Lisa and the Devil (and more Mario Bava)

While Halloween atmosphere is getting near and for I didn’t want to post common things, I thought it was the time to talk about Mario Bava, the first italian director of horror films. He is considered to be the inventor of italian thriller, also called spaghetti thriller, a particular genre of thriller movies which includes elements of horror fiction and eroticism. A lot of directors from Dario Argento to Tim Burton, including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino said to be inspired by Bava’s film and even David Lynch and Federico Fellini paid an homage to him.

Bava’s works are slightly different from other horrors movies. Atmosphere is more important than plot itself, which is only suggested, not totally defined.

La maschera del demonio (1960)

The Mask of Satan (USA version: Black Sunday) was Bava’s directorial debut. It is also considered to be the first italian horror and gothik movie. It’s based on a Gogol’s novel “Viy” and it’s about the vampire-witch Asa who is put to death by her own brother, only to return 200 years later to feed on her descendants. The film has all the horror basic elements like the witch, the castle, the tomb, the ancient ruins, the wanderer who get lost in the wood, but the plot it’s not expected at all. A classic.

qui l’intero film in italiano.

Lisa e il diavolo (1972)

Lisa and the devil is my favorite Mario Bava’s film. One of the his last works, it first caught my attention because the main carachter bears my name. It’s the strangest of Bava’s film. The story is setted in Toledo, Spain, but the most of the film inside a decadent mansion. The story is macabre and weird, with a dreamy atmosphere, sometimes not reasonable at all. The american tourist Lisa Rainer is visiting Toledo with her tour group and the tourist guide shows a creepy fresco representing the devil. Then she suddenly wanders away from her group and encounters a man called Leandro. She follows him into his antiques-shop where she is magnetized by a macabre carillon. Then she is unable to find the tour group again, she takes refuge in a crumbling mansion owned by a blind Countess, where Leandro is the butler…

The entire film is structured like a dream (or nightmare) where each scene runs into the next with no logical explanation. The antique mansion, full of rich and decadent decoration, the blind Countess owner of the castle, Leandro the butler always surrounded by creepy mannequins, the scene of necrophilia, the eerie landscape paired with perfectly appropriate music, they all create an atmosphere relentlessly morbid and miasmic, creepy even and especially in daylight. Strange and unexpected ending.

qui l’intero film in italiano.

fresco representing the devil

the carillon in Leandro’s shop. Lisa will find the same carillon in the castle

Dream sequence

Lisa in her room in the castle

Leandro’s mannequins

other rooms of the castle

Lisa, Leandro and the blind countess

Sei donne per l’assassino (1964)

Blood and Black Lace is one of the few Bava’s films setted in Rome (the exterior locations of the fashion house were filmed at the Villa Sciarra). The film is generally considered one of the earliest and most influential of all giallo films and will inspire filmmakers such as Dario Argento, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

A beautiful young model is murdered by a mysterious masked figure in a raging storm outside the fashion house where she worked. When her boyfriend is suspected of the killing, her diary, which contains incriminating evidence linking her to the killer, mysteriously vanishes…

Countess Cristina Como, owner of the fashion house, always dresses in black

Bava’s film interiors are always opulent and richly furnished

one of the victims

Il rosso segno della follia (1969)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of the best of Bava’s works, but strange enough to worth the vision. The protagonist confesses since the start to be an homicidal maniac so that the central mystery of the movie lies in the killer’s motive. What drove John Harrington, a wealthy, good-looking fashion house owner, to murder five women, includin his wife? And why he seems to have a morbid obsession with brides?

the great actress Laura Betti plays the role of Harrington’s wife

Harrington’s wife reading an interesting and non-existing book

creepy toys in the house of the murderer

5 bambole per la luna d’agosto (1970)

Not exactly an horror. Five Dolls for an August Moon is a mistery-thriller, with weak plot without a real main character. It all ends up like beeing a kitschy version of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. Three couples are invited to spend the weekend at the posh private island of a wealthy industrialist. Among them are research scientist Professor Farrell who has inveted a new formula for an industrial resin that will make him rich. The possibility of getting rich will trig off an homicidal rush in order to obtain the formula. Only one will survive…

Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga (1972)

Peter returns to Austria in search of his ancestor, a sadistic Baron who was cursed to a violent death by a witch whom the Baron had burned at the stake. There he visits the castle where he lived and met a young girl (played by the same actress of Lisa and the devil) who’s studing the story of the castle. They found a secret formula and read it aloud…

Aesthete. Art historian & blogger. Content creator and storyteller. Fond of real and virtual wunderkammer. Founder and main author of

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