The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) Blu-Ray Review

bloodstainedshadow1The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) aka’Solamente Nero’

Blu-Ray release date: 25th May 2015 from 88 FILMS

Director / Co-writer: Antonio Bido

Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Craig Hill, Stefania Casini, Juliette Mayniel

Runtime: 109 mins

UK Certificate: 18

‘The Bloodstained Shadow’, the second horror offering from director Antonio Bido first released in 1978, emerges later on in the giallo period and is possibly one of the less well-known films of the genre. Now released on Blu-Ray, the film has been well-restored to accentuate the vivid orangey-reds so characteristic of gialli films and sharpen the grey, evocatively bleak backdrop of the Venetian town of Murano during the off-season colder months in which the story plays out.

That story revolves around likeable sheepskin-coated professor Stefano D’Archangelo (Capollichio), who has come to Murano to visit his brother Paolo, the community priest. While there, the murder of a local none-too-popular medium occurs and Stefano learns that a similar strangulation of a teenage girl happened a few years previously in the town, which remains unsolved. Whilst romantically pursuing tiger-eyed beauty Sandra (Casini, whom Dario Argento fans may recognise from ‘Suspiria’), Stefano assists his brother, who witnessed the more recent killing, in trying to uncover the identity of the strangle-happy assailant. However, Paolo is being warned through the subtle mediums of decapitated sheep’s heads and blood-stained type-written notes to keep schtum, and other residents of the town are gradually starting to drop in even more gruesome manners than asphyxiation…

bloodstainedshadow2‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ isn’t shockingly original even considering it’s nearing forty – there’s the well-trodden staple threat of the black-cloaked and hooded murderer present and even the quasi-twist of the killer’s identity will be guessed by most viewers before it’s revealed. The acting isn’t brilliant (although the main cast for the most part deliver) and as with many foreign films of the period the dubbing-over of dialogue can be distracting to the audience, but having said that the film isn’t without merit.

I’m personally not a seasoned connoisseur of the giallo but I enjoyed this piece well enough and was glad to get the chance to review a film from this sub-genre. The location of Murano, with its slightly derelict, blankly-decorated buildings and uninviting ports and canals provide an interesting setting and there’s a good use of its winding, maze-like back streets for the killer to carry out the old stalky-stalky action – in fact, there’s a sequence in which Stefano takes a turn about the canals and is watched by various suspicious locals which goes a little into ‘Wicker Man’ territory. Also, the French actress Juliette Mayniel is very unsettling as the matronly, cold-eyed midwife Signora Nardi – it is possibly worth a watch just for her performance.

The music, too, is rather well-placed – of course, it’s the usual blend of Starsky and Hutch-style bass riffs and jarring piano keys at the jumpy bits that leave you in no doubt that you are watching a 1970’s horror film, but the soundtrack here is more memorable than most films of its ilk and the sequence at the end in which the perpetrator is confronted by both their victims and their damnation is very well put together in terms of score and visuals.

bloodstainedshadow3The film also has something else going for it in terms of plot that many other gialli arguably do not – the victims meeting their maker are not almost exclusively young, beautiful Farrah Fawcett-haired women – older people of both genders are done in who happen to have become embroiled in the secret behind the murders in various ways, so props to ‘Bloodstained’ for breaking the mould there. Or is the staple of young attractive women being the hunted and often the heroine an essential component of the giallo? A point for discussion maybe, but either way, I found ‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ to be entertaining and charming enough and whilst maybe not a classic, certainly deserving of place in the annals of 1970’s horror history.

6/10

A Blade in The Dark (1983) Blu-Ray Review

abitd1A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Starring: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Fabiola Toledo

UK Blu-Ray & DVD Release 24th August 2015 from 88 Films

BEHOLD! My first entry into the annals (that’s annals, people!) of UKHS’s/The Slaughtered Bird’s review writing multi-universe! And what better way to begin than with a bit of Bava – Lamberto, not Mario. “How unfortunate” I hear you exclaim, but you’d be wrong with this one – A BLADE IN THE DARK is a giallo joy!

Although considered the predecessor of the modern slasher genre, giallo is the Marmite of horror lovers and continues to divide audiences. While I’m a fan, I can understand people’s difficulty in totally immersing themselves in a world of brash, overpowering synth scores, vibrant lighting, aggressive editing, and often hilariously dubbed vocal acting (all of these, incidentally, being the reasons I loves ‘em!). Also, when your old man is Mario Bava – a horror legend, mentioned in the same glowing terms as Dario Argento – you’re going to struggle winning people over. Make no mistake, though; A BLADE IN THE DARK (only Lamberto’s 2nd film) is an edgy, well-paced, claustrophobic horror on par with a lot of his father’s work (the outstanding Blood & Black Lace and Bay Of Blood aside).

abitd2‘Giallo’ – the simple definition (in terms of literature and cinema) being an Italian thriller/mystery, but that falls some way short of capturing what makes this sub-genre so utterly fascinating.  Usually, as with ABITD, we’re thrown a central character that sets out to investigate a series of gorgeously shot and scored, overly-colourful murders, uncovering sinister truths about themselves and others in the process, with the plot commonly a by-product of an unspoken, viscerally charming filmmaking competition amongst the directors of that era. This particular vessel gives us composer Bruno (Occhipinti), on his first night in a secluded villa, tinkering with a horror soundtrack he’s been hired to create. Finding a comically flirty young woman called Katia in his cupboard, he then proceeds to have a casual flick through her diary (that’s not a euphemism), only to discover there are a few secrets surrounding the house’s previous tenant that someone is desperate to keep hidden.

abitd3Of course, there are parts that will annoy the perfectionists among us – fuck, there’s moments that made me burst out laughing at their absurdity – but when something blatantly doesn’t take itself too seriously, why should we? While the quality of his later films fell away dramatically and it became easier to be dismissive of his talents, there’s a passion driving A BLADE IN THE DARK that helps us ignore any glaring imperfections, which in turn aides the intensity of the numerous shocking set-pieces (particularly the infamous bathroom scene). Also, everything is kept simple and small (cast, locations), and filled with clever techniques to make us uneasy: unexpected, smooth camera swoops and jarring musical blasts. As our characters grow uncomfortable, so do we. Although, the downside to this small cast means it’s pretty easy to guess our killer as the final third plays out!

Adding to the film’s charm is the presence of Michele Soavi, both as assistant director AND Bruno’s landlord, Tony – charismatically stealing scenes during his limited screen time, even with the dodgy English dubbing! That being said, despite him being involved, Dardano Sacchetti’s script suffers from some baffling dialogue interactions – notably between our lead and the various, attractive female characters, who do everything they can to woo our reserved hero within seconds of meeting him – that hinder the film’s integrity. This may partly be due to the fact ABITD was initially invented as a 4-part television series, but later edited into a feature length film.

abitd4Despite trendy claims Lamberto Bava relied on his dad’s reputation to get a cinematic leg-up, he’s created a solid, enjoyable entry to the sub-genre here. Considering the small budget, A BLADE IN THE DARK makes a nice companion piece for giallo heavyweights such as Suspiria or any super Mario classic. Besides, the man gave us DEMONS, for fuck’s sake! LAY OFF HIM!!!

6/10

Chris Barnes (@TheBlueTook)

Extras:

NEW HD Master
Uncompressed LPCM English Soundtrack
Uncompressed LPCM Italian Soundtrack with newly translated English Subtitles
Archive Q&A with Lamberto Bava, moderated by Calum Waddell
Reversible Sleeve with alternative art
Includes a Collectible 300gsm Original Poster Post Card