|Mario Bava with Jacqueline Pierreux (Black Sabbath)|
He also had a tremendous influence on the contemporary slasher movie, with his wickedly humorous whodunit, Bay of Blood. Taking the body-count template of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (And Then There Were None), Bava created a staggeringly violent, though elegantly lensed shocker that would have an overwhelming impact on the likes of Friday the 13th and its bloodied ilk.
Born in 1914, Bava began his career as a cinematographer in 1939 before taking a seat in the director’s chair for I Vampiri, co-directed with Ricardo Freda, in 1956. Generally regarded as the first Italian horror film of the sound era, I Vampiri was initially Freda’s production, but Bava stepped in to finish directing, as well as continue his role as cinematographer and SFX artist, when Freda walked off the set halfway through production. Bava worked again with Freda on Caltiki – The Immortal Monster before making his solo directorial debut with Gothic masterpiece Black Sunday. Loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s story Vij, the macabre and romantic Black Sunday – AKA Mask of Satan – featured the funereal beauty of Barbara Steele in a creepy duel role and was an international hit. It also heralded Bava’s unique brand of sexualised terror as evidenced in later titles such as Whip and the Body, Black Sabbath, Baron Blood, Kill Baby Kill, 5 Dolls for an August Moon and Bava’s personal favourite, Lisa and the Devil.
Working as director, screenwriter, special effects artist and cinematographer on many of his own atmospheric and aesthetically stunning titles, as well as others (including Dario Argento’s Inferno), Bava’s final film came in 1977 when his son Lamberto scripted Shock. The distressing tale of a woman who spirals into madness when she returns to the home she formerly inhabited with her abusive husband, Shock features a jaw-dropping performance by Daria Nicoldi and is awash with striking and unsettling images and effects only Mario Bava could have envisioned and realised.
Happy Birthday Maestro Bava.