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Mario Bava (31 July 1914 – 25 April 1980) was an Italian filmmaker who worked variously as a director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter, frequently referred to as the "Master of Italian Horror" and the "Master of the Macabre". His low-budget genre films, known for their distinctive visual flair and stylish technical ingenuity, feature recurring themes and imagery concerning the conflict between illusion and reality, as well as the destructive capacity of human nature.
Bava in 1975
|Died||25 April 1980 (aged 65)|
|Other names||John M. Old|
|Occupation||Film director, cinematographer, special effects artist, screenwriter|
Born to sculptor, cinematographer and special effects pioneer Eugenio Bava, the younger Bava followed his father into the film industry, and eventually earned a reputation as one of Italy's foremost cameramen, lighting and providing the special effects for such films as Hercules (1958) and its sequel Hercules Unchained (1959) (both were lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000). During the late 1950s, his eventual career trajectory as a director began when he was relied upon to complete projects begun by or credited to his colleague Riccardo Freda and other filmmakers, including I Vampiri (1957) (the first Italian horror film of the sound era), The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) (the first Italian science fiction film), Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) and The Giant of Marathon (1959).
Although most of Bava's films as director failed to achieve major commercial success upon release, many eventually found acclaim as cult classics, with their content and production values being favourably compared to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Several of them have been noted for their revolutionary impact on their respective genres: Black Sunday (1960), his official directorial debut, was the forerunner of the Italian gothic horror film cycle; The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) is considered to be the first giallo film; Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) heavily influenced the iconography of modern J-Horror; Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970) is regarded as one of the earliest self-parodying Spaghetti Westerns; Four Times That Night (1971) was an early Italian sex comedy; and A Bay of Blood (1971) was a precursor to slasher films. His other notable films include Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Erik the Conqueror (1961), Black Sabbath (1963), The Whip and the Body (1963), Blood and Black Lace (1964), Planet of the Vampires (1965), Knives of the Avenger (1966), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), Baron Blood (1972), Lisa and the Devil (1974), Rabid Dogs (1974) and Shock (1977). Despite his reputation as a talented artist during his lifetime, Bava's shy, self-deprecating demeanour prevented him from taking advantage of opportunities that would have furthered his international standing within the film industry, and he turned down multiple opportunities to work in Hollywood.
Among the filmmakers Bava and his work have influenced include Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Federico Fellini, John Carpenter, Nicolas Winding Refn, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, John Landis, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, Edgar Wright, Jennifer Kent and Quentin Tarantino. His son and frequent assistant director Lamberto Bava, later became a noted fantasy and horror film director in his own right.
Mario Bava was born in Sanremo, Liguria on 31 July 1914. He was the son of Eugenio Bava (1886-1966), a sculptor who also worked as a special effects photographer and cameraman in the Italian silent movie industry. Mario Bava's first ambition was to become a painter. Unable to turn out paintings at a profitable rate, he went into his father's business, working as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers like Massimo Terzano. He also helped his father at the special effects department at Benito Mussolini's film factory, the Istituto Luce.
Bava became a cinematographer himself in 1939, shooting two short films with Roberto Rossellini. He made his feature debut in the early 1940s. Bava's camerawork was an instrumental factor in developing the screen personas of such stars of the period as Gina Lollobrigida, Steve Reeves and Aldo Fabrizi.
Bava completed filming I vampiri (a.k.a. The Devil's Commandment) for director Riccardo Freda in 1956, a movie now referred to as the first Italian horror film. Bava was originally hired as the cinematographer, but when Freda walked out on the project midway through production, Bava completed the film in several days, even creating the innovative special effects that were needed. He also handled the cinematography and special effects on the 1955 Kirk Douglas epic Ulysses and the 1957 Steve Reeves classic Hercules, two films credited with sparking the Italian sword and sandal genre.
Bava co-directed The Day the Sky Exploded in 1958, the first Italian science fiction film, predating even the sci-fi films of Antonio Margheriti. Because he had no earlier credited experience as a director, the film was credited solely to Paolo Heusch. In 1959, Bava completed Caltiki - the Immortal Monster, again for Riccardo Freda who left the project prematurely, and worked on the lighting and special effects for two Steve Reeves epics: Hercules Unchained and The Giant of Marathon (also co-director).
In 1960, Bava directed the gothic horror classic Black Sunday, his first solo directorial effort, which made a genre star out of Barbara Steele. His use of light and dark in black-and-white films is widely acclaimed along with his spectacular use of color in films such as Black Sabbath, Kill, Baby... Kill!, Blood and Black Lace and The Whip and the Body.
His work has proved very influential. Bava directed what is now regarded as the earliest of the Italian giallo films The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964). His 1965 sci-fi/ horror film Planet of the Vampires was a thematic precursor to Alien (1979). Although comic books had served as the basis for countless serials and children's films in Hollywood, Bava's Danger: Diabolik (1968) brought an adult perspective to the genre with its Pop art influence of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein. Many elements of his 1966 film Kill, Baby... Kill!, regarded by Martin Scorsese as Bava's masterpiece, also appear in the Asian strain of terror film known as J-horror. 1971's A Bay of Blood is considered one of the early slasher films, and was explicitly imitated in Friday the 13th Part 2.
