Tuesday, February 27, 2018

THE KIDNAPPING OF MARIO BAVA'S RABID DOGS.


I know that I've seen at least two different version of this film and to be brutally honest I’m seriously
thinking that the first one is the superior cut, the one I watched at the Cinematek tonight isn’t that one. (Although the Cinematek screening a good half dozen Bava films is something you never can complain about, this is about the several version of Rabid Dogs, not their selection.)

Mario Bava’s magnificent chamber-piece thriller, that more or less all takes place inside a moving automobile full of people kidnapped after a bunch of bank robbers need to make a hasty escape. Sweaty, frustrated, dirty and grimey, it’s a masterpiece of tension building drama as the movie torments its characters in one way and another until the last moment twist that knocked me on my ass the first time I saw it back in the nineties… In the cut that I feel to be the better.

Believe it or not, there’s a whopping FIVE different edits of this film, and the story goes like this.

In 1973 Mario Bava looking to recoup his failing audiences shifted focus and set his sights on the Poliziotteschi genre in his own special way. But being super low budget the production hit trouble along the way. Amongst the tales told, leading man Riccardo Cucciolla was a last-minute replacement when the original leading man Al Lettieri kept turning up late and drunk to set. Running out of funds during the short three-week shoot, cinematographer Emillio Varriano was fired and Bava stepped in to shot the film to meet ends, and then producer Roberto Loyola went bankrupt seeing the movie being shelved as his company folded. BUT despite all that, Bava was basically wrapped. All that was missing was some footage of helicopters searching for the suspects in their getaway car, and a pre-credit sequence… I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Several years later Peter Blumenstock of Luccertola Media upped funding for leading lady Lea Lander’s company Spera Cinemtographica, and the first ever version was assembled (with the help of editor Carlo Reali’s rough cut) under the name Semaforo Rosso (Red Traffic Light) a version which had its initial screening at the Milan film market in ’95, and later at the 14th BIFF in ’96. This version had some video footage inserted to make up for the lost shots.

As a strictly limited 2000 pcs release, Blumenstock’s Luccertola Media released the film on DVD in 1998 without the video inserts of the Spera version but with an added new opening that teases with a crying woman as the credits roll, according to Bava’s notes on the film. (Supposedly Blumenstock’a at the time girlfriend). This version also has the original ending compete, an original ending that shows Cucciolla talking to Mrs Girotto, telling her that he has her son, and that he want’s three billion lire if they ever are to see him again. He hangs up and walks back to the car, opens the boot to reveal that the boy now locked in the boot of the car as the credits start roll. Perfection.

 
Then…  Five damned versions later* and in something I’m only guessing was to reclaim the rights to the project or something bullshity like that, Lamberto Bava and son Roy Bava shoot new footage and have that inserted into the film, rename it KIDNAPPED and that’s the version that everyone seems to prefer… but not me. This version has new credits, new footage – that certainly doesn’t match up the original footage it’s cut against – and  for some god only knows why reason, Bava/Leone decided that the superbly swanky Cirpirani score had to go and rescored the movie. I cannot understand that move at all, because the phenomenally well-fitting brooding score that fits like hand in glove to Rabid Dogs is gone and exchanged for a swanky piece of crap that’s honestly an embarrassment for Cipriani as it sounds like a late Sunday night TV-movie reject score. And don’t get me started on that god-awful song that crowns the defilement of Mario Bava’s masterpiece.

They also redubbed it whilst they were at it.



The Kidnapped version has several cutaways to the 2001 version of Mrs Girotto talking on the phone, asking about her kidnapped son. She has a couple of scenes of her shot, against a police investigator, who does F-all but sit behind his desk for a quick cut away, and later with Cucciolla when he calls in his demands during the final scene. That’s also where the Kidnapped version ends. On a conventional shot of her clasping her mouth in shock as the end credit roll. Its immensely annoying as neither her clothes or furnishing in her house match the time period, the footage painfully shows the time difference in 35mm in 1973 compared to 35mm in 2001. It Does Not Work! It takes from the movie and the whole surprise of the shock ending is diminished when we don’t get the profound nihilism of Cucciolla who despite all he’s been though has the we bairn shoved in the boot of his car. In a disturbing way he comes off as the dark anti-hero of Rabid Dogs, something that’s eradicated in the sad-mom ending of Kidnapped.

