Revisiting the Bay of Blood

Bay of Blood (1971)
Welcome to the Bay of Blood

When Stacie Ponder first announced her Friday the 13th blog-a-thon I didn’t sign-up right away since here at Cinebeats I try and keep the focus on sixties and seventies era films, and the first Friday the 13th movie was released in 1980. Then I remembered the obvious.

Long before Jason put on a hockey mask and started terrorizing camp counselors at Crystal Lake, Italian horror maestro Mario Bava took audiences on a trip to the Bay Of Blood (a.k.a. Twitch of the Death Nerve, Reazione a catena; 1971). I decided to revisit the Bay of Blood and examine just how much influence it had on the Friday the 13th films following its 1971 release.

Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood takes place in a quiet bayside Italian resort area where lots of holiday homes seem to lay dormant and empty waiting for their owners to return. Some of the homes are more luxurious than others, but they were all built close together and in some ways they resemble a sort of “summer camp.” For better or worse, the neighbors also seem to know one another and the bay itself actually looks like a lake. Naturally the homes all have their own weather beaten boat docks and the area is heavily forested, which comes in handy since a lot of the action takes place in the local woods.

Bay of Blood (1971)
A killer stalks these halls

The film opens with the crude murder of a poor wheelchair bound woman who’s killed inside her luxurious villa. Her smug murderer is shockingly disposed of as well by another unseen killer lurking in the shadows. This stunning double murder sets the stage for the rest of Bava’s bloody film.

Soon afterward a group of four sex starved young people arrive at the bay looking for some summer fun. They break into empty homes, drink lots of booze and dance like crazy until the mysterious killer decides to murder them all in quick order. Much like Jason in Friday the 13th, the killer uses a machete on his victims and brutally hacks them up in what are easily some of the goriest scenes put on screen in the early seventies. One girl has her throat cut while her boyfriend gets a machete in his head. The other couple is murdered brutally when the killer decides to use a spear on them while they’re busy having sex. These now classic murders were copied to the letter for the Friday the 13th films.

The killers in Bay of Blood don’t wear hockey masks, but at some point one of the murder victims puts on a tribal mask and tries to scare his friends before they’re all killed. Surely the makers of Friday the 13th must have jumped a little when they watched that memorable scene.

Other murders soon follow and the corpses continue to pile up in the Bay of Blood until it’s dark comedic end arrives with a bang. But the moments that have always remained with me the most in the film are the pointless and brutal deaths suffered by the four innocent young people who were just out for a good time.

Bay of Blood (1971)
Victims R Us

The young people in Bay of Blood have become the prototype victims for countless slasher films that followed it’s lead. They were all complete innocents who just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their only crimes were being party crazy and sex starved, which made them easy targets. For the past 35 years similar victims have been getting hacked, slashed, strangled and mangled in movie after movie.

Forget everything you’ve read about Halloween, Black Christmas and so on. It’s impossible to watch the four young people get murdered in Bay of Blood without realizing that you’re watching the birth of the slasher film. Bava had conjured up plenty of murder and mayhem in his previous films such as Blood and Black Lace and 5 Dolls For an August Moon which were both groundbreaking gialli, but those films were a bit more restrained and the victims were rarely as innocent or as young. Bava goes for broke in Bay of Blood and seems unwilling to hold anything back. His camera lingers longer on each gruesome murder and the award winning special effects and makeup he used was incredibly realistic for 1971.

As in other slasher films like Friday the 13th, a lot of the action in Bay of Blood is shot from the killer’s perspective and Bava even uses a shaky camera effect to make us feel like we’re the killer at times. What separates Bava’s film from every other slasher film that followed is his amazing photography and great editing. Bay of Blood makes other similar efforts look childish in comparison. Almost no one shoots interiors as masterfully as Bava, and he brings lots of his signature gothic styling to this bayside thriller.

Bay of Blood (1971)
At the Bay of Blood sex can be deadly

The Bay of Blood features a terrific international cast including many genre favorites such as Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati, Laura Betti, Isa Miranda, Claudio Camaso, Brigitte Skay and young Nicoletta Elmi. The movie also contains one of composer Stelvio Cipriani’s best film scores.

