Thursday, August 2, 2012


Mario Bava's most personal horror movie, in some ways, brought about by the need to quickly augment an existing script by Santiago Moncada to accommodate actress Laura Betti, who expressed an interest in working with the Maestro after winning the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for her performance in Pier Paolo Pasolini's TEOREMA (1968).

Canadian actor Stephen Forsyth plays John Harrington, the handsome head of a fashion house specializing in bridal gowns, who is secretly working through a couple of problems -- a) his unhappy marriage to the shrewish, sexually frustrated, and supernaturally preoccupied Mildred (Betti), and b) his desire to finally understand the circumstances behind his mother's death on the evening of her second marriage, a trauma he can only revisit by wielding a cleaver against women who are likewise wearing wedding gowns. What Moncada almost certainly wrote in a more serious vein became a wicked black comedy as rewritten by Bava and Betti, akin to Chaplin's MONSIEUR VERDOUX (which it visually quotes) and Buñuel's THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ. There is also the obvious influence of Hitchcock's PSYCHO (again, visually quoted) and subsequent Robert Bloch projects like THE COUCH, which also had a protagonist "working through" his own homicidal delusions to a point of truth about himself. Time has shown the film, initially misunderstood and considered one of Bava's lesser works, to be startlingly prescient, pointing the way for Mary Harron's film of Bret Easton Ellis' AMERICAN PSYCHO in particular.

Some prominently billed actors, like Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi, who had also been featured in Bava's earlier fashion house giallo BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) and Antonia Mas, are barely onscreen, their named-to-no-purpose characters evidently casualties of the rewrite.

For a fuller account, see my chapter on the film in my book MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (Video Watchdog, 2007), or await my audio commentary in Redemption's forthcoming Blu-ray and DVD release.

Viewed on Image Entertainment DVD, for which I also provided liner notes.

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