside from the menus and the chapter selection, this DVD is barebones.
Bay Of Blood:
The best supplement on this disc is a brand new audio commentary with Mario Bava biographer and Video Watchdog head honcho Tim Lucas who does a fine job of explaining the history of the film as well as covering its influence. He discusses the Italian language version of the film, talks about his own personal experience seeing the film for the first time, and he discusses the production in a fair bit of detail providing criticism, trivia and anecdotal information. Never at a loss for words when discussing Bava, Lucas proves to be an amiable and interesting source of information.
Rounding out the extra features are a pair of radio promo spots, a still gallery, a Mario Bava text biography, the American theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter stops.
The main extra feature on this disc is another audio commentary from Tim Lucas. He talks about AIP's tinkering with the film and provides a good, overall history of the picture and he does a good job this time around of explaining the importance of various cast members and about spilling some interesting details about the various locations that the picture was shot on. He also covers some of the films that probably influenced Bava's film and talks about some of the effects set pieces and design work constructed for the picture. Again, it's a very strong and rather engaging track that provides a veritable crash course in the film's history and importance.
Rounding out the extra features are a pair of radio promo spots, a Mario Bava text biography, the American theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter stops.
Lisa And The Devil/House Of Exorcism:
Tim Lucas also provides a commentary for Lisa And The Devil which is essentially an in-depth history on the production. With this having been such a personal project for the director it proves to be ripe for examination and Lucas is certainly up to the task here. He explains some of the issues with the film's unusual history, he talks about the production and those involved in it and he covers a lot of the themes and ideas that are seen in the picture and relates them to Bava's life and his work. It's a very strong track and one that answers a lot of questions that first time viewers might have regarding the film.
The audio commentary from producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer that was on the Image DVD release of House Of Exorcism has been ported over for this disc as well. Leone dominates the discussion and talks about the two different versions of the film and why they exist. He covers what Bava did and did not shoot as far as the new footage was concerned and he talks about his relationship with the late director. Sommer doesn't have a whole to add to the discussion other than a few anecdotes about the time she spent on set and a few memories of the cast and crew she worked with.
Rounding out the extra features the film's theatrical trailer, animated menus, a Mario Bava text biography, and chapter stops.
Kidnapped (aka Rabid Dogs):
First up is a running commentary track with Mario Bava biographer and Video Watchdog publisher, Tim Lucas, which plays out over the Rabid Dogs edit of the film. Lucas does an excellent job of explaining the history of the film as well as that of its cast and crew lending critical and biographical insight to the picture that helps put it in context against Bava's other films. He also does a good job of explaining Lamberto Bava's part in the picture and points out some of the more subtle characteristics of the film that first time viewers might not necessarily pick up on. Free of any serious dead air time, it's a very informative and interesting commentary track that sheds some much needed light on the history of the picture.
The second substantial supplement is a sixteen-minute documentary entitled End Of The Road: The Making Of Rabid Dogs And Kidnapped. Containing interviews with Lamberto Bava, producer Alfredo Leone and actress Lea Lander, this is a really interesting look at the various parts that these three people played in the picture. Leone tells the most interesting stories, explaining how this film was at least partially responsible for the souring of his relationship with the director when it was taken out of his hands while Lamberto explains what went into reassembling the movie. While it would have been nice to see other surviving players interviewed here like George Eastman, this is still a very solid featurette even if it feels like it should have been longer.
Rounding out the extra features on this disc are a Mario Bava text biography courtesy of Richard Harland Smith, trailers for other Anchor Bay DVDs, animated menus and chapter stops for the feature.
The improved audio and video quality and the addition of a few exclusive extra features makes The Mario Bava Collection Volume Two worth the double dip for owners of the Image releases and a great purchase for those who don't already own the films in this set. While this set doesn't represent the best films that Bava worked on it is a nice selection that spans multiple genres and which shows us how wide ranging the films in Bava's library can be. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.