Look, IT DOES NOT MATCH: (Click and see)
classic grainy 35mm vs. new crisp 35mm. 

Of course taste is a matter of opinion, and everyone had the right to their own decision, but this is my take and choice on the many version of Mario Bava’s posthumous Rabid Dogs. Just for the sake on argument, the Luccertola version runs 1:36:38, the "arrow" Rabid Dogs version 1:31:55 and the Kidnapped version 1:31:35.

- original ending

 
- new ending


*Yes, five versions, counting the Spera verison of ’95, the Luccertola version of ’98, the German Astro release in 2001, Alberto Leone’s version and then the Leone/Bava version edited by Mauro Bonnani in 2001, the version Bava edited in the way he “felt” his father would have wanted it.



Now Listen to the score and how it changed.

The Original:


The New Version





Friday, February 16, 2018

In the Presence of a Clown



Larmar och gör sig till
(In the Presence of a Clown)
Dir: Ingmar Bergman
1996, 119 min.

Remember that Stephen King book about a creepy clown and references to sinking and floating... and a couple of fart jokes for good reference? Well this is Bergman’s version of that. Well not really, but I did think about IT as I watched and also found a nod to HP Lovecraft too but oh yeah, King never fucked Death in the ass in his version did he?
I’ve mentioned Bergman’s passion for screwing around with format and his meta use of media’s in his films, this is definitely no exception even though it’s a play shot for tv... a play shot for tv. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance that’s all about a musician. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna. A play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman...
Still keeping up? As you see it’s Bergman’s inception, a meta referent to practically all media’s as hand. And it’s spectacular one too as it tells its tale of Engineer Åkerblom (Börje Ahlstedt) and his dream of inventing and touring with the worlds first ever synchronized talking cinematograph. Along follow his fiancé Pauline Thibault (Marie Richardson) and his [asylum] friend Oswald Vogler (Erland Josephson).
As almost always it’s self referent too, and Bergman can be seen in the hallway of the mental institute. There’s a couple of detailed descriptions of grotesqueries and the metaphoric clown, or death I’d say, lurking in the shadows, teasingly summoned by Schubert’s "Der Leiermann".
Then as the film moves into its second half and one realizes what a hell of a cast he has here! A cast of almost all the big names of the Royal Dramaic Theatre... and they’re all here for a play shot for tv about the screening of a film that becomes an impromptu performance about a musician and a literary character watched by characters from Nattvardsgästerna and his own mother Karin Bergman.
If you’re lucky to be living in Schwedenland, well then you can check this out and the short “making of” on Svt’s open archive. Easily worth the three hours watch.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THE HUMAN CENTIPOD

Yes, I still co-host and produce the genre podcast THE HUMAN CENTIPOD

Together with the legendary Fred, we talk about stuff, genrefare and the alternative history of film, and I guarantee that for each episode, you'll have learned something that you didn't know when you hit play.

There's almost thirty episodes in the archive.

We're on iTunes.
And SoundCloud

And we've got a new show coming out tonight.

