The granddaddy of slasher movies: A BAY OF BLOOD review
Years before Jason Voorhees began killing horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, cult director Mario Bava made the film that set the slasher blueprint; A Bay of Blood (aka. Twitch of the Death Nerve) – rated “V” for violence and the first film to require a FACE TO FACE WARNING: “Every ticket holder must pass through The Final Warning Station. We must warn you face-to-face!” Amazing. I know, you have to be careful when you say that a film set the genre blueprint and stuff, because there’s always some smart-ass who finds another movie that is “the precursor to the genre” or whatever. Screw it, below are some examples of what came first.
The Haunted Castle (1896) by Georges Melies was the first horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) by Robert Wiene contained the first twist ending, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) by Mario Bava became the first giallo movie, Jaws (1975) by Spielberg became the first summer blockbuster, Nosferatu (1922) by F.W. Murnau was the first vampire movie, White Zombie (1932) by Victor Halperin was the first zombie movie, The Exorcist (1973) by William Friedkin was the first Oscar nominated horror movie (best picture), and last but certainly not least: Mario Bava’s masterpiece A Bay of Blood (1971) started the slasher craze (which is still popular to this day). The DVD even includes a “Murder Menu” in the bonus features. That’s awesome.
There are some earlier films I guess can be called slashers, such as Blood Feast and Psycho. The killer in Psycho slaughters people with a big knife, like in many 80s slashers. But A Bay of Blood is the film that set the concept of the typical slasher movie (aka. body count movie) we know and love today – it’s the genre’s beginning – with stuff like drunken teenagers in the woods, piles of bloodied corpses and, of course, lots of boobies! The film is sort of reminiscent of the way Sergio Leone’s Dollar Trilogy started the Spaghetti Western genre; There were a gazillion Italian westerns before Leone’s Dollar films, but it was A Fistful of Dollars that set the dusty & sweaty blueprint. Anyway. Let’s take a look at the plot of A Bay of Blood. About damn time, right?
Regarded as the granddaddy of slashers, A Bay of Blood came out during the golden age of Italian cinema, and to begin with it feels more like a stylish giallo movie when a rich, elderly countess who is in a wheelchair is strangled by a black gloved killer; Her eyeballs almost pop free from their sockets! Ew! This must be one of the best death scenes in slasher history. Mario Bava includes a lot of Giallo elements in the film, but it’s so violent that it influenced the American slasher genre – and it refuses to follow the giallo rules; Mario Bava just throws them out the window when he suddenly shows the killer’s face within a couple of minutes! The killer himself is then brutally murdered by someone who want the dead woman’s beautiful bay area. But who is it..?
Everyone in the film could somehow be involved in trying to claim the bay for themselves. Later, a group of giggling college kids come to the bay to party and go skinny dipping, and get butchered for the viewer’s guilty pleasure. This is a brilliant and beautifully shot horror film with a beautiful score and lots of tomato ketchup. It’s the original body-count movie – there are 13 murders crammed into its 84 minute running time (!) and the film inspired a million other slashers such as Friday the 13th. However, A Bay of Blood has a unique concept that none of its duplicators have successfully copied; People being killed one by one, not by just one killer, but by several killers. This was Mario Bava’s personal favorite of all the films he made, I have to agree with him.
A Bay of Blood (Aka. Twitch of the Death Nerve) Release year: 1971 Country: Italy Director: Mario Bava Starring: Claudine Auger
Taglines: – They came to play, they stayed to die! – 13 Characters, 13 Murders – Terror Flows Deep – Diabolical! Fiendish! Savage… YOU MAY NOT WALK AWAY FROM THIS ONE!
what are your favorite films that weren't made in america and not made by an american cast/director/producer/studio etc
i feel like this is a drag because i almost answered “none” but 99% of my fave films aren’t amerikan so this is also like a personal canon and at least 90% of the directors have other works that number in my top 100 somewhere but i am only listing them once to avoid being redundant:
the life of oharu (kenji mizoguchi, 1952)
stromboli (roberto rossellini, 1950)
may god forgive me (tito davison, 1948)
late autumn (yasujiro ozu, 1960)
nights of cabiria (federico fellini, 1957)
through a glass darkly (ingmar bergman, 1961)
the blue angel (josef von sternberg, 1930)
day of wrath (carl th. dreyer, 1943)
the white angel (raffaello matarazzo, 1955)
the cranes are flying (mikhail kalatozov, 1960)
vive l’amour (tsai ming-liang, 1994)
night of the hunted (jean rollin, 1980)
chinese roulette (rainer werner fassbinder, 1976)
mamma roma (pier paolo pasolini, 1962)
fallen angels (wong kar-wai, 1995)
yearning (mikio naruse, 1964)
the strange vice of mrs. wardh (sergio martino, 1972)
alice in the cities (wim wenders, 1974)
close up (abbas kiarostami, 1990)
the piano teacher (michael haneke, 2001)
last orgy of the third reich (cesare canevari, 1977)
daughters of darkness (harry kumel, 1971)
cleo from 5 to 7 (agnes varda, 1962)
the young girls of rochefort (jacques demy, 1967)
martyrs (pascal laugier, 2007)
mazurka (willi forst, 1937)
and soon the darkness (robert fuest, 1970)
tenebre (dario argento, 1982)
les saignantes (jean-pierre bekolo, 2005)
the descent (neil marshall, 2005)
the battle of algiers (gillo pontecorvo, 1966)
black girl (ousmane sembène, 1966)
lady snowblood (toshiya fujita, 1973)
attenberg (athina rachel tsangari, 2010)
red desert (michelangelo antonioni, 1964)
all about my mother (pedro almodovar, 1999)
house of tolerance (bertrand bonello, 2011)
belle (amma asante, 2013)
the laughing woman (piero schivazappa, 1969)
bandini (bimal roy, 1963)
les yeux sans visage (georges franju, 1960)
thriller - a cruel picture (bo arne vibenius, 1973)
three colors: red (krzysztof kieślowski, 1994)
sans soleil (chris marker, 1983)
the kneeling goddess (roberto gavaldón, 1947)
a lizard in a woman’s skin (lucio fulci, 1971)
symptoms (jose ramon larraz, 1974)
the night porter (liliana cavani, 1974)
possession (andrzej zuławski, 1981)
that obscure object of desire (luis bunuel, 1977)
noriko’s dinner table (sion sono, 2006)
mother joan of the angels (jerzy kawalerowicz, 1961)
Man, this is a tough one. I hear the “what’s the first slasher” question/argument so much that I almost never think about what the first giallo could be. It’s also much tougher than debating the first slasher, because there are so many more specific stylistic and thematic touches that go into gialli. They’re much more clearly defined by very specific details. Plenty of people won’t consider anything a giallo if black gloves aren’t involved.
In terms of hitting all or most of those stylistic elements that we think of when we think of giallo, it’s widely considered to be Mario Bava’s 1963 film The Girl Who Knew Too Much.
And I kind of buy that (even if there are earlier movies that could probably be called giallo, at least loosely) that all of those elements were there and there had been similar movies before this, but Bava kind of pulled all of those things together and mixed them up into something that clearly proved to work amazingly well.