Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reazione a catena (1971)

... aka: Antecedent, The
... aka: Bay of Blood, A
... aka: Bloodbath
... aka: Bloodbath Bay of Death
... aka: Carnage
... aka: Chain Reaction
... aka: Ecology of a Crime
... aka: Last House on the Left Pt. II
... aka: Twitch of the Death Nerve

Directed by:
Mario Bava

Frequently cited as the inspiration behind FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and countless other gore-drenched slasher / body count movies (particularly those with a rural setting), this is a very entertaining and highly influential film from Mario Bava, which both showcases the director / cinematographer's arresting signature style and pushes the boundaries of on-screen violence. The first five minutes alone - which lull us into our picturesque and tranquil setting before the abrupt first murder occurs - show more visual imagination than the majority of the later slasher flicks do in their entirety... if they're especially good examples of their kind!

Wealthy, wheelchair-bound Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda) soaks in her surroundings right before her husband Filippo (Giovanni Nuvoletti) decides to hang her. But before he can even leave the crime scene, someone sneaks in and stabs him to death. Whoever killed Filippo has hidden his body so he's officially missing but has left the forged suicide note and the Countess's body so she's written off as a suicide. Architect Frank Ventura (Chris Avram), who owns property there and wants to turn the place into a resort, heads off to the bay to look into things. We then get to meet our roster of possible suspects and probable victims. Insect collector Paolo Fossati (Leopoldo Trieste) seems to get pleasure in capturing and killing bugs, accidentally lets slip that the Countess has been murdered when it's been judged a suicide by police and also shows to have a true distaste for anyone who wants to develop the area (which would include Frank and several others). Paolo's wife Anna (Laura Betti, who also appeared in Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON) is an eccentric psychic whose recent tarot cards have been spelling doom for the bay, but her husband isn't listening. Nor is anyone else.

Frank's secretary / mistress Laura (Anna Maria Rosati) will eventually swing by for a visit and there's also fisherman and watchman Simon (Claudio "Volonté" / Camaso), the Countess' illegitimate son, and another couple, Renata (Claudine Auger) and Albert (Luigi Pistilli), who are staying in a camper near the lake with their two small children (Renato Cestiè and Nicoletta Elmi). Renata is Filippo's daughter and claims that she's there searching for her father, but she and her husband seem to be up to other things. Four young folks have the misfortune of showing up at the bay at the wrong time and get caught in the crossfire. While her friends are off breaking into one of the cottages, Brunhilda (Brigitte Skay) decides to go skinny dipping in the lake, where, her foot gets tangled up in a rope and pulls up Filippo's fresh corpse, which was weighed down there. Before she can reach her friends, she gets a sickle to the throat. The killer then decides to take care of her friends, sinking a blade into one guy's face and then spearing the other couple as they make love. Many others will soon be butchered themselves and it's all pretty much fueled by greed.

There are lots of wonderfully composed shots of the lake set to Stelvio Cipriani's classic score, tons of zooms, pans and killer POV shots and many other death / gore scenes, including strangulation with telephone cord, an axe decapitation, a spearing and a stabbing with scissors. It's pretty amazing how much FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II (1981) managed to get away with when it comes to plagiarizing it. Bay also boasts one of the screwiest, most convoluted plots ever. I won't give too much away, but once all is said and done and all the twists have been revealed, the film has no less than six different killers! It's all done rather playfully and tongue-in-cheek as the surprise ending certainly attests, though conceptually it works on another level; coupling savagery and the ills of man (greed, backstabbing) with the beauty and serenity of nature.

Reazione a catena (which means "Chain Reaction") is one of those films that's been released numerous times under numerous titles. In fact, it's rumored to have more alternate titles than any other film. First theatrically released in the U.S. (heavily censored) under the title A Bay of Blood; a title many of the VHS and DVD issuings have retained, this was reissued under the Bava-approved title Twitch of the Death Nerve. Despite being made a year earlier and having absolutely nothing in common with Craven's film, it was also reissued to theaters as Last House on the Left, Part II. In the UK it was called Blood Bath or Bloodbath Bay of Blood. Elsewhere it was called Carnage. And the list goes on.

Bava had stated in interviews that this is the favorite of all his films. Roberto Rossellini shot some second unit footage and Carlo Rambaldi did the special effects. It won awards from Avoraiz and Sitges Festivals and, in 2005, it was named one of the 50 greatest horror films of all time by Total Film.



CavedogRob said...

Whoa! I actually saw this in a theater many moons ago, edited and "americanized". Can't wait to see it in it's original form! Bava is a master!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I always wondered what they cut out from the theatrical print of this one. Probably the hatchet in the face, the spearing and neck slashing bits. Yep, Bava's great! One of my fav. directors for sure.

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