Mario Bava

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Mario Bava
Mario Bava 75.jpg
Mario Bava in 1975
Born(1914-07-31)31 July 1914
Died27 April 1980(1980-04-27) (aged 65)
Other namesJohn M. Old
John Foam [1]
Occupation Film director, cinematographer, special effects artist, screenwriter
Children Lamberto Bava
Parent(s) Eugenio Bava

Mario Bava (31 July 1914 – 27 April 1980) was an Italian cinematographer, director, special effects artist and screenwriter, [2] frequently referred to as the "Master of Italian Horror" [3] and the "Master of the Macabre". [4] [5] His low-budget genre films, known for their distinctive visual flair and technical ingenuity, feature recurring themes and imagery concerning the conflict between illusion and reality, and the destructive capacity of human nature. [1]

Cinematographer chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film

A cinematographer or director of photography is the chief over the camera and light crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for making artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The study and practice of this field is referred to as cinematography.

Film director Person who controls the artistic and dramatic aspects of a film production

A film director is a person who directs the making of a film. A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfilment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking. Under European Union law, the director is viewed as the author of the film.

Special effect illusions or tricks to change appearance

Special effects are illusions or visual tricks used in the film, television, theatre, video game and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world.


Born to sculptor, cinematographer and special effects pioneer Eugenio Bava, the younger Bava followed his father into the film industry, and eventually earned a reputation as one of Italy's foremost cameramen, lighting and providing the special effects for such films as Hercules (1958) and its sequel Hercules Unchained (1959). During the late 1950s, his eventual career trajectory as a director began when he was relied upon to complete projects begun by or credited to his colleague Riccardo Freda and other filmmakers, including I Vampiri (1957) (the first Italian horror film of the sound era), The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) (the first Italian science fiction film), Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) and The Giant of Marathon (1959). [1]

Eugenio Bava was an Italian film cinematographer.

<i>Hercules</i> (1958 film) 1958 Italian epic fantasy feature film directed by Pietro Francisci

Hercules is a 1958 Italian peplum film based upon the Hercules and the Quest for the Golden Fleece myths. The film stars Steve Reeves as the titular hero and Sylva Koscina as his love interest Princess Iole. Hercules was directed by Pietro Francisci and produced by Federico Teti. The film spawned a 1959 sequel, Hercules Unchained, that also starred Reeves and Koscina.

<i>Hercules Unchained</i> 1959 film by Pietro Francisci

Hercules Unchained is a 1959 Italian-French epic fantasy feature film starring Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina in a story about two warring brothers and Hercules' tribulations in the court of Queen Omphale. The film is the sequel to the Reeves vehicle Hercules (1958) and marks Reeves' second - and last - appearance as Hercules. The film's screenplay, loosely based upon various Greek myths and dramas, was written by Ennio De Concini and Pietro Francisci with Francisci directing and Bruno Vailati and Ferruccio De Martino producing the film.

Although most of Bava's films as director failed to achieve major commercial success upon release, many of them would eventually find acclaim as cult classics, with their content and production values being favourably compared to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Several of them have been noted for their revolutionary impact on their respective genres: Black Sunday (1960), his official directorial debut, was the forerunner of the Italian gothic horror film cycle; The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) is considered to be the first giallo film; Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) heavily influenced the iconography of modern J-Horror; Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970) is regarded as one of the earliest self-parodying Spaghetti Westerns; Four Times That Night (1971) was an early Italian sex comedy; and A Bay of Blood (1971) was a precursor to slasher films. His other notable films include Hercules in the Haunted World (1961), Erik the Conqueror (1961), Black Sabbath (1963), The Whip and the Body (1963), Blood and Black Lace (1964), Planet of the Vampires (1965), Knives of the Avenger (1966), Danger: Diabolik (1968), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), Baron Blood (1972), Lisa and the Devil (1974), Rabid Dogs (1974) and Shock (1977). Despite his reputation as a talented artisan during his lifetime, Bava's shy, self-deprecating demeanour prevented him from taking advantage of opportunities that would have furthered his international standing within the film industry, and he turned down multiple opportunities to work in Hollywood. [1]

Alfred Hitchcock British filmmaker

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was an English film director and producer, widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as "the Master of Suspense", he directed over 50 feature films in a career spanning six decades, becoming as well known as any of his actors thanks to his many interviews, his cameo roles in most of his films, and his hosting and producing of the television anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1965).

