Monday, June 30, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Donna monkeys around with Kogar (Bob Burns) on the set of Larry Blamire's A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Photo by Frank Dietz.
Tonight, Donna and I returned home from an amazing ten-day trip to Los Angeles -- our first real vacation since we started VIDEO WATCHDOG in 1989 -- so if you're wondering why your e-mail hasn't been answered or your order confirmed, that's why. There's been nobody here except the dear friend who's been taking care of our cats.
What a trip! During our time in California, we picked up our Saturn Award for Special Achievement and shook the hand of Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films president Robert Holguin; Lucy Chase Williams and her husband Gibby Brand held a welcoming party for us in their Glendale home; we lunched with Joe Dante and his partner Elizabeth Stanley at the famous Musso and Frank's; we hung out with Bob & Kathy Burns at their "Bob's Basement" museum (then dined with them and our cover artist Charlie Largent at Bob's Big Boy on a "Classic Car" Friday); we attended a Q&A with Orson Bean at Beyond Baroque in Venice, where we met Orson and his wife Alley Mills, then had dinner with Orson all to ourselves at a fabulous French restaurant called Lilly's; we saw THE INCREDIBLE HULK (eh) at the Cinerama Dome theater; we walked around the Santa Monica Pier with Richard Harland Smith and his two toddlers and trudged through what felt like 20 miles of sand to get our feet wet in the Pacific; we got a private preview screening of Howard Berger's outstanding new music documentary A LIFE IN THE DEATH OF JOE MEEK, followed by an all-night conversation with Howard; we dropped in on Sue & Del Howison at Dark Delicacies, where we left a signed copy of MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK for sale, and -- neither last nor least -- we were guests on the set of Larry Blamire's forthcoming "old dark house" mystery A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, where we met Larry (a past VW contributor!), his wife Jennifer "Animala" Blaire, H.M. Wynant, James Karen, Brian Howe, Andrew "Truphen Newben" Parks and renewed old acquaintence with Sketchy Thingster Frank Dietz and our pal-since-the-early-Seventies, Mike Schlesinger, who's producing the picture (which looks like an inspired satire). I got to see some other friends again, meet a few people with whom I've been corresponding off and on for many years, and I even got hugged and kissed by Guillermo del Toro, who greeted me at the Saturn Awards like a long lost brother (and some have said there is a resemblance). Further sweetening the deal: Shintaro Sushi, fresh avocados, Prizzi's, fresh avocados, The House of Pies, fresh avocados, and a pleasingly firm bed at the Hollywood hills aerie of that Wild, Wild Westerner, David J. Schow, located high above the audible a.m. feeding frenzies of local coyotes.
As I'm posting this, I'm so sleepy that my eyes are literally crossing, but I wanted to explain my/our recent absence, during which time we could read e-mail but couldn't respond to it... which is not what we should have been doing on our first vacation in nearly 20 years anyway, and which we're therefore filing under "Fortunate Inconveniences." Watch for more fax and pix in the days ahead, as we begin to upload our own photos.
And a Big Thank You to Frank Dietz for capturing this once-in-a-lifetime moment on the official DARK AND STORMY NIGHT stills camera.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


... by me, here, in the current (July 2008) issue of SIGHT & SOUND.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tonight Let's Watch Franco Films in Paris

Tonight, the most ambitious retrospective of Jess Franco films ever mounted begins to unreel at the Cinemathèque Française in Paris. Franco himself will be present to answer questions about his 1968 release NECRONOMICON, in what may well be a 35mm print distinct from the altered version issued in America as SUCCUBUS in 1969.

The Franco retrospective (which consists of 68 films by my count!) will run from today, June 18, through July 31. Here is a link to a complete alphabetical listing of the films being shown, their showtimes and locations, posted by Robert Monell at his website I'm In a Jess Franco State of Mind.

I certainly wish I could be there for this exciting event and send my best wishes to Jess and Lina for this long overdue celebration of their life of work.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sweden, Authorized and Unauthorized

Andreas Frisk of the Swedish DVD label Klubb Super8 has written to inform me that the Japanese Avanz Entertainment DVD release of SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is unauthorized, and that the Klubb Super8 release is the only authorized release of the film to date.

