The last time I caught Mario Bava‘s 1971 classic Bay of Blood was at a rare screening at London’s BFI Southbank last year. Also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve and Carnage, this gory thriller from the maestro of the macabre still packed a punch as its rogues gallery of grotesque characters choked, stabbed, decapitated and shot at each other in a bid to get their hands on a lucrative piece of prime Italian real estate – the Bay of Blood of the title.
Now, those brilliant people at Arrow Video have got their hands on a brand new high-definition transfer of Bava’s personal favourite and are releasing it in special Blu-ray and DVD editions.
Following the brutal murders of a wheelchair-bound countess and her greedy husband (in a stand-out, typically Bava-esque scene), the countess’s stepdaughter Renata (an ice-cool Claudine Auger) arrives in the bay determined to inherit the land. But she gets really pissed when she learns a wily real estate agent has done a deal with the only other person who stands to inherit – the countess’s illegitimate son, Simon. After discovering her father’s rotting corpse, Renata hatches a plan to kill anyone who stands in her way, but she hasn’t counted on Simon – who’s also a dab hand at slaying.
Confused? Don’t be. This is a well-crafted whodunit that perfectly fuses old-fashioned mystery and suspense with the yet-to-be-established splatter genre – famously copied in Friday the 13th a decade later.
The best thing about the new Arrow release is how Bava’s magnificent colours and photography finally come alive. Shot mostly on location around a densely wooded bay at dusk, at night and then at dawn, the film is steeped in shadows and hues of blues. Both the version I saw at the BFI and my old Anchor Bay VHS copy were muddy affairs, but the new Blu-ray print is so clean and pristine it made me gasp. OMG! I can see leaves on trees, and even the grain in the wood on Simon’s cabin. Plus, I can finally savour the real estate agent’s beautifully decorated house on the bay (the scene of the infamous machete in the face murder scene), which is a modern art marvel.
If you want to see Bava at his best – and probably at his most naturalistic – then Bay of Blood is a must for any horror collection. Both formats have reversible sleeves with newly commissioned artwork, double-sided foldout poster and a collector’s booklet. There’s also some in-house featurettes about Bava that fans will want to lap up. The big plus here, however, is the inclusion of the original Italian cut of the film. Compare this print with the new transfer and you’ll be amazed by the differences.
A Bay of Blood is a handsome horror treat, but it does begs the question: when will Bava’s other classics get the HD makeover? Why not have your say by joining the Cult Labs forum.
Released 20 December