<i>Black Sunday</i> (1960 film) 1960 film by Mario Bava

Black Sunday, also known as The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire in the UK, is a 1960 Italian gothic horror film directed by Mario Bava from a screenplay by Ennio de Concini and Mario Serandrei, and starring Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Arturo Dominici and Ivo Garrani. It was Bava's directorial debut, although he had completed several previous feature films without receiving an onscreen credit. Based very loosely on Nikolai Gogol's short story "Viy", the narrative concerns a witch who is put to death by her own brother, only to return 200 years later to seek revenge on her descendants.

<i>The Girl Who Knew Too Much</i> (1963 film) 1963 film by Mario Bava

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a 1963 Italian giallo film. Directed by Italian filmmaker Mario Bava, the film stars John Saxon as Dr. Marcello Bassi and Letícia Román as Nora Davis. The plot revolves around a young woman named Nora, who travels to Rome and witnesses a murder. The police and Dr. Bassi don't believe her since a corpse can't be found. Several more murders follow, tied to a decade-long string of killings of victims chosen in alphabetical order.

Among the filmmakers Bava and his work have influenced include Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Federico Fellini, John Carpenter, Nicolas Winding Refn, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, John Landis, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Corman, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. [6] His son and frequent assistant director, Lamberto Bava, later became a noted fantasy and horror film director in his own right.

Dario Argento Italian film director, producer and screenwriter

Dario Argento is an Italian film director, producer, film critic and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in the horror film genre during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the subgenre known as giallo, and for his influence on modern horror films, which has led him to being referred to as the "Master of the Thrill" and the "Master of Horror".

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Mario Bava was born in San Remo, Liguria on 31 July 1914. He was the son of Eugenio Bava (1886-1966), a sculptor who also worked as a special effects photographer and cameraman in the Italian silent movie industry. Mario Bava's first ambition was to become a painter. Unable to turn out paintings at a profitable rate, he went into his father's business, working as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers like Massimo Terzano. He also helped his father at the special effects department at Benito Mussolini's film factory, the Istituto Luce.

Sanremo Comune in Liguria, Italy

Sanremo or San Remo is a city and comune on the Mediterranean coast of Liguria, in north-western Italy. Founded in Roman times, it has a population of 57,000, and is known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. It hosts numerous cultural events, such as the Sanremo Music Festival and the Milan–San Remo cycling classic.

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Bava became a cinematographer himself in 1939, shooting two short films with Roberto Rossellini. He made his feature debut in the early 1940s. Bava's camerawork was an instrumental factor in developing the screen personas of such stars of the period as Gina Lollobrigida, Steve Reeves and Aldo Fabrizi.

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Gina Lollobrigida Italian actress

Luigina "Gina" Lollobrigida is an Italian actress, photojournalist and sculptress. She was one of the highest profile European actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which she was an international sex symbol.

Steve Reeves American bodybuilder and actor

Stephen Lester Reeves was an American professional bodybuilder, actor, and philanthropist. He was famous in the mid-1950s as a movie star in Italian-made peplum films, playing the protagonist as muscular characters such as Hercules, Goliath, and Sandokan. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid actor in Europe.

Bava completed filming I vampiri (aka The Devil's Commandment) for director Riccardo Freda in 1956, a movie now referred to as the first Italian horror film. Bava was originally hired as the cinematographer, but when Freda walked out on the project midway through production, Bava completed the film in several days, even creating the innovative special effects that were needed. He also handled the cinematography and special effects on the 1955 Kirk Douglas epic Ulysses and the 1957 Steve Reeves classic Hercules , two films credited with sparking the Italian sword and sandal genre.

Bava co-directed The Day the Sky Exploded in 1958, the first Italian science fiction film, predating even the sci-fi films of Antonio Margheriti. Because he had no earlier credited experience as a director, the film was credited solely to Paolo Heusch. In 1959, Bava completed Caltiki - the Immortal Monster , again for Riccardo Freda who left the project prematurely, and also worked on the lighting and special effects for 2 Steve Reeves epics, Hercules Unchained and The Giant of Marathon .

In 1960, Bava directed the gothic horror classic Black Sunday , his first solo directorial effort, which made a genre star out of Barbara Steele. His use of light and dark in black-and-white films is widely acclaimed along with his spectacular use of color in films such as Black Sabbath , Kill, Baby... Kill! , Blood and Black Lace and The Whip and the Body .

