Mario Bava Week Day 1: A Bay of Blood

Today I watched Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood (1971)


A Bay of Blood opens with a brilliant scene in which an old woman is murdered in such a way that it appears as a suicide, but then her murderer immediately befalls the same fate before he can do so much as wash his hands.  This opening sets up what kind of film you are in for, one that plays with audience expectations and is a veritable parade of grisly murder.  The plot is a bit hard to follow up until the final reveal, but it concerns the inheritance of a seaside bay, whose real-estate value must be incredibly high.

The issues that this movie has all stem from a lack of protagonist, or antagonist for that matter.  Unlike American slashers Giallo films still had the trappings of a whodunit with a mysterious killer who could be any of the characters.  This movie adheres to that trope until the epic conclusion, but before that the killer is the standard set of black leather gloves popular in the genre.  Unfortunately the film never really lets character elements exist in any major player unless they create suspicion.  The rest of the supporting cast are obvious victims awaiting slaughter and thus elicit little emotional involvement.

What the film lacks in characters it makes up for with the quick pace which brings the visually inspired murders all the quicker.  When it comes to the killing this is an impeccably well shot film and a highly creative one for the time in which it came out.  When taken in context of when this film was made, the shocking nature of the violence is only amplified, I can only imagine how horrifying this would have been to it’s contemporary audience.  And it still holds up today, Bava shows powerful restraint and despite how violent the film is, it feels twice as much so because of how the film shows only what is necessary and lets the audiences imagination go from there.

A Bay of Blood is a fascinating film for it’s imagery and explicit content but it could have done more with the characters.  This would have made me more invested in the proceedings, but as it stands I still really enjoyed the film.  It may be more interesting and engaging to people with an interest in the history of low brow film making though, because of just how convoluted it can be at times and its lack of complex characters.  Still, it is classic, well-made, visually inspired Giallo from the creator of the genre himself and as such has plenty of interesting material to the historically inclined.  4/5


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