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I own and had already watched another documentary about the cult horror film-maker, MARIO BAVA: MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE (2000; TV) so that, going into this one, I wondered what was the point of another look at his life and work especially since both emerge to be no more than adequate, clearly overlapping information and interviewees! Incidentally, this is the first in my mini-marathon of Bava movies commemorating the 30th anniversary of his passing (on 27th April 1980). I do not recall the earlier effort (which had come as part of the supplements on Anchor Bay UK's edition of HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON  but is also available on Ripley Home Video's Italian disc of BLACK Sunday , which I will be getting to soon) enough to compare the two: for the record, I had originally included MAESTRO in my current schedule but, since it would fall far short of Tim Lucas' intimidatingly exhaustive biographical tome anyway (the authoritative 'voice' of "Video Watchdog", naturally, cannot fail to make an appearance here), I thought better of checking out or re-acquainting myself with as many of Bava's achievements as possible for the remainder of the month! Anyway, here we get a plethora of relatives, collaborators and colleagues (the latter including such ubiquitous buffs of "Euro-Cult" as Quentin Tarantino and Joe Dante both of whom I encountered several times throughout their tenure as hosts of the Italian B-movie retrospective held during the 2004 Venice Film Festival and even John Landis, who takes every opportunity to gleefully bad-mouth Mel Gibson's just-released THE PASSION OF THE Christ ) who attempt to delineate Bava's essential qualities as both man and maverick (not just his influence as a stylist and technical wizard, but also the ingenuity he displayed in overcoming a usually pitiful budget). However, this is done pretty much in a haphazard fashion, touching upon films at random and not even taking care to discuss his every landmark: just as the Gothic masterpiece THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963) was entirely omitted from MAESTRO (at least that is how I seem to remember it), there is no mention here of the seminal 'slasher' A BAY OF BLOOD aka TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1971) or, for that matter, his wonderful made-for-TV swansong THE VENUS OF ILLE (1978; which also marked the directorial debut of his son Lamberto who, by the way, I have just learned was recently in Malta shooting stuff intended for the small screen)!
I must admit this isn't the world's most interesting documentary and it's mainly intended for audiences that already know Mario Bava was a genius filmmaker, so they can simply nod their head whenever his great influence on horror cinema is mentioned. However, it is interesting to see how many great nowadays directors are big fans of Bava too! For example, I knew Quentin Tarantino loves pretty much everything that was obscure, foreign and released in the rancid 70's, but I didn't really know he's a Bava-admirer as well! Or Tim Burton! Ever since I first watched his "Sleepy Hollow", I was secretly hoping Bava's influence contributed to the macabre atmosphere of that film and, apparently, it did! "Operazione Paura", which is also the original title of one of Bava's best horror films, is a series of sensational clips and short interviews, hosted by Joe Dante and covers pretty much all his horror movies except for "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" and, rather surprisingly, "Bay of Blood". Naturally, a little more attention is given to Mario Bava's debut and ultimate masterpiece "Black Sunday" and the efforts that single-handedly launched a cult trend, like "Blood and Black Lace", "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" and "Danger: Diabolik". Then the documentary also centers on the director's most recognizable trademarks, like the vivid use of bright colors and the extreme (over-)use of camera zooms and close-ups. Everyone who means something in the Italian horror industry, from producer Dino De Laurentiis over to fellow director Dario Argento to legendary composer Ennio Morricone, comes to tell us why Mario Bava is generally considered to be the 'master of terror', while the American guys bring back memories how how they watched his films in cheap grindhouse theaters or drive-ins. It's not a very informative documentary, but it's a delight to see so many prominent people share their enthusiasm and admiration towards the greatest horror-director who ever lived.
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