Bava in 1962. Mario Bava.jpg
Bava in 1962.

His work has proved very influential. Bava directed what is now regarded as the earliest of the Italian giallo films, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964). His 1965 sci-fi/ horror film Planet of the Vampires was a thematic precursor to Alien (1979). Although comic books had served as the basis for countless serials and children's films in Hollywood, Bava's Danger: Diabolik (1968) brought an adult perspective to the genre. Many elements of his 1966 film Kill, Baby... Kill! , regarded by Martin Scorsese as Bava's masterpiece, also appear in the Asian strain of terror film known as J-horror. 1971's A Bay of Blood is considered one of the earliest slasher films, and was explicitly imitated in Friday the 13th Part 2 .

Mario Bava was very disappointed with the theatrical distribution of some of his later films. His Lisa and the Devil (1972) was never picked up by a distributor, and had to be later re-edited by the producer (with new 1975 footage) into an Exorcist-clone retitled House of Exorcism in order to get released. Bava's Semaforo Rosso (1974) was never released theatrically during his lifetime; the film only appeared on Video in the late 1990s, re-edited with some new footage, as Rabid Dogs, and was released again later on DVD in 2007 in a slightly altered version under the title Kidnapped.

In 1977, Bava directed his last horror film, Shock , which was co-directed with his son Lamberto Bava who did the work uncredited. Bava later did special effects matte work on Dario Argento's 1980 film Inferno . Mario Bava died of natural causes on 27 April 1980 at age 65. His doctor had given him a physical just a few days before he died from a sudden heart attack, and had pronounced him in perfect health. Right before Bava's death, he was about to start filming a science fiction film titled Star Riders, a project on which Luigi Cozzi had hoped to collaborate. [7]

Mario Bava's son Lamberto Bava worked for 14 years as Bava's assistant director (beginning with Planet of the Vampires), and went on to become a horror film director on his own. On several of Mario's movies, Mario was credited as John M. Old. [8] Later, Lamberto was sometimes credited as John M. Old, Jr. [9] When Lamberto directed his first solo film Macabre in 1980 and screened the completed work for his father, Mario commented jokingly to Lamberto: "I am very proud of you. Now I can die in peace". (He actually did die less than two months later.)

Several books have been published about Mario Bava: Mario Bava by Pascal Martinet (Edilig, 1984) and Mario Bava edited by Jean-Louis Leutrat (Éditions du Céfal, 1994) in French; Mario Bava by Alberto Pezzotta (Il Castoro Cinema, 1995) in Italian; The Haunted Worlds of Mario Bava by Troy Howarth (FAB Press, 2002) and most recently, the massive critical biography Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog, 2007; ISBN   0-9633756-1-X).

In 2002, a documentary entitled Mario Bava: Master of the Macabre was released on DVD.


