Friday, September 14, 2012
Save for a British import of his Twitch of the Death Nerve (Bay of Blood) from Arrow a year or so back the works of legendary Italian director Mario Bava have so far been absent on Blu-ray. That is thankfully changing this next week when Kino Lorber and Redemption release the first three titles in their new HD Mario Bava Collection. Kino is releasing two of Bava's greatest films (Black Sunday and Lisa and the Devil) while Redemption (in conjunction with Kino) is unleashing the underrated Hatchet for the Honeymoon. I'm happy to report that all three films (all mastered from original 35mm negatives) have never looked better, than they do on these releases, and Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a particularly marvelous upgrade from its older Image DVD.
A fitting introduction for newcomers to Bava's magical world is 1960's Black Sunday (La maschera del demonio), as it was not only his first feature-length film but also remains his most celebrated. Time has taken nothing away from this seminal black and white work starring the mesmerizing Barbara Steele, and Kino's new Blu-ray is a real beauty and a nice upgrade from Anchor Bay's 2007 DVD. Offering up the longer original Italian cut of the film with English dubbing, Kino's Blu-ray of Black Sunday looks quite wonderful throughout and Bava and Ubaldo Terzano's evocative black and white photography has never seemed quite as eerie and seductive as it does on this new disc. It's a real beauty and fans of the film should be thrilled to have such a sharp looking print now available. Extras include trailers as well as Bava biographer Tim Lucas' absolutely essential commentary track, ported over from the older DVD releases.
Redemption steps up to the plate next with one of Bava's most undervalued works, 1970's Hatchet for the Honeymoon (Il rosso segno della follia). Of these new releases in The Mario Bava Collection, Hatchet for the Honeymoon was the one that needed the biggest upgrade as all past releases have been disappointing in both the video and audio department. Before I put the new disc in I played a bit of Image's old DVD just to test my memory on how faded and beat up the film looked on that release (my memory wasn't lying) so with a big gulp I put in Redemption's new disc and I immediately breathed a great sigh of relief. While some very minor print damage in on hand throughout, Hatchet for the Honeymoon looks absolutely marvelous here. We can now finally see just how hypnotic and inventive Bava's use of color is on this film and hear Sante Maria Romitelli's groovy score without an annoying echo of static surrounding it. Redemption's English-dubbed Blu-ray of Hatchet for the Honeymoon is one of the best restorations of the year and I have never enjoyed Bava's extremely crafty and surprising film more. Extras again include some trailers as well as a brand-new Tim Lucas commentary track, which is of course an extremely valuable addition to any Bava film.
Finally we come to my favorite Mario Bava work, the unbelievably haunting Lisa and the Devil, a mindblowing film starring lovely Elke Sommer and Telly Savalas as the two title characters. As on its previous laserdisc and DVD releases, Lisa and the Devil is joined by its crazed sister film, the enjoyable abomination The House of the Devil (an Exorcist rip-off work made mostly by producer Alfredo Leone made up of new footage of Sommer along with portions of Lisa and the Devil). Both films look dazzling here with Lisa and the Devil looking particularly sharp. Even though Anchor Bay's 2007 disc looked quite good, Kino have done a great job here with Lisa and the Devil and this new HD transfer brings out the wonderful visual color poetry of Bava and cinematographer Cecilio Paniagua in incredibly vivid detail. Sommer has never looked quite so fetching and Savalas quite as menacing as they do in Kino's new disc. Extras again include trailers as well as both the great Lucas commentary and the House of the Devil track with Sommer and Alfredo, both ported over from the 2007 release. New to this release is a fascinating talk with Lamberto Bava by documentary filmmaker (and former Jean Rollin assistant) Daniel Gouyette. The only downside to the new Kino disc is that it doesn't have the deleted footage featured as a supplement on the late nineties laserdisc, otherwise it is a smashing release.
As with their ongoing Jean Rollin Collection, Kino and Redemption have brought another one of cinema's great visionary directors to HD with a lot of care and love. These discs are absolutely worth an upgrade to already converted fans and I can only say that I am jealous of newcomers who get to see these three classics for the first time via these fine releases.