Saturday, November 2, 2013


Having just watched Mario Bava’s RABID DOGS for the very first time, I am wondering what the hell took me so long. Filmed in 1974 but left unedited on the shelf until 1998, it is an amazing film. Often, when a lost or uncompleted work by a director is uncovered, the excitement of the actual payoff is less satisfying that the anticipation. That is certainly not the case here, with RABID DOGS  showing Bava in fine late-career form and more than able to hold his own against any up-and-coming young exploitation turk.

Built on the simple premise of a robbery gone bad and the desperate getaway in the hijacked car filled with hostages, RABID DOGS comes off like a fusion of the tough Euro-crime thriller with LAST HOUSE OF THE LEFT (1972), in that it shares a similar oppressive atmosphere and level of violence and depravity as Wes Craven’s confrontational classic (not to mention Don Backy’s Bisturi character is very Krug-like in his appearance and knife-edge temper, and there’s a sequence where he and one of his padres in crime - played by Eurotrash fave George Eastman - force their female kidnap victim to urinate in front of them, which is very reminiscent of a similar moment in LAST HOUSE).

With so much of the film taking place within the confines of a moving vehicle, Bava turns a potential limitation into one of the film’s strongest elements, giving it a stifling sense of claustrophobia and filming the actors in such extreme close-ups that they have no place to hide, exposing every detail in their faces and causing the audience to feel every bead of sweat that rolls down their brows and sense every grimy odour that must be radiating from their bodies. The violence is brutal and jarring, and the clever way in which it is filmed and edited is a nice demonstration of how the filmmaker was able to effectively compensate for not having the money to over-indulge in make-up effects. Likewise, the opening robbery is economical but exciting, and the ending is bleak and cynical and beautifully set-up.

I’m looking forward to watching the alternate cut of the film, titled KIDNAPPED, which includes additional scenes directed by Mario Bava’s son Lamberto in 1996, along with a new soundtrack (though I have to say that Stelvio Cipriani’s musical score in RABID DOGS - sparse and hypnotic - would be very hard to improve upon).