"The Avanz DVD is most certainly a bootleg," he writes, "since it has burned-in subtitles and it looks like it's taped from TV." (Indeed, the Avanz disc transfer features a rotating TV station bug that reads "Ciao!" I cropped these out of the screen grabs in my previous posting.) "I have been in contact with Avanz," Andreas continues, "and the Italian company that hold the rights to the film, regarding an upload of the whole movie on Google Video that I found. The reply from Avanz confirmed my suspicions: 'We're not original licenser and almost public domain... a rights holder might have permitted it...' 'Almost public domain'... there is no such thing as 'almost' public domain. The worldwide rights holder is the Italian company that produced the film and they are still around, and it is with them Klubb Super 8 made a deal for our legitimate release. It would be great if you could somehow point this out in your blog. I have made an comparison of the two DVD's, check attached files."

I have reproduced the attachment above, which you can click to enlarge. It speaks very well indeed for the superior quality of the Klubb Super 8 release.
I should also mention, to those of you who read and enjoyed my "Cincinnati, Heaven and Hell" posting (thanks to those who wrote to me), that I've been tweaking it ever since it first went up on Sunday; I don't think I've ever revised anything else written for this blog to quite this extent, but this piece has continued to develop as its topic continues to entice my imagination. In other words, if you've read it before and liked it, you might want to read it again because it's probably different now and hopefully that much improved. In fact, I just added some new material to it within the last ten minutes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cincinnati, Heaven and Hell

You tried to warn me then
And I still loved you when
You said the words I could not believe...

When you work in the business of film and video reviewing, there's a constant and sometimes oppressive pressure to cover only what is new. More and more often of late, I've been fighting this sense of regimentation by watching what I want to watch, what I'm most drawn to. The movies I find most enticing at any given time may not be new releases; they may not even be official releases -- indeed, they may not have been released at all. There is, and always will be, a tremendous allure about those unsanctioned titles which can only be seen through the efforts of a dedicated subterranean community. Fortunately, each issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG can support only so much of my own writing, which leaves me a certain amount of time each month in which to truffle out the kinds of movies that can only be found by those who are willing to dig. It is the pursuit and study of these random obsessions that keep me excited about what I do.

That love was just a game
A game to play
Any way
Maybe madly
Or maybe sadly...

A Swede maybe, frozen to death possibly.

I was recently able to realize a long-held dream of seeing Luigi Scattini's mondo film SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL (1968) in English. Judging from the copy I obtained, it must have had an official DVD release in Japan, because it was in English with fixed Japanese subtitles. I looked around the internet in search of the actual disc, but couldn't find it at any of the usual outlets, so I can only surmise it has gone out-of-print.

Could it be really true

My love meant nothing too

And I was only just a passing affair?

Marie Liljedahl - A Swede in danger?

Supposedly a documentary about the peculiarities of Sweden and its people, SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is a patently false construction -- for example, a segment on a Swedish biker gang ends with the cyclists dismounting to chase a young woman through the woods, whom they catch and then proceed to gang-rape in a coyly filmed and very short sequence. Close-ups of the supposed victim reveal her to be actress Marie Liljedahl, a fact which, at the time, would have been apparent only to those few who had also seen INGA, EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION or GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES FOR ADULTS.

Trauma? Acting?

Edmond Purdom's narration of a later segment about a secret lesbian club (where we witness the congregation of what Mr. Purdom calls "human wreckage") mentions that the earlier segment's rape victim is among the women onscreen -- hinting that all lesbians share a history of traumatic contact with the male sex -- but Ms. Liljedahl is nowhere to be seen among their number. Other segments profile a kind of permissive barge cruise where teenagers can lose their virginity and gain sexual experience with multiple partners; a nightclub featuring a topless rock band; the birth of a baby destined for adoption; a home for unwanted children; Sweden's supposed epidemic tendencies to alcoholism and suicide; a tour of a Swedish atomic shelter (which looks rather like the dressing room area of a sports arena), and a group of teen girls who run semi-naked through the snow after opening their pores with a nice schvitz in a sauna.

Brother and sister, man and wife -- or are they?

Yes, it was true that

You never did care...

Da dee da dee-dee ( Mah-ná mah-ná), Deet dee-dee deet...