Mario Bava was disappointed with the theatrical distribution of some of his later films. His Lisa and the Devil (1972) never was selected by a distributor, and had to be later re-edited by the producer (with 1975 footage) into an Exorcist-clone retitled House of Exorcism in order to get released. Bava's Semaforo Rosso (1974) never was released theatrically during his lifetime; the film only appeared on Video in the late 1990s, re-edited with some new footage, as Rabid Dogs, and was released later on DVD in 2007 in a slightly altered version under the title Kidnapped.
In 1977, Bava directed his last horror film Shock, co-directed with his son Lamberto Bava who did the work uncredited. Bava later did special effects matte work on Dario Argento's 1980 film Inferno. Mario Bava died of natural causes on 27 April 1980 at age 65. His doctor had given him a physical just a few days before he died from a sudden heart attack and had pronounced him in perfect health. Right before Bava's death, he was about to start filming a science fiction film titled Star Riders, a project on which Luigi Cozzi had hoped to collaborate.
Mario Bava's son Lamberto Bava worked for 14 years as Bava's assistant director (beginning with Planet of the Vampires), and became a horror film director. On several of Mario's movies, Mario was credited as John M. Old. Later, Lamberto was sometimes credited as John M. Old, Jr. When Lamberto directed his first solo film Macabre in 1980 and screened the completed work for his father, Mario commented jokingly to Lamberto: "I am very proud of you. Now I can die in peace". (He actually did die less than two months later.)
Several books have been published about Mario Bava: Mario Bava by Pascal Martinet (Edilig, 1984) and Mario Bava edited by Jean-Louis Leutrat (Éditions du Céfal, 1994) in French; Mario Bava by Alberto Pezzotta (Il Castoro Cinema, 1995) in Italian; The Haunted Worlds of Mario Bava by Troy Howarth (FAB Press, 2002) and most recently, the massive critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog, 2007; ISBN 0-9633756-1-X).
A documentary about him titled Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre was released in 2000.
|Director||Screenwriter||Screen story writer||Cinematographer||Other|
|Scipione l'africano||1937||Yes||Uncredited title designer.|||
|Il dottor Antonio||1938||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant.|||
|Princess Tarakanova||1938||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant.|||
|Giuseppe Verdi||1938||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant.|||
|Inventiamo l'amore||1938||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant.|||
|Il socio invisible||1939||Yes||Uncredited additional photography|||
|La Comédie du bonheur||1940||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant|||
|La compagna della teppa||1941||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant|||
|Uomini sul fondo||1941||Yes||Additional photography and special effects|||
|Capitan Tempesta||1942||Yes||Camera assistant|||
|La nave bianca||1942||Yes||Camera assistant and special effects|||
|Alfa tau!||1942||Yes||Additional photography and special effects|||
|Uomini e cieli||1943||Yes||Additional photography and special effects|||
|Le avventure di Annabella||1943||Yes|||
|Sant'Elena, piccola isola||1943||Yes|||
|Montecassino nel cerchio di fuoco||1946||Yes||Uncredited additional photography|||
|Il barbiere di Siviglia||1946||Yes||Uncredited camera assistant|||
|Natale ai campo 119||1947||Yes|||
|Follie per l'opera||1948||Yes|||
|I pagliacci (amore tragico)||1948||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Antonio de Padova||1949||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Il leone di Amalfi||1950||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|E arrivato il cavalieri!||1950||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Canzone di primavera||1950||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Quel bandito sono io!||1950||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Vita da cani||1950||Yes|||
|Guardie e ladri||1951||Yes|||
|Amor non ho, pero... pero...||1951||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|La famiglia Passaguai||1951||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|La famiglia Passaguai fa fortuna||1952||Yes||Additional photography, uncredited Special effects work|||
|Papa diventa Mama||1952||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Gli eroi della domenica||1952||Yes|||
|Sins of Rome||1953||Yes||Uncredited as cinematographer|||
|Il viale della speranza||1953||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Balocchi e profumi||1953||Yes|||
|Cose da pazzi||1954||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Hanno rubato un tram||1954||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Theodora, Slave Empress||1954||Yes||Additional photography and uncredited special effects artist|||
|Non ch'e amore piu grande||1955||Yes|||
|Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova||1955||Yes|||
|La donna piu bella del mondo||1955||Yes||Yes||Special effects artist|||
|Da qui all'ereditta||1955||Yes||Uncredited additional photography and special effects|||
|Beatrice Cenci||1956||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Mio figlio Nerone||1956||Yes|||
|Roland the Mighty||1956||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|I Vampiri||1957||Yes||Yes||Yes||Completed the film after Freda left production. Also did uncredited special effects.|||
