April 25: Bava Forever — Bava died on this day 43 years ago. Let’s watch his movies.
In 1981, RAI-TV in Italy showed six hour-long films based on stories by 19th century horror/fantasy authors that were directed by several Italian genre talents, including Marcello Aliprand (the writer of L’arma, l’ora, il movent), Giulio Questi (Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot!, Death Laid an Egg, Arcana), Giovanna Gagliardo, Piero Nelli, Tomaso Sherman and, most essentially to this article, Mario Bava.
“La Venere Dille” (“The Venus of Ille”) would be the final filmed work that Bava would create and it was written and co-directed by his son Lamberto. Adapted from Prosper Merimee’s story, it starts when a bronze statue of Venus is uncovered. Originally a source of celebration and wonder to the rich and powerful, the workers of the small village see the female carved form as a cursed objet d’art that can move on its own and take on the form of others. Certainly, that’s what happens when Clara’s (Dario Nicolodi, who was also in Bava’s Shock amongst her many, many contributions to cinema) fiancee Alfonso (Fausto Di Bella) places her ring upon its finger while drunk one rainy night.
Meanwhile, an antiques expert and artist named Matthew (Marc Porel, The Sister of Ursula) has been summoned by Alfonso’s father Mr. de Peyrehorade (Fausto Di Bella) to assess the value of the statue. He’s been sketching it for some days before he realizes that he’s been drawing Clara. Or is the statue becoming her?
Shot in 1979 and not aired until after Bava’s death in 1981 (and after Lamberto started making his own movies, including Macabre), this was shot on film and therefore seems of much higher quality than just a TV series. It serves as both a fitting close to Mario’s career and a wonderful gift to his son, as well as an opportunity for the two to work together on a piece of art.
The whole affair looks gorgeous with one moment of rain across the face of the statue and another where Matthew is drawing near it but obviously already obsessed with Clara, the soon-to-be wife of a friend who doesn’t seem to be all that great of a person. The story doesn’t suffer at all from being a TV episode, as at a bit over seventy minutes it has time to stretch out and engage you.
You can get the entire series from Severin.
EDIT: Thanks to Scott for catching a horrible typo. Much appreciated.
Great film. Great reviews, as always, Sam. I look fwd to reading your content and enjoy your take on things… Bava’s the greatest filmmaker of all time in my book. I own all his films, even th early ones he worked on doing special effects and second unit work, going back to the fifties. This final segment he made is as creepy and beautiful as anything he ever did. A brilliant way to sign off..and the length is just perfect!! However, at the start of your second paragraph, you mistakenly call him Argento!! My heart sank when I read that! How could you have missed that in editing? Don’t get me wrong, I love his films too, but we all know, that none of our favourite directors and giallo/thrillers/horror films would be where they are today without the wonderful influence that Bava has had on all of it! Nine times outta ten, if you really dig deep, you’ll find that Bava did it first!! Remember, I always say- No Mario, no Dario! Hahaha…thanks again for all the great reviews and other films you’ve turned me on to! Ciao! 🧤🔪
Thanks so much for the kind word and catching my error. I have no idea how that got through, but I appreciate you reading so thoroughly and catching it. I updated the article and credited you with fixing it.