It's during the almost embarrassingly innocent sauna scene that Piero Umiliani's hit song "Mah-ná Mah-ná" is heard for the first and only time in the picture. To be sure, a large measure of this strange film's pull on my imagination stems from my purchase of the 45rpm single -- a song wholesome enough for Cincinnati's Larry Smith Puppets (and later, the Muppets) to pantomime on television -- when I was in my early teens. The Ariel Records label mentioned parenthetically that the song was from the movie SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL, about which I knew nothing, but I can vividly recall the tingles of teenage complicity and transgression I felt when the film eventually opened at Cincinnati's Twin Drive-In Theater, carrying an X rating. I suppose I had already transgressed along similar lines when I bought Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" from the MIDNIGHT COWBOY soundtrack, but there was nothing conspicuously adult about that song. There was something vaguely creepy about discovering "Mah-ná Mah-ná"'s ties to an X-rated movie; it was such an otherworldly novelty record, an instrumental from a film peopled with unprofessionals, my brain boggled as it pondered what racy spectacles the song might accompany onscreen. Easy Tempo's soundtrack CD contains a list of the musicians who performed Umiliani's score (including none other than Gato Barbieri) and reveals that the vocals were by Sandro Alessandroni ("Mah-ná Mah-ná") and Edda Dell'Orso ("Deet dee-dee-deet") -- both of whom contributed significantly to Ennio Morricone's unparalleled score for Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST the very same year. Indeed, there is a track on the album called "La Signora Cameriera" featuring a distinctive whistle by Alessandroni that evokes "Cheyenne's Theme" from the Leone masterpiece.

What do Swedish policewomen do when off-duty? Nude modelling, of course.

Umiliani's alternately spritely, mournful and longing lounge score (currently out of print, but downloadable from here) lends a haunting ambiance to what otherwise would be a peculiarly arid sketch of European despair. Perhaps its most compelling cue is a bluesy torch song called "You Tried To Warn Me" (amusingly listed in the end titles as "You Tried To Worm Me"), sung by Lydia MacDonald. The song's melody is repeated serially throughout the picture, even instrumentally reprised within other cues, though its lyrics make no specific comment about anything in it. Other reprised melodies, like that of "Solitudine," have a greater bearing on the picture, their symphonic strains of overbearing sadness going some way towards describing in music the supposed Swedish sense of malaise -- that bizarre nullity of spirit that blooms only in the land of the midnight sun, compelling the natives to marry their siblings, drink antifreeze, jump off the roofs of buildings, and dance with members of the same sex.

Cavorting at the lesbian bar.

And, though you're gone,

I'll still keep on loving you.

Sweden's Love Boat. Or is it?

With its POV shots of boats meeting the horizon lines of glittering waterways, cars venturing along barren country roads, soulless architecture and a cast of (mostly) nameless people, some of whom are shown leaping to faked deaths from window ledges or sharing a bottle of Aquavit with strangers in a public pissoir -- all set to unexpectedly gripping music that counts, along with 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, as Umiliani's masterpiece -- SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is one of those movies that best come alive when watched in solitude in the after-midnight hours. After watching the movie, I seriously considered giving it another spin right away, knowing that a second viewing would inevitably take me to even stranger corners of the night and my imagination. It struck me, unexpectedly, as a Ballardian picture, empathic but strangely clinical, the kind of movie that entices one (at least entices me) to think about exploring it further -- not in the form of a review, but in a work of experimental short fiction. It's not so much about Sweden, I gather, as it's about a place in the imagination called Sweden.

J.G. Ballard's Sweden. Or is it?

Could it be really true

My love meant nothing too

And I was only just a passing affair?

Going to the drive-in. Or am I?

Now that I've finally seen SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL via this DVD-R disc, I find myself wishing all the more ardently that I could have seen it in 35mm when it played at my local Twin Drive-In Theater in 1970. I wish I could find and interview the Ohioans and Northern Kentuckians who went in my stead, like one of those man-in-the-street interrogators from the SCHOOLGIRL REPORT films: What was the experience like for them? Was it what they expected? Why did they go? Because of the hit song? Because of the X rating? Did they curse to themselves when they realized that it wasn't going to be quite the sensational exposé they had been led to expect? Did they snicker or feel revulsion at the grinny brother and his shy-looking sister who (we're told) met belatedly in life, fell in love, and had to leave Stockholm for the anonymity of life in a smaller town? Did they see through the phony parts, which supposedly caused a public uproar when the film was finally televised, many years later, in Stockholm? Did they inadvertently learn something about Sweden, its progressive views on sex, its socialist society, despite Scattini's fictions and manipulations? Did they recognize themselves in it?

A Swedish girl broods in her room -- as I once did. Were they showing "Cincinnati, Heaven and Hell" only four blocks away and she couldn't go?