|Hercules||1958||Yes||Yes||Special effects artist|||
|Citta di notte||1958||Yes|||
|The Day the Sky Exploded||1958||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator. Actors on set state Bava directed the film.|||
|Toto a Parigi||1958||Yes||Yes|||
|Sheba and the Gladiator||1959||Yes||Uncredited as cinematographer|||
|The White Warrior||1959||Yes|||
|Caltiki – The Immortal Monster||1959||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects. Took over direction from Freda.|||
|Black Sunday||1960||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bava developed the matte paintings and special effects uncredited.|||
|Hercules in the Haunted World||1961||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Erik the Conqueror||1961||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|The Witch's Curse||1962||Yes||Uncredited special effects creator|||
|The Girl Who Knew Too Much||1963||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Black Sabbath||1963||Yes||Yes||Yes||Bava is uncredited as cinematographer on some scenes.|||
|The Whip and the Body||1963||Yes|||
|Blood and Black Lace||1964||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|The Road to Fort Alamo||1964||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Planet of the Vampires||1965||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Knives of the Avenger||1966||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects|||
|Kill, Baby, Kill||1966||Yes||Yes|||
|Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs||1966||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Danger: Diabolik||1968||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Hatchet for the Honeymoon||1970||Yes||Yes||Yes|||
|Five Dolls for an August Moon||1970||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator and film editor|||
|Roy Colt & Winchester Jack||1970||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Four Times That Night||1971||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|A Bay of Blood||1971||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special effects creator|||
|Lisa and the Devil||1974||Yes||Yes||Yes|||
|Shock||1977||Yes||Yes||Bava is uncredited as cinematographer|||
|Inferno||1980||Yes||Bava created some optical effects, painted maquettes, and other trick shots.|||
|Rabid Dogs||1998||Yes||Yes||Yes||Uncredited cinematographer and on screen as the man in the parking lot.|||
Influence and legacyEdit
- "Mario Bava Biography". Tripod.
- Howarth, Troy (2002). The Haunted World of Mario Bava. BearManor Media.
- "Mario Bava". The New York Times.
- Pezzotta, Alberto (1995). Mario Bava. Milan: Il Castoro Cinema.
- Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre (2000)–MUBI
- "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Hercules Unchained (TV episode 1992)-IMDb
- "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Hercules (TV episode 1993)-IMDb
- "Why your favorite directors love Mario Bava". Little White Lies.
- Celebrating the Non-Horror Work of Mario Bava—Nerdist
- All 24 Mario Bava Movies Ranked from Worst to Best - Page 3 - Taste of Cinema
- "Planet of the Vampires". Monthly Film Bulletin. London. 53 (624): 59–60. 1986. ISSN 0027-0407.
- Johnson, Gary. "The Golden-Age of Italian Horror: c. 1957-1979". imagesjournal.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "BAVA, Lamberto". bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Mario Bava: Maestro Of The Macabre|TV Guide
- Lucas 2013, p. 1063.
- Lucas 2013, p. 1064.
- Curti 2017b, p. 310.
- Curti 2017b, p. 311.
- Curti 2017b, p. 312.
- Curti 2017b, p. 313.
- Lucas 2013, p. 161.
- Curti 2015, p. 21.
- Curti 2015, p. 23.
- Lucas 2013, p. 202.
- Lucas 2013, p. 216.
- Curti 2017b, p. 296.
- Curti 2017b, p. 314.
- Curti 2017b, p. 315.
- Curti 2015, p. 37.
- Curti 2017b, p. 318.
- Lucas 2013, p. 1065.
- Curti 2015, p. 78.
- Curti 2015, p. 79.
- "Credits". Black Sabbath (booklet). Arrow Films. 2013. p. 2. FCD778.
- Curti 2015, p. 102.
- Curti 2015, p. 159.
- Curti 2017, p. 19.
- Curti 2017, p. 53.
- Curti 2017, p. 84.
- Curti 2017, p. 177.
- Curti 2019, p. 18.
- Curti 2019, p. 19.
- Curti 2019, p. 26.
- Curti 2019, p. 27.
- Curti 2013, p. 115.
- Shock Video: Tim Burton Talks His Love of Mario Bava - ComingSoon.net
- The Stylish Horror of Mario Bava on Fandor
- 10 Essential Mario Bava Films Every Horror Fan Should See — Taste of Cinema
- Why MST3K's Original Finale Is One of the Best Episodes Ever—Nerdist
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Time
- Viva Bava, Celebrating a Master Craftsman|Balder and Dash|Roger Ebert
- Curti, Roberto (2013). Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786469765.
- Curti, Roberto (2015). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957–1969. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1989-7.
- Curti, Roberto (2017). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970-1979. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476629605.
- Curti, Roberto (2017b). Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476628387.
- Curti, Roberto (2019). Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1980-1989. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476672434.
- Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.
- Lucas, Tim (2013). Mario Bava - All the Colors of the Dark. ISBN 978-0-9633756-1-2.