from Black Sabbath, 1963.
Bizarre Sinema! Horror all'italiana
Mario Bava

Links/Further Reading

"Necrophily, suggested in a beautiful sequence in which Alessio Orano uselessly tries to make love to Elke Sommer after drugging her, on a canopy bed, beside the skeleton of his dead wife."

- Antonio Bruschini referring to "Lisa and the Devil" in "Bizarre Sinema! Horror all'italiana" (Glittering Images).

**DVD - highly recommended, *DVD - worth buying, DVD - available, but . . . .
Date Movie Title USA UK
1957 I Vampiri/Lust of the Vampire VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1959 Caltiki, the Immortal Monster VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1960 Black Sunday VHS - **DVD VHS - DVD
1961 Esther e il Re VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1961 Hercules in the Haunted World VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1963 The Girl Who Knew Too Much/The Evil Eye VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1963 Black Sabbath VHS - **DVD VHS - DVD
1963 The Whip and the Body VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1964 Blood and Black Lace VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1965 Planet of the Vampires VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1966 Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1966 Kill, Baby... Kill!  VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1968 Danger: Diabolik VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1969 Hatchet for the Honeymoon VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1970 Five Dolls for an August Moon VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1971 Twitch of the Death Nerve VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1972 Quante volte... quella notte VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1972 Baron Blood VHS - *DVD VHS - DVD
1973 Lisa and the Devil  VHS - **DVD VHS - DVD
1974 The House of Exorcism VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
1977 Shock/Beyond the Door II VHS - DVD VHS - DVD
For a complete filmography go to the IMDB


Born: July 31, 1914, San Remo, Italy

Italian director and cinematographer, he learned his craft by assisting his father Eugenio Bava, a former cameraman who headed the Instituto Luce's optical effects department. Bava became a director of photography in 1939 and shot films by Roberto Rossellini, G.W. Pabst and Raoul Walsh.

Bava collaborated with Riccardo Freda on I, VAMPIRI (1957), the first Italian horror film of the sound era, initially as cameraman and optical effects designer, then directing half the film in only two days when Freda abandoned the film. In 1959, Freda intentionally tricked Bava into finishing Caltiki, the Immortal Monster. This led to his screen directorial debut, LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (Black Sunday - 1960) based on the Nikolai Gogol story "Vij" (1835) and is a perfect conglomeration of nightmare and fairytale, parlaying the haunted forest ambience of Universal and the graphic violence of Hammer into something uniquely Italian.

The following three films showed Bava at the height of his creative powers. LA FRUSTA E IL CORPO (The Whip and the Body - 1963) cast Dahlia Lavi and Christopher Lee in a vertiginously romantic period film about a masochist haunted by the ghost of her whip-wielding lover. I TRE VOLTI DELLA PAURA (Black Sabbath - 1963), a three-part anthology which gave Karloff his last great horror role was often cited by Bava as his own personal favourite, and SEI DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO (Blood and Black Lace - 1964) is the first great giallo, a deleriously colourful, nakedly sadistic whodunit about fashion models being murdered by a maniac in search of an incriminating diary.

With TERRORE NELLO SPAZIO (Planet of the Vampires - 1965), in which members of an exploratory space mission are physically invaded by the disembodied spirits of an alien race, Bava achieved a successful fusion of SF and Horror and was a major influence on the 1979 film, Alien. After the disastrous LE SPIE VENGONO DAL SEMIFREDDO (Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs - 1966), he rebounded with OPERAZIONE PAURA (Kill Baby Kill - 1966) a low-budget, gothic masterpiece about villagers haunted by the ball bouncing ghost of a little girl, whose apparition compels them to commit suicide. Oedipal and unsettling, with unexpected sequences of Escher-like dislocations of time and space, the film was an influence on later films by Fellini, Scorsese and Lynch.

In 1968 Bava was approached by Dino De Laurentiis to film DANGER: DIABOLIK, the biggest assignment of his career. Budgeted at $3,000,000, DIABOLIK was completed for only $400,000. In 1969 Bava directed the darkly comic UN'ACCETTA PER LA LUNA DI MIELE (Hatchet for the Honeymoon) in Barcelona, followed by CINQUE BAMBOLE E LA LUNA D'AGOSTO (Five Dolls for an August Moon - 1970). He then impishly extended, even obliterated, the frontiers of the sub-genre with L'ECOLOGIE DEL DELITTO (Twitch of the Death Nerve - 1971), a diabolical black comedy which boasts 13 characters and 13 outrageously splashy murders. Reviled at the time of its release, it proved prophetic when the imitative Friday the 13th (1980) launched a new generation of "body count' movies.

GLI ORRORI DEL CASTELLO DI NORIMBERGA (Baron Blood - 1972) was followed by the extraordinary IL DIAVOLO E IL MORTO (Lisa nd the Devil - 1973). Based on memories of growing up among his fathers sculptures, dialogue borrowed from Dostoevsky and an unrealised project about necrophile Viktor Ardisson, IL DIAVOLO E IL MORTO unfolds like a waking dream, following disorinted heroine Elke Sommer through a time-suspended labyrinth of love, sex and violent death. When the film proved unsaleable at the 1973 Cannes Festival, Bava re-made the film as LA CASA DELL'ESORCISMO (The house of Exorcism - 1975), a bewildering Exorcist rip-off. This served its purpose, easing the original out of the red, and has been forgoten, while LISA E IL DIAVOLO has resurfaced on video and DVD to an overdue audience of admirers.

He found it harder and harder to find directorial assignments after turning 60, and several green-lighted projects also turned unlucky. Troubled by his fathers inactivity, son Lamberto Bava (his assistant since 1966) scripted what proved to be his final feature, SHOCK (1977), the harrowing story of a woman's mental collapse after returning to the house she once lived with her late, drug-addicted husband. Bava died of a heart attack at age 66.

- For the complete article by Tim Lucas, see BFI Companion to Horror - edt. by Kim Newman, 1996