If I think hard enough, I am there... semi-reclined in the driver's seat of a 1967 Camaro at the Twin Drive-In on that lost evening -- which I actually spent approximately four blocks away, "in my room, in my room," even then grinding my teeth at the thought of the experience I was missing, so close yet so far away. As the film ends, cheap images of atomic devastation followed by splicy, jumpy footage of teenage girls sunning their naked bodies on a riverbank -- nubile representatives of a reborn Sweden -- the closing song ("Sleep Now, Little One") cuts out on my window speaker. It is abruptly replaced by the Twin's stock intermission/exit music, which always began with either The Box Tops' "Cry Like a Baby" or The Beatles' "Lady Madonna" joined in progress. The movie is over, I tell myself; it will never play here again. I sit patiently, savoring the moment, letting the cars around me ignite and jockey for positions in the exiting queues, all of their drivers somehow more eager than I to break away from this shared spell of mystification and return to their mundane lives.

Yes, it was true that

You never did care

And, though you're gone,

I'll still keep on loving you.

It occurs to me, as I watch their Mustangs and Thunderbirds and Ramblers inching away and suddenly bolting onto Tennessee Avenue like racehorses, that I will, in all likelihood, never know any of the people with whom I just shared this singular experience, which makes them indistinguishable from the people who appeared in SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL, whom I will also never know. Sometimes, years later, a revelation may crop up in conversation at a party or around a watercooler -- "You were there too?" -- but it occurs so rarely that those other cars might as well be filing out of a theater somewhere in Stockholm.

Knowing that it will be some time before the exits are cleared, I decide to stretch my legs. I get out of my car, light a cigarette and look up at the stars -- the stars that Cincinnati shares with Stockholm and the little Swedish town where the incestuous lovers have hidden themselves away from worldly scrutiny, while consenting to celebrate their love openly in a motion picture that will be shown all around the world. I think about how a movie like SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is like a message in a bottle, sent from one culture to another... I've found it, I've seen it, but now what do I do with it? A train whistle blows in the distance and wonder where it is going at this hour. Will it cross the Erie Canal? Both Sweden and Cincinnati have an Erie Canal...

Suddenly, a car horn intrudes upon my reverie. The lot is now empty and a man is waving impatiently to me from the theater gate; he wants to close up. I drop my cigarette, replace the speaker on its stand and climb back into my Camaro; I start up the engine and enjoy the slow sensation of my tires rolling over the gravel and the condoms and the popcorn boxes on the way out, my headlights bouncing off the arrows leading to the exit. I take the right turn on to Tennessee Avenue slowly and gracefully. A left turn would take me home.

Cincinnati's Tennessee Avenue... or somewhere in Sweden? You tell me.

I drive past the Porter's Paint store ("Cover the Earth"), past the McDonalds, past Natorp's Garden Center -- looking for back roads at the outskirts of my neighborhood that might click with the torch song from the movie that is stuck on automatic replay in my head.

You tried to warn me...

I continue to avoid the roads that would take me home until well after 3:00 am, celebrating the fact that it is still the weekend, that it is still 1970, knowing that the sun must inevitably rise on Monday and the commencement of a new working week. I know that, as surely as Monday slips into Tuesday, Tuesday into Wednesday into Thursday, my memory of SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL will slip into those fuzzy banks of the brain where we file those unexpectedly important moments we didn't share, the things we finally cannot be sure actually happened. I muse to myself: I'll never see that movie again. They never show X-rated films on television.

As long as I continue driving, holding my responsibilities at bay, my memory of this peculiar and strangely longing, lonely film will stay as fresh in my mind as it will ever be. And so I drive on, reflecting on the places I may never go, on broken hearts and lives half a world away, as I hum once again Umiliani's song about a love affair entered into with reckless abandon.

You tried to warn me.


POSTSCRIPT (6:16am): It must be serendipity... The first response I received to the above fever dream came from reader Lars Erik Holmquist at Stockholm University! Lars wrote to inform me of the happy news that SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL has just been released on DVD in Sweden, where it never received a theatrical release! Here is a link to Klubb Super 8's sales page for the disc, which includes audio tracks in English, Italian and Spanish -- in which the narration is respectively read by Edmond Purdom, Enrico Maria Salerno and... I don't know who. Lars tells me that he contributed some of his paper collection on the title to this release, which features a stills and poster gallery as well as pictorial adornments on the packaging. Lars also sent me these links (here and here) to pages from his own blog, Terror in the Midnight Sun, where he blogged about SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL himself.

