Bay of Blood
by Evan ODell 2/10/09
(1971) Directed by Mario Bava. Story by Franco Barberi and Dardano Sacchetti. Screenplay by Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni, and Giuseppe Zaccariello. Starring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonte, Anna Maria Rosati, Chris Avram, Laura Betti, Brigitte Skay, and Isa Miranda.
Conceived of initially because Bava wanted to work again with actress, Laura Betti, who starred in his, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bay of Blood (a.k.a. Twitch of the Death Nerve) has been referred to as the Grandfather of all slasher flicks. Though I think it is up for debate as to where the slasher originated, Bava’s Bay of Blood certainly came before Carpenter’s Halloween and utilized many features that would go on to form the basis of many slasher pictures. The point of view camera shots are used to good effect. Carpenter would go on to use them to great effect in Halloween. Though Robert Siodmak’s 1945 film, The Spiral Staircase, did so as well. And perhaps Hitchcock’s Psycho offered prior slasher film inspiration.
Of greater influence are probably a number of stylish, over the top murders. Thirteen in all, including a hatchet to the face and two lovers pinned through the mattress with a spear. The gore was handled masterfully by Carlo Rambaldi, who would later go on to win Oscars for his work on Alien and E.T.. The two murder scenes seem to be copied in Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th 2. The similar environment of a secluded body of water surrounded by woods seems to make up the location of most of the Friday the 13th films. One of the killers wears a sweater much like the killer in Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th Director, Sean S. Cunningham would go on to say it was coincidence, as he wouldn’t hear of Bava until the mid-80s. Though he has no problem admitting the idea of his previous film, Manny’s Orphans, was recycled from The Bad News Bears and claims Friday is more inline with his take on Carpenter’s Halloween.
Released originally in Italy under the title, Antefatto - Ecologia del delitto (Ecology of Terror), it was later re-released far more successfully under the name, Reazione a Catena (Chain Reaction). Hallmark Releasing marketed it in the US as Carnage, the 2nd film rated V for violence (their previous release, Mark of the Devil, being the first). Though it too played the US much better under a re-issue title, Twitch of the Death Nerve. It would go on to play drive-ins and theater houses for years. It was only after the movie was released to home video, that the name was changed to Bay of Blood after the German and French titles. Tim Lucas, critic and author of the Mario Bava biography, All the Colors of the Dark, says Bava’s film is "probably known by more titles than any other movie ever released.”
The thing about Bay of Blood, is it can seem rather confusing the first time through. With five killers, and thirteen victims, it is sometimes hard keeping track of it all. More so because the story really doesn’t come into focus until a few flashbacks late in the second half of the film. The film is certainly exciting, with two deaths within the first ten minutes, three if you count the fly. Though the final death scene could feel a bit sadistically tacked on, as if to say “no one gets out of here alive,” or brilliant and bold, depending on your take.
The Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) has long resisted development of her beloved bay, but her husband, and a real estate developer and his lover, her daughter and the daughter’s husband are all eager to exploit the environment. The real estate developer, Frank Ventura (Chris Avram) had previously tried to open a nightclub against the Countess’ wishes. The Countess’ death sets in motion a scramble to secure the inheritance of the bay.
Her illegitimate son Simon (Claudio Volonté), and a married couple, entomologist Paolo Fassati (Leopoldo Trieste) and fortune teller Anna (Laura Betti), who live on the land, are the only ones who don’t want to see any development.
In a seemingly unrelated story, four young partiers, Bobby (Robert Bonnani), Brunhilda (Brigitte Skay), Duke (Guido Boccaccini), and Denise (Paola Rubens) who break into the night club and then the developer’s home, perhaps represent the kind of people who would go on to make use of the bay should it be developed for capitalist gain.
Daughter Renata (Claudine Auger) and her husband, Albert (Luigi Pistilli) arrive and learn of her half-brother who may stand in her way.