Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 4, 2008


TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE aka BAY OF BLOOD (1971). Director: Mario Bava.

With Claudine Auger and a host of Italian actors mostly unknown outside of their native country. There are at least eight murderers, or people who have conspired to commit murder, in this gruesome, vaguely entertaining horror flick from Mario Bava, in which nearly a dozen people are killed in about eighty minutes, and there are nearly as many killers as there are victims. The large body count, and a number of images recycled in American movies, have led some critics to suggest that this film influenced the Friday the 13th series and other movies, which it may have, (if we are to assume that the “directors” of the Friday the 13th series even go to the movies!) Certainly the sequence with the machete-in-the-face and the double impalement of two writhing lovers in bed (both images were later used in Friday the 13th Part Two etc.) have a familiar zing to them. [The impalement scene is closely – but not immediately -- followed by a shot of a bug writhing on a pin.] The murders occur because several greedy sociopaths (virtually the entire cast of characters) are anxious to gain control of a valuable piece of bay side property that has tremendous financial potential. Some people are killed because they own or control the property rights; others because they are witnesses to some of the murders, and so on. The gore effects in the film range from the highly effective (the above machete scene) to the merely gross-but-unconvincing (a late beheading of an obnoxious woman). The plot – such as it is – is perfectly workable, but while the film holds the attention in its crude way, it is hardly the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat experience that it should have been. It also cries out for an eerie musical score that would compliment some of the atmospheric photography. (For the most part, however, this lacks the atmosphere and color of Bava's superior Blood and Black Lace.) Some of the scenes are well-done but the picture has been ludicrously over-rated in certain quarters, In Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide someone (I suspect it wasn't Maltin) writes of Bava's “extraordinary mastery of cinema technique.” Come on now -- Where is it in evidence in this film? The opening strangulation murder of a countess in a wheelchair is well-edited, but most of this movie is quite ordinary. Bava did some decent pictures (and many, many wretched ones) but he was hardly on the level of Alfred Hitchcock! He's not even on the level of his Italian Heir Apparent Dario Argento (who is also not in Hitch's league).

Verdict: Not great, but worth a look for shocker fans.**1/2.

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