Please join us if you'd like.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Shame

Skammen
(Shame)
Dir: Ingmar Bergman, 
1968, 103min

Growing up in the eighties as part of the Douglas Copeland coined term, Generation X, you know that he hit something right on the head when he wrote that passage describing a generation of kids fearing each sudden bright burst of light and every shrilling siren drill as The End, as they instinctively died with the fearful knowledge that it was the sign of the Cold War Atomic Bomb apocalypse galloping in. That’s a difficult fear to explain to generations further on down the line where we find a cynic generation of kids raised on screaming YouTube superstars, revenge porn on Instagram and live suicide, streaming on Facebook …

But it certainly seems like we’re back there again knocking on the door of the apocalypse, and there’s an obvious reason that stuff that I guess we could best label “anti-nostalgia horror”, (because there’s no warm feelings about them at all), are popping up on the radar again. Specifically, trauma inducing television fare that we all saw, because every bloody country lived in the same fear and screened these damned things to keep us scared shitless. Suff like Nicholas Meyers 1983 TV movie The Day After followed by 1984 BBC television drama Threads (just released on Bluray by Severin films), one of the most harrowing and realistic UK TV movies to ever portray life after the big bomb. And I remember that bastard thing and there was another one that was in serial format which saw the few survivors roaming the moors in images that looked like the places I grew up roaming… Traumatizing is the word, that terrifying sensation when you can emotionally relate to the horror on screen, and it’s not make-believe monsters, but a scenario that could become real at any time!

With all that set up I’d like to point your attention at the movie in focus here today. Ingmar Bergman’s Shame, (Skammen) from 1968, his final black and white movie (The Rite was for TV). Now this idea of mine of watching Bergman as horror might come off as far-fetched, but it certainly isn’t. I’ve been pondering this for so many years that when I watch these films I see it clear as day right in front of me on the screen.

I say that Bergman IS horror, after all the definition of Horror as described by the Cambridge English Dictionary is “an extremely strong feeling of fear and shock, or the frightening and shocking character of something”, of which you’ll find elements of in almost of his work.
 
The Hour of the Wolf was a no-brainer, it’s visuals of horror shock and fever dream images are undoubtedly fear inducing material, but let’s get down to real horror. Horror so real that you can feel it fucking punching you from the dark shadows of the screen, which is how I experienced The Shame. The pending doom of annihilation.

The Shame tells the tale of a couple, Jan and Eva Rosenberg (Sydow and Ullman), who just like Johan and Alma in The Hour of the Wolf have isolated themselves on an island. Or so we’re led to believe. They lead their smalltime life of self-sufficiency with small gardens and chickens. They are in the midst of life and like most of Bergman’s couples have indifferences in the relationship that surface and cause conflict between the two. But the real trouble starts when the peace and quiet is shattered by an invasion. The war has been closing in on the small island. Their friends are drafted, to fight an unwinnable war. And then finally one night it hits an airstrike, complete with paratroopers who get stuck in the trees.
 
Horror stomps in in the shape of the invasion, death (animals lay dead in their pasture), destruction and the enemy army, who harass the couple fording them to make statements (that later will be faked to pro-invader propaganda). The leader of the invading/opposing army is former town mayor Colonel Jacobi (Gunnar Björnstrand) who helps them off the hook with the unspoken but obvious favor of being intimate with Eva something he continues misusing after the occupation.

Another area that one should really look into when it comes to Bergman is the real of Eros and Thanatos as Shame really wanders the fine line between life and death. The first scene is of nudity, and the final scene is of death. It’s also in the relationship between Eva and Jan and the way they discuss a possible child or not. Life and death. And there’s Jaccobi who clearly feeds off the sexual occupation of Eva, the conquest of his power, but in the end, it’s the same sex, his abuse of power versus the frustration and hate that the pendulum movement have created that sees him defeated.

But perhaps the most disturbing thing with Shame is the emotional recognition of the powerlessness that Jan and Eva end up in, and the understanding of the terrible acts they do, are acts primarily done to survive. And the price is a high one to pay at the atrocious and terribly bleak finale. A bleakness that is horrifically close to the reality of today as Jan and Eva push their boat over the corpses of drowned misfortunate refugees in the cold waters of the sea they are escaping over. This movie is unlike something like Hour of the Wolf with it’s horror fantastic, a harrowing piece of horror realism, and that’s why it’s more disturbing than most of Bergman’s straight forays into horror themed film, as horror in reality will always be more terrifying than fantastic horror which we primarily use for escapism.