POSTSCRIPT (9:42 pm): Reader Miles Wood informs me that SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL was in fact released on DVD in Japan on the Avanz label, back in 2004. An Avanz sales page suggests it may still be available.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

HATCHET For the CD Player

Our friends at Xploited Cinema are now carrying the latest release in the "Mario Bava Original Soundtracks Anthology," Sante Maria Romitelli's complete score for HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON [Il rosso segno della follia, 1969]. Some of you may already have some of these cues from their previous release in tandem with Roberto Nicolosi's BLACK SABBATH [I tre volti della paura, 1963] score, but this seventh Bava Anthology release from Digitmovies contains more than twice as much music, running a total of 61 minutes. The disc also includes a special full-color illustrated booklet containing liner notes by disc producer Claudio Fuiano and Tim Lucas, and an exclusive message from the star of the film, Stephen Forsyth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Centenary, Jack Pollexfen!

Instead of working today, let's all celebrate the 100th of the man who gave Butcher Benton 300,000 volts by watching this fine 1956 production ONCE AGAIN in its almighty entirety, this time courtesy of our techy friends at YouTube.

Need more incentive? "Grungily photographed by John L. Russell (PSYCHO) with bottles of hooch in nearly every shot, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN looks like a dive bar smells..." -- Tim Lucas, VIDEO WATCHDOG #116, page 10.

What are you waiting for? Call in sick.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

Part 7.

Happy Centenary, Robert Cummings!

Hooting, Robert! Positively hooting!

Monday, June 09, 2008

On the Road to 141

VIDEO WATCHDOG #140 is currently wending its way out to our subscribers and retailers, so first class customers should have it in hand very shortly.

Donna and I are now starting to work on our next issue, which will include Justin Humphreys' wonderful tribute to the late AIP/New World screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, Bill Cooke's detailed review of the FOX HORROR CLASSICS box set (which a more informed world would have called "The John Brahm Collection"), Kim Newman's continuing inspection of Fox's CHARLIE CHAN sets (covering VOLUME 4, introducing Sidney Toler and Sen Yung and containing the wonderful CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND), and my own epic-length review of Sony's SPIDER-MAN - THE HIGH DEFINITION TRILOGY, which in fact contains four different Spidey features in Blu-ray (the fourth being SPIDER-MAN 2.1). And that's all the teaser you get. For now.

I'd like to think that my flu has finally flown, but some minor coughing and audible respiratory crackling persists. I am feeling much more like my old self, though.
Had a fairly diverting weekend poring through Kino on Video's HOUDINI - THE MOVIE STAR set, which collects all of the surviving material from Harry Houdini's five-picture flirtation with film stardom. (Thanks to a Fire Department inspection of the suburban house of Houdini's brother and business partner, the highly combustable original nitrate elements of his complete screen works were ordered onto the curb for the morning garbage collection!) Consequently, several reels of the 1919 serial THE MASTER MYSTERY are missing, as are two entire reels from the surprisingly rousing 1920 jungle adventure TERROR ISLAND. These are the two most enjoyable films of the bunch, I thought, and it was interesting to discover that both films were co-authored by Arthur B. Reeve, a now-obscure hero from the dawn of American pulp fiction. Reeve was best-known for his scientific deduction stories about Prof. Craig Kennedy, a forerunner of Doc Savage, which originally appeared in COSMOPOLITAN magazine and were collected in a dozen hardcover books by 1918.
The characters Houdini plays in the Reeve-scripted films are basically Craig Kennedy with a different name. THE MASTER MYSTERY is also of interest for its memorable antagonist, a robot that is supposedly operated from within by a live human brain. This automoton is tall, flat-headed and large-footed, with two surprisingly familiar-looking bolts on either side of its head for ears... and, to my sights, a possible point of inspiration for Jack Pierce's makeup design for the Frankenstein Monster. I've done a review for my next SIGHT & SOUND column, but there remains so much else to be said that I'll probably be buckling down to a fuller study of the set for VW once my work on the next issue is out of the way.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Respects to Alton Kelley

I can take or leave the album itself (I'm more of an AOXOMOXOA or LIVE/DEAD man), but Grateful Dead's AMERICAN BEAUTY, released in November 1970, is packaged in the most beautiful album cover art I've ever beheld. The master who painted it, Alton Kelley, died yesterday from complications of osteoperosis at the much-too-young age of 67.

I look at this album cover, even now, and I thrill to how it manages to look at once traditional and frontier-shattering; how the design manages to accomodate woodwork, marble, ornate metalwork and decal-design; and, most especially, how Kelley so brilliantly revolutionized the art of typography. And the piece achieves all of this in service to the simple central image of a rose. In that way, I find it analogous to the eponymous suite in Vincente Minnelli's AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: both works traverse a history of art to arrive at the fundamental beauty of nature, despite all its thorns.

