Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner


Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Christopher Lee, Daliah Lavi, Tony Kendall

Independent American company VCI obviously take their responsibilities as a cult label very seriously indeed, if their first two Mario Bava discs are anything to go by. These two new titles should really make collectors sit up and take notice.

The groundbreaking Blood and Black Lace (Sei Donne per l’Assassino, 1964) is one of the first recognisably modern horror films, seemingly a generation ahead of the type of the old-fashioned gothic potboilers that Hammer would continue to churn out for almost another decade. In terms of style, too, the film is astonishing, and VCI's NTSC Region 0 disc presents the film, about a faceless serial killer running amuck in a leading fashion house, with its beautiful Technicolor hues intact. It’s unlikely that the film has looked as good as this since the day it was shot. The disc comes with extensive bonus features: interviews with Cameron Mitchell (7m) and Mary Dawne Arden (12m), a photo gallery, and a selection of creaky international trailers (three for Blood and Black Lace, and one apiece for Erik The Conqueror (Ivasori, Gli), The Whip and the Body). The disc is presented in a mild non-anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, at 192kbps.

Bava’s 1963 film The Whip and the Body (La Frusta e il corpo) has been released in many forms, under many titles, (including What for US audiences, and Night is the Phantom in the UK), but has very rarely been seen in it’s original version, as it is here. Whip, a romantic ghost story about a sadistic nobleman (Lee) who returns from exile to discover that his fiancé (Lavi) has married his brother, and is his father’s mistress, is arguably Bava’s masterpiece, and is said to be one of Christopher Lee’s favourite films.

The disc includes the American title sequence, a photo’ gallery, a similar brace of trailers (this time including one for Planet of the Vampires (Terrore nello spazio), and a recording of some of Carlo Rustichelli’s music for the film (taken from a contemporary 7” single). There are also a couple of “deleted scenes”, if you look hard for them, which turn out to be alternate footage discarded in the restoration process. Nevertheless, their inclusion gives you an idea of the thoroughness with which these new discs have been prepared. The film has a 1.85:1 (non-16:9 enhanced) transfer, and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, at 192kbps).

Both discs have the option of playback in their original language version (i.e.: Italian), or dubbed into English, and have English subtitles. Best of all, both discs come with scholarly notes and a commentary track by Bava expert and Video Watchdog magazine editor Tim Lucas. VCI have obviously lavished a lot of care on these discs (giving them a digital spruce up, and patching together more than one source print to create an optimum presentation) and they well deserve your attention and patronage.


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