I enjoyed the first two Friday the 13th films. I could have lived without the third one, but the fourth one wasn’t half bad. With that being said, all the Friday the 13th films combined can’t hold a candle to Bay of Blood in my opinion. If you watch one slasher film this summer, make it Bava’s blood-soaked visit to an Italian bay. You’ll have fun spotting all the film’s influential scenes.

You can find more screen shots at my Bay of Blood Flickr Gallery which I put together just for the blog-a-thon.

More info about Bay of Blood (a.k.a. Twitch of the Death Nerve) and it’s influence on the Friday the 13th films can be found at the films’ page on Wikipedia.

Also take a moment to check out this week’s Horror Roundtable where we all discuss our favorite murders from the Friday the 13th films!

Bay of Blood (1971)
The local octopi seem to be enjoying all the carnage

15 thoughts on “Revisiting the Bay of Blood

  1. Keith says:

    Great blog on a great movie. “Bay of Blood” trounces “Fridy the 13th” in my book. I haven’t seen this movie in years. I’d love to see it again. The first two Friday movies and the 4th one were my favs. The other ones went from bad to horrible. It’s nice on a day like this to be reminded of a wonderful horror movie that might not get the attention it deserves, as it has influenced quite a few other movies over the years.

  2. Jeremy Richey says:

    Great post Kimberly,
    I love this film. It’s one of my favorite Bava works and easily one of the most influential horror films ever made. I really wish it would get a new DVD release as the sound on the Image disc is among the worst I have ever heard. Just such a fantastic film with one of the great endings ever…that last shot just blows me away each time I see it.
    I was planning on participating in the Friday the 13th Blog a thon but decided not to. I realize that most of my love for that series comes from my memories of watching them growing up. The first two hold up as do a couple of the later ones in a more slight way but mostly it’s just about nostalgia for me so I wasn’t really sure what to write…perhaps I will think up something before midnight but I don’t know…
    anyway, always love reading on some Bava…can’t wait to look at your Flikr photos you have posted…thanks.

  3. Tanner says:

    I LOVE Bay of Blood! It was the movie that made me a die-hard Bava fan. It’s still my favorite of all his msterful gialli, and different from most others in the… um… identity of the killer, to put it in the most spoiler-free context, and in the victims (as you point out). I completely agree with you that no Friday 13 movie can hold a candle to Bay of Blood! I can’t wait for its new DVD release this fall in Volume 2 of Anchor Bay’s Mario Bava Collection. The sound on the Image disc is awful.

  4. Rodney Wall says:

    Great article.
    I decided to watch Bay Of Blood last night, but I fell asleep.
    I’ll finish it today.
    What I saw was good.
    I’m becoming a big fan of Bava.
    I absolutely loved Danger Diabolik, and Black Sunday.
    Though, Rabid Dogs was a bit of a let down.

    As far as Friday The 13th goes, I enjoyed them when I was growing up, but they don’t hold much interest for me now.

    My tastes are more along the lines of Gothic Horror.

  5. cinebeats says:

    Thanks for all the comments! It’s a great movie and I really love it. It wouldn’t make my Top 5 favorite Bava film list, but it would be included in a Top 10. It’s amazing how much influence the film had. If memory serves me right, it was also the first time Bava made a thriller with multiple killers which broke down the whole giallo formula.

    I really hope the film gets another DVD release too since the sound on the image disc is rather awful. I’ve also read stuff about the film being longer (90min. instead of 84min.)than the Image disc but I don’t know if that’s true or not?

    Rodney – if you enjoy Bava’s gothic horror films I highly recommend his movies I Vampiri, Black Sabbath, The Whip and the Body and Kill, Baby… Kill! They all have gothic overtones and are all very good. I also love Baron Blood which has a gothic style as well, but not a lot people seem to like that film as much as I do.

  6. Anna says:

    I never know what I’m going to encounter when I visit your blog . . . ! Bloody Bays?! Love the sexy knife-in-the-back shot. My first horror film involved chainsaws in Texas – B of B sounds much more interesting in a gruesome kind of way.

    Fascinating analysis as always – thanks!

  7. Neil says:

    I love this movie! And while it probably wouldn’t make my Top Five Bava movies either, it is probably in the first five I would show Bava virgins. The Whip and the Body doesn’t get nearly enough attention, and it would solidly be on both lists for me.

