21 September, 2007

The MARIO BAVA Book Arrives....

Are you ready for a 1000 plus page journey behind the smoke of mirrors of a humble genre stylist's universe?

Mario Bava (1914-1980) in the mid 1970's....

It actually arrived last week at the designated mailing address but due to my working hours and travelling I didn't get a chance to lay it on my dining room table and begin to examine it until about 2pm this afternoon. I was going to browse though it for about 15 minutes and then do some other things. I sat there unable to stop reading for over three hours! It's still lying there on the table and I'm tempted to just leave it there open at one of its impossible to enumerate, richly colorful spreads overnight to see if it has dissolved by morning. No, it's not a dream. Tim Lucas' MARIO BAVA: ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK is the endpoint of a 32 year long march, an epic biography, a seminal Film History of nearly 100 years of Italian Cinefantastique and is itself an elegant art object.

The intensity of the detail is unrelenting. If this were just a biography of a cult director of Italian genre films it might have been as excessive and prolix as I sometimes feared it would turn out. It IS excessive, but in a way I really appreciate. It doesn't let go of its subject until he's examined from each and every possible historical, aesthetic and human angle. Tim has broadened his scope to tell the story of and historically position Mario's father, Eugenio Bava, "the invisible man of Italian cinema''/cinematographer/visual effects creator who worked on the silent classic CABIRIA and other peplum templates. And there are many other stories: of the rise of Cinecitta, of popular cinema during the Italian Fascist era, the rise of neorealism, and the eventual dismantling of the Italian fantastic cinema machine which geared up with Bava's 1960 international hit, BLACK SUNDAY. Mario Bava's low budget, often innovative and influential features from that seminal horror film onward are covered in long individual chapters detailing their set up, cast, production, distribution. Bava's equally important, but much less well known career as a highly regarded cinematographer of genre films from the late 1930s to the late 1960s is also covered and there are regular sidebar chapters which document his secret career as an uncredited DP/special effects technician on a large number of features made by other directors.

The book is Heavy, as hard to pick up as it is to put down and storage might be a problem even though I live in a huge old house, but this is a book I'll be reading for the rest of my life. And Mario Bava is NOT my favorite Italian film director or even my favorite Italian horror movie director. But that doesn't matter. It's an awesome work, quite unlike anything ever done about a director largely unknown to our present popular culture and to many mainstream moviegoers. We're not talking Orson Welles, John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock here, but even my cursory reading indicates the scope and depth of this book takes Bava just as seriously without distorting film history and his place within it. Its design, imagery and writing just stopped me dead for the last three hours, froze me in place.

I was pleased to be a contributor to this mammoth publication as a research assistant, providing some interviews, information and materials over the years. But my part was a very small one. It will certainly be a treasured possession. My sincerest congratulations to Tim and Donna Lucas for producing MARIO BAVA: ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK.

Robert Monell, 2007


Tim Lucas said...

Thanks for the very kind comments, Bob.

"As hard to pick up as it is to put down" has got to be one of the most hilariously apropos blurbs I've ever read!

Robert Monell said...

Tim: I read a lot of biographies, both from the past up to the most recently pubished. Your book is a work of art. It's an imposing physical presence. I'm thinking of creating a sort of "Mario Bava Room" in a small unused white tiled annex off my kitchen. I'm going to move a wood table in and the book will be placed in the center surrounded by various MB videos and DVDs. Thanks for writing this book and thanks to Donna for her years of hard work which have made this a visual treat.

Anthony said...

That sounds really amazing Bob, ideally you'd have a comfy seat in there where you could sit and page through the book.

I flew to Tasmania for 9 days and normally take favoured books with me to read while down there on family holiday. Not this time, as I didn't want to risk the flight storage or other mishaps. I'll be digging back into the Bava book shortly.

I'm now wondering if Jim Cheney and others have something like a spaghetti western room where they keep their favourite books, posters and DVD's. I know a Melbourne Eurohorror bootlegger (now retired) who stills keeps all his trusty VHS horror master tapes (maybe 2000 titles or so) in a well-kept room and walks inside to admire them from time to time.

I just wish there were 5 or 6 other books of a similar scale and achievement to the Bava book already out there on Euruhorror, Franco, giallos, Argento, krimis, sexploitation, spaghetti westerns and so on. I'd buy them all and it would save us the problem of having to write them or dream about them ourselves.