Kelley and his associate Stanley Mouse spearheaded San Francisco's psychedelic art movement in 1965, when Bay Area concert venues like the Fillmore Auditorium, The Family Dog and the Avalon Ballroom hired them and other artists to design promotional posters, flyers and postcards for their weekend shows.

"We were just having fun making posters," Mouse told Joel Selvin of THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. "There was no time to think about what we were doing. It was a furious time, but I think most great art is created in a furious moment."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New Bava Book from Italy

A new book about Mario Bava has surfaced in Italy: KILL BABY KILL! IL CINEMA DI MARIO BAVA, edited by Gabriele Acerbo and Roberto Pisoni, with a sizeable introduction by Joe Dante. This book was apparently published last October in a very limited edition of only 1000 copies, but I received mine only yesterday. It's 312 pages, priced at 25.00 Euros, and carries an ISBN number of ISBN 978-88-89481-13-4. It was published by Un Mondo A Parte (Viale Angelico 77, 00195 Roma), whose website can be found at That's as much help as I can be in terms of directing you to a copy of your own.
This book is an expanded print version of the Sky TV documentary film MARIO BAVA OPERAZIONE PAURA, containing what appears to be transcriptions of the full (or at least fuller) interviews originally recorded for the program with such people as Lamberto and Roy Bava, Alfredo Leone, Carlo Rambaldi, Ernesto Gastaldi, Barbara Steele, Daria Nicolodi, John Saxon, Dino de Laurentiis, Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and others, including me. (The book actually contains two chapters of interviews with me, apparently a general one and the other about Bava's special effects work.)
Beyond this, the editors have continued their research into the subject by appending to this already sizable brain trust additional interviews with numerous Bava colleagues, including Christopher Lee, John Phillip Law, Dario Argento, Fulvio Lucisano, Mario Monicelli, Luciano Emmer, Mark Damon, Elke Sommer, Don Backy, Alberto Bevilacqua, and directors Christophe Gans, John Landis, Sam Raimi and Umberto Lenzi. Sergio Stivaletti contributes an essay about Mario's own Mitchell camera, used by him in creating special effects sequences, which Lamberto Bava gave to him after Mario's death. (The essay includes a photo of the sacred machine, the only image in the book I hadn't seen before.) Mind you, this is just a partial listing of the book's contents. Also included are short chapters by various leading Italian Bava specialists, including Manlio Gomarasca, Alberto Pezzotta and Stefano Della Casa, as well as some input from Mario Bava himself. In a creative chapter entitled "L'Alfabeto," the editors have excerpted comments from Bava's few granted interviews to compile a literal A to Z of his observations on various topics.
For me, the book's greatest surprise corrects a grievous error in my own MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. There, and in my recent audio commentary for ERIK THE CONQUEROR, I reported the death of actor Giorgio Ardisson, who played the title role in that film and also Theseus in the wonderful HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD. My sources told me that he had died of a heart attack while watching his last movie at a preview screening, but Gabriele Acerbo now confirms that Ardisson is "alive and kicking." The book contains a two-paragraph reminiscence of Bava that Acerbo obtained in a 2005 telephone interview with the retired actor, who today is the owner of the Villa dei Principi. Of course, I regret the error, but I'm very happy to learn that Giorgio Ardisson is still with us.
The text (which includes filmography, videography and an especially welcome bibliography) is entirely in Italian, of course, and the interior is entirely in black-and-white. It's an attractive volume and Bava fans and scholars should seek out a copy while the very limited supply still lasts.
On another topic, thanks to everyone who has written to express concern over my illness. It started out as a sore throat but got quite a bit worse over the past several days. This has been the worst case of flu I've ever endured, and the first case that helped me to understand how influenza was once able to actually kill people. I haven't slept for any length of time over the past week because, whenever I would lie down, I could hear something in my larynx trying to send Morse code messages to Mars. This would then develop into a bubbling or crackling sound that signalled the approach of another hellish coughing jag, for which I'd have to sit upright. My throat was so abused from deep coughing that I couldn't speak above a whisper without causing myself horrific pain. Last night my temperature got up to slightly over 103°, which was quite alarming, as my normal temperature usually hovers below the usual norm, at about 97.2°. I resorted to ice bags and cold compresses, which helped my fever to break, and which allowed me to get more sleep than usual last night. Today is the first day in about a week that I've felt so close to my usual self; the soreness in my throat is gone and I can talk, though my voice presently sounds an octave deeper. I'm still not well, but I think I'm getting there.