    I certainly enjoyed Baron Blood the first time or two, but the last time I put it on, I did find it a little more problematic. I’ll have to put it on again one of these days.

    But I’m forced to also jump in here. As much as I love the gothic stuff, Rabid Dogs is one heck of a thriller.

  8. Joe D says:

    Great post about a great filmmaker. Mario Bava belongs to that extremely rare breed of filmmakers, genre makers. So many of Bava’s films inspired whole genres of movies. Bay of Blood- The Evil Eye- considered to be the first giallo- Black Sunday- the Art Horror film- Danger Diabolik- comic book action thriller, he was cameraman on the most successful peplums- Hercules and Hercules Unchained- An incredible talent. This week I will upload a trailer for Bay of Blood (USA title- Carnage) it’s a tour-de-force of groovy optical,over saturated colors, crazy graphics, and great music. I’ll forward you a link when I get it online.

  9. Peter Nellhaus says:

    While Bay of Blood is not a favorite Bava, I found the ending with the children quite interesting.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this site with reviews of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. I bring this to your attention because, as Powell’s film has been reconsidered after its original release, so have the films of Bava as well as giallo in general. This in turn has made me wonder if it is possible that twenty or so years from now, there may be more serious reconsideration of Eli Roth?

  10. cinebeats says:

    Thanks for all the feedback Anna, Neil, Joe and Peter!

    It is amazing how influential Bava has been.

    Peter – The ending is interesting and I’m sure it helped inspire Eli Roth’s ending to Hostel 2.

    I actually have come across that site about Powell’s Peeping Tom. Peeping Tom is one of my favorite movies so I was probably looking up info about it or something. It’s interesting to read the negative reviews. I can first remember reading about how much that film was criticized when I was in college. Funny how a lot of film criticism has not changed much since then and how trendy it can get, as if the critics are trying to see who can insult the director more.

    Horror films and thrillers seem to have always had critics who are willing to rip them apart and blame the world’s ills on the director. A lot of Italian filmmakers have gone through hell because they had to deal with critics AND the church.

    In America we tend to forget what directors like Romero had to deal with when Night of the Living Dead was first released. I know Reader’s Digest (which I’m sure you know was a very popular magazine at the time) tried to have the movie banned. Now critics praise Romero left and right of course.

  11. Rodney Wall says:

    Thanks.
    I’ll check out I Vampiri.
    I’ve already got Black Sabbath, and Kill, Baby…Kill!, on my “to watch” list.

    And to Neil.
    We’ll have to agree to disagree about Rabid Dogs.
    I’m afraid I didn’t find much thrilling about it at all.

  12. Brian says:

    Great piece and great screen shots! Count me among the “top 10 Bava, though not top 5 Bava” supporters of this film, which I saw at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts when they did their retrospective of his films several years back.

  13. Neil says:

    Reader’s Digest, in fact, reprinted this review by Roger Ebert. An interesting historical curio.

    I think, as it goes, Bava’s transition into respectability and recognition for the influence he’s had has been remarkably slow. I’d put some of that up to the Italian genre movie elements that seem to come across as wonky to audiences used to Hollywood movie standards, but it seems like Argento, who is, in many way, largely the most talented Bava imitator in the world, seems to have jumped ahead, in many ways.

  14. Mr. Peel says:

    Whenever I think of this movie, the first thing that comes to mind is an American Cinematheque screening about ten years ago where, after that jet-black comic ending, it looked like every single person in the theater was leaving with this immensely goofy grin on their face. No, it’s not one of my very favorite Bavas but I still like it quite a bit and hope for a DVD with improved sound somewhere down the line.

  15. cinebeats says:

    Brian – Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I wish I had caught this when it played there. I’ve never seen it on the big screen.

    Neil – That piece by Ebert from Reader’s Digest is interesting. It seems as if he’s trying to calm critics or something. I didn’t even know he wote for Reader’s Digest. And I totally agree with you about Bava. In all all honesty I’ve been sort of suprised by all the attention his work is now getting. I’m sure it has a lot to do with Tim Lucas’s longtime efforts. I noticed in recent reviews of the latest Bava DVD collection that a lot of critics didn’t seem to know that all the movies had already been available on DVD for years. That was strange.

    Mr. Peel – Thanks for sharing that story! It must have been fun to watch the movie with a good crowd who enjoyed it.

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