Volume 24, Issue 11-12 / November–December 2020

Mario Bava’s 40th Anniversary

We end the ‘Annus horribilis’ 2020 by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the death of Italy’s genre/filone maestro, Mario Bava. Bava died on April 25, 1980. Four days later on April 29 Alfred Hitchcock died. I remember how widespread the media coverage of Hitchcock’s death was. I am the first to acknowledge the overwhelming importance of Sir Alfred Hitchcock to the art of cinema, but I also could not understand, or stomach is a better word, how little coverage there was over the death of Mario Bava. It has taken me a long time to correct this wrong, in my eyes oversight, so here we have it, a tribute to Italy’s foremost director of all things horrific and fantastic. To help celebrate Bava’s legacy I have gone directly to the well, Italy, to enlist the support of two Italian Bava scholars, Offscreen regular Robrto Curti and first-time to Offscreen writer Alberto Pezzotta. A big thanks to both of them for helping to make this issue an important addition to Mario Bava scholarship. Curti contributes three essay, covering Bava’s literary influences, a recuperation of Bava’s gender politics, and a look at the possible influence of a little known Mexican film entitled El hombre sin rostro (aka Man Without a Face, 1950) on Bava’s seminal 6 Donne per l’assassino (aka Blood and Black Lace, 1964). While Pezzotta revisits and in some cases debunks well and lesser known myths about Mario Bava. Also on board to express their admiration of Bava are regular contributors Simon Laperrière and George Lellis. Laperrière discusses how a single moment from Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965) has burrowed its fear inducing way into his memory. George Lellis discusses the aesthetic contributions of the too-often unjustly maligned zoom shot in Hatchet for the Honeymoon. And I review Roberto Curti’s invaluable contribution to “The Devil’s Advocate” book series on horror classics, a study of Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (original Italian title 6 Donne per l’assassino). To add some variety to the issue and employ a format that exploits where Bava excelled, the visuals, I also contribute an audio-visual essay appreciating Bava’s expressive use of camera movement in La Maschera del Demonio. Bava would no doubt have approved of sharing some of the limelight with Toshiro Mifune, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday in 2020. Karthick Ram Manoharan celebrates the 100th year of Toshiro Mifune’s birth with a review of Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard. Though it has nothing at all to do with Bava, it seems fitting to end 2020 with an article that was submitted several years back but yet feels all too pertinent to our ongoing global pandemic. For a host of reasons ranging from mental and physical health to economics most people if they could would rub 2020 off the calendar. If 2020 were a film, it would be a disaster movie (hopefully with a happy ending). Since the onset of COVID-19 viewership for ‘disaster’ films over the initial few months of the pandemic were never higher. Streaming services have noted the crazy number of views Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion has had since March 2020. Contagion is one of many films discussed by Daniel Garrett in his article, which charts the uneasy relationship between real life disaster and cinematic recreations of them. Garrett clarifies that the source of a disaster spans more than what people usually think, for example, natural, human-made, technological, terrorist, nuclear, viral, astronomical, and any combination of (i.e. an earthquake impacts the stability of a nuclear plant), are the varied harbinger of earthly terror. Indeed the recent spike of interest in zombies, a form of viral epidemic, is conditioned by this fascination with post-disaster scenarios: the dead outnumber the living, who must now repopulate or just survive their new minority (and hunted) status. Even Richard Stanley’s cosmic horror H.P. Lovecraft adaptation The Color Out of Space, released theatrically in 2019 but splashed onto streaming services in 2020, about an inexplicable extra-terrestrial attack on a family living in the woods, feels pertinent. Say of it what you will, but 2020 was anything but forgettable! But this issue is a tribute to Mario Bava, so let’s keep it positive. Buon Natale e Buon Anno! (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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