YearFilmWorked asNotes
Director Writer Cinematographer
1943 Annabella's Adventure Yes
1943Sant'Elena, piccola isolaYes
1946L'Elisir d'amore (The Love Potion)Yes
1947Uomini e cieliYes
1948 Natale al campo 119 Yes
1948 Pagliacci Yes
1949 Anthony of Padua Yes
1949Follie per l'operaYes
1950 Miss Italia Yes
1950 È arrivato il cavaliere! Yes
1950 Song of Spring Yes
1950 Vita da cani Yes
1950 Her Favourite Husband Yes
1951 La Famiglia Passaguai Yes
1951 Amor non ho... però... però Yes
1951 Cops and Robbers Yes
1951 La Famiglia Passaguai fa fortuna Yes
1952 Papà diventa mamma Yes
1952 Gli Eroi della domenica Yes
1953Balocchi e ProfumiYes
1953Il Bacio dell'AuroraYes
1953 Il Viale della speranza Yes
1953 Villa Borghese Yes
1954Terza liceoYes
1954Hanno rubato un tramYes
1954 Cose da pazzi Yes
1955Buonanotte... avvocato!Yes
1955 Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova Yes
1955 Ulysses YesYes
1956 I Vampiri YesYes
Alternative titles
* The Devil's Commandment
  • The Vampires
  • Lust of the Vampire
1956 Roland the Mighty Yes
Alternative title
Orlando e i Paladini di Francia/ Orlando and the Knights of France
1956Città di notteYes
1956 Beautiful But Dangerous Yes
1956 Mio figlio Nerone (My Son Nero)Yes
Alternative titles
* Nero's Weekend
  • Nero's Mistress
1957 Hercules Yes
Alternative titles
* Le Fatiche di Ercole (The Labors of Hercules)
1958 The Day the Sky Exploded YesYes
Alternative title
La morte viene dallo spazio (Death Comes from Space)
1959 Hercules Unchained Yes
Alternative title
Ercole e la Regina di Lidia (Hercules and the Queen of Lydia)
1959 Caltiki - The Immortal Monster YesYes
Alternative title
Calitiki il mostro immortale
1959 The Giant of Marathon YesYes
Alternative title
The Battle of Marathon (La battaglia di Maratona)
1959The White WarriorYesYes
Alternative title
Agi Murad, the White Devil
1960 Black Sunday YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Mask of the Demon (La maschera del demonio)
  • Revenge of the Vampire
  • The Mask of Satan
1960 Esther and the King YesYes
1961 Hercules in the Haunted World YesYesYes
Alternative title
* Ercole al centro della terra (Hercules at the Center of the Earth)
1961 Erik the Conqueror YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Fury of the Vikings
  • The Invaders (Gli invasori)
1961 The Wonders of Aladdin Yes
1961 The Last of the Vikings Yes
1963 The Girl Who Knew Too Much YesYesYes
Alternative title
* La ragazza che sapeva troppo
  • Evil Eye
1963 Black Sabbath YesYesYes
Alternative title
* Three Faces of Fear
  • I tre volti della paura
1963 The Whip and the Body YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* What?
  • La Frusta e il Corpo
1964 Blood and Black Lace YesYesYes
Alternative title
Six Women for the Murderer (Sei donne per l'assassino)
1964 The Road to Fort Alamo YesYes
Alternative title
Arizona Bill
1965 Planet of the Vampires YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Demon Planet
  • Terrore nello spazio
  • Terror in Space
  • The Haunted Planet
  • The Haunted World
1966 Knives of the Avenger YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Bladestorm
  • Viking Massacre
  • I coltelli del vendicatore
1966 Kill, Baby, Kill YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Curse of the Living Dead
  • Operation Fear
  • Operazione paura
1966 Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs YesYes
Alternative titles
* Dr. Goldfoot and the Love Bomb
  • Dr. Goldfoot and the Sex Bombs
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Semi-Cold
  • Two Mafia Guys from the FBI
1966Savage GringoYesYes
Alternative titles
* Ringo from Nebraska
  • Nebraska Jim
  • A Gunman Called Nebraska
1968 Danger: Diabolik YesYesYes
Alternative title
1968 The Odyssey (made for Italian TV)YesYes
Alternative title
The Adventures of Ulysses (Bava directed only the Polyphemus episode)
1970 Five Dolls for an August Moon YesYes
Alternative title
* Island of Terror
  • 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto
1970 Hatchet for the Honeymoon YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Blood Brides
  • The Red Stain of Madness
  • Il rosso segno della follia
1970 Roy Colt & Winchester Jack YesYesYes
1971 A Bay of Blood YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Twitch of the Death Nerve
  • Ecology of Crime (Ecologia del delitto)
  • Chain Reaction (Reazione a Catena)
  • Last House on the Left II
  • Carnage
1972 Baron Blood YesYes
Alternative titles
* The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood
  • The Horrors of Nuremberg Castle
  • Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga
  • The Blood Baron
1972 Four Times That Night YesYes
1972 Lisa and the Devil YesYes
Alternative titles
* The Devil Carries the Dead / El diablo se lleva a los muertos
  • The House of Exorcism (1975 re-edited version)
1974 Rabid Dogs (aka Kidnapped)YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Cani arrabbiati
  • Semaforro Rosso (Red (Traffic) Light)
  • Kidnapped (2007 re-edited version)
1977 Shock YesYesYes
Alternative titles
* Beyond the Door II
  • Shock: Transfert-Suspense-Hypnos
1979La Venere d'Ille (The Venus of the Island)YesYesYes
Alternative title
La Venere d'Ille

See also

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  6. Johnson, Gary. "The Golden-Age of Italian Horror: c. 1957-1979". Retrieved 15 August 2012.
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