OK, I did find this useful. [referring to an old WP tutorial post]
But I stayed on this page all day because I loved the header pic…
Then when I tried to grab it I found the rotator and holy shit you have the best header pics ever!
Thanks, and now I just need to track down some of those films.
I couldn’t agree with Tyler more, I do have the best header pics ever, and to show my faithful readers how responsive I am to their needs and desires, I decided to post a play-by-play of the brilliant header images that have adorned this blog since December 2005 when the lights when on. Additionally, I’ll have you know that unlike some who will not be named here, I’ve been themogamous with the K2 theme for WordPress for almost five years now. I remain devoted to my theme, and I am of the mindset that a blog’s theme is a contract with your readers, a deep and sacred aesthetic relationship that should not be altered under any circumstances. Far too many people switch themes as if it were just a container for their ideas rather than an integral and constitutive part of the ideas themselves, and it’s my firm contention that the thematic promiscuity that is rampant on the web right now is an underlying factor in the decline of the fabric of the blogosphere more generally. There are no loyalties, the thoughtless hopping from theme to theme has escalated in recent years to a mindless jumping from service to service, and soon enough the web becomes a sordid orgy of half-assed apps and orphaned content, a broken platform lacking any sense of consistency and persistence. Well, the bava knows that, and as an antidote to the general moral malaise that abounds online currently, we’ve done our best to give everyone who comes home through its always open doors exactly what they expect, a clean, well-lighted theme that understands memories are made in space over time, and that the persistence and consistency of that space over time is paramount in making this world more than virtual.
Before I get into a free wheeling discussion of the headers and their respective films, let me first give the long overdue credit to this classic Mario Bava fan page that provided me with well more than half all my header images.
Before I figured out how to load the random header script, this blog actually had only one header image for about a week or so. The first, and because of that the dearest to me, was this still from Mario Bava’s classic….
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)
The Girl Who knew Too Much is possibly the best example of Bava’s acknowledgment of his place as an uniquely Italian b-movie filmmaker by putting the Giallo—a popular Italian dime-novel tradition named after their yellow covers (giallo in Italian means Yellow)—on film for the first time. But this is just one of Bava’s many firsts. Not only is Bava playing with the Hitchcock classic in this work, but placing it within a suspenseful, serial killer framework that doesn’t abuse the gore that becomes commonplace in his Italian b-movie heirs, namely the over-rated Dario Argento. Moreover, it was only one of two films that Bava shot in stunning black and white, and his almost noir-like mastery of light in this film makes a nice juxtaposition to his homage to the black and White Masterpieces of of the Monster movies of the 30s apparent in Black Sunday.
Probably the most numerous and gripping headers on the bava come from his acknowledged masterpiece Black Sunday. Starring the queen of 60s horror, Barbara Steele (who I still have a crush on), this film is often cited as the pinnacle of Bava’s aesthetic—though the visual magic of Danger: Diabolik (1968) and Planet of the Vampires (1965) make for some powerful challengers to that assertion—but after seeing a couple of his shots in glorious black and white it becomes clear why some may make this argument. What strikes me about Black Sunday is that its film aesthetic comes right out of the stage-sets of the classic period of horror films during the 1930s. It is really a pleasure to watch Bava’s ability to conflate the camp world of Barbara Steele with the aesthetic brilliance of James Whale. More than that, he captures the horror in this film by interpolating the gore—the Iron maiden Scene is a perfect example of this—rather than simply filming the blood like some porn-inspired money shot that characterizes Italian b-horrors of the 70s and 80s. Admittedly I enjoy many of the gore fests of the 70s and 80s, but none capture the elegance and pared down raw visionof Bava’s earlier work. What’s more is that you can watch this fil in it’s entirety on YouTube on you tube in its entirety (one file, rather than the usual 10 or 11) here (thanks to Starzmedia—though keep in mind there are a few commercials, however it does seem to play for others outside the US, thanks @LisaRead for testing this).
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
This one is near and dear to me because it is actually the first Bava movie I ever watched, and it remains remarkable to me because it proves that vision and imagination is far more important than finances. Bava turns simple models into a psychedelic trip through outer space. The plot has two spaceships filled with the best-dressed astronauts ever (it is an Italian film, mind you) that land on a deserted planet to investigate the SOS transmission they have been monitoring. Turns out the planet is inhabited by formless beings that need to be hosted by foreign bodies in order to escape the limited resources that plague their planet (sounds remarkably similar to the plot of Ridley Scott’s Alien , no?). Moreover, the mist-filled planet seems to inform the aesthetic of Alien, creating a specular experience – perhaps born from limited resources – that realizes an abstract vision of space that opens up an imaginative element of cross-fertilizing scifi and horror (another benchmark used to celebrate Alien). The first ten minutes of this film may be my favorite of all of Bava’s work, the way the actors work through the G-forces pulling them to this strange planet is nothing short of brilliant, and the technology aesthetic for the spaceship is so magical. You can find this film in its entirety on YouTube as well, but not all in one file. Here is part 1, which comes highly recommended.
Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)
Must admit this was not one of my favorite Bava films despite the fact that it is considered by many to be his highest achievement. Everyone from Federico Fellini to Martin Scorsese to David Lynch quote this film as an inspiration for their own work (I’m sure Tim Burton does too, but he is a hack so I won’t recognize him here on the bava unless I am abusing him for his inexcusable Planet of the Apes remake). I’ll have to re-watch it again before I try an articulate my own flat response to this film, but I can absolutely see the remarkable of the psychedelic fun house imagery. Moreover, the film is immediately and completely divorced from any sense of naturalism, although it is in many regards played straight. There is probably something I’m missing here, so this goes back on the queue before I spout off about it giving it another go. Either way, I loved the image below of the dude about to be snuffed.
Bava’s contribution to the Sword & Sandal genre features some inspired set design of the underworld which are in many ways taken to the next level in his scifi/horror masterpiece Planet of the Vampires. The film also features the great Christopher Lee and has some brilliant camp with the relationship between Hercules, Thesues, and Telemachus. One of my personal favorite headers features Hercules, Theseus and Princess Deianira on the beach, and I think beautifully captures what I think is Bava’s best campy film, in no small part because the end of the film features Hercules smashing an army of zombies with boulders. Great stuff.
Here’s a look at some of the beautiful set designs and colorful lighting that might otherwise get overlooked for all the camp:
The Whip and the Body (1963)
I’ve written about this film already at length, one of my personal favorites because I love how Bava does S&M, but I choose this header rather late, sometime in 2008, because it reminded me of the first header from The Woman Who Knew Too Much with the focus on the horrified eyes, but this time Bava uses deeply colored light to similar effect as black and white.
Black Sabbath (“The Telephone” epsiode)
Mario Bava’s horror anthology features three short films based on stories by the other Tolstoy, Chekov, and Mauppasant. Black Sabbath has a fascinating history in that it was cut dramatically for the US release, in particular the sub-plot of a lesbian relationship from the short film titled “The Telephone” removes key scenes and re-writes in translation various dialogues that would capture this short as a story of revenge story into one of a ghost story. The headers from Black Sabbath pay tribute to that short and the lost scenes. You can see the US version of “The Telephone” on YouTube in 3 parts here, and then compare it to the Italian version for those significant differences here.
Some other fun facts about Black Sabbath via Wikipedia:
In August 1969, a heavy blues-rock band named Earth decided to change their name and agreed that the title of this movie would be a nice fit for their sound. This band, Black Sabbath, later rose to much acclaim.
According to Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, the final section of this film bears a striking resemblance to a scene from David Lynch‘s 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Lynch’s final episode of Twin Peaks, filmed just prior to the 1992 film, features a sequence reminiscent of Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill.
Four Times That Night (1972)
One of my favorite Mario Bava films because it puts bava in the seemingly foreign genre of the sex comedy. And how does he deal with it? Well he turns it into he Rashomon of erotica. Telling the tale of a lox tryst from four different angles according to four different characters, all of which get increasingly insane. More than that, the interiors of the 60s apartment are absolutely brilliant. Some argue you’re not missing anything if you haven’t seen this Bava, but I disagree, this is a must see because it is so very different from just about everything else he’s done.
Six Women for the Murderer (a.k.a. Blood and Black Lace) (1964)
Half-Life 2 (2004)
This is a departure from the bava-themed header that come before it, but I had to pay some homage to a video game that in may ways inspired some of the same horror Bav brought to the big screen. The first 15 minutes of Half-Life 2 remains the most amazing direction of a gme ‘ve yet to see, and truly opens up this genre as a magical space for storytelling that earlier games like Duke Nuke “em only hinted at. And some may argue Bioshock is a more recent example, and while I enjoyed it, it was nothing like that opening sequence of Half-Life 2, still the standard in my mind.
This is simply an image I found when work on my first domain name ever, redbaiters.com (which simply redirects to bavatuesdays now). It was going to be an homage to red scare propaganda on the web, which there is a ton, but I never got it off the ground, though I learned a ton in the process. Anyway, I loved the image, and incorporated it into the pantheon of header images
Upon finishing this monolithic post about seemingly nothing (my favorite kind) it strikes me that I am missing some gems. There is nothing from the film fumetti Danger: Diabolik (1968), Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), or Rabid Dogs (1978). All classics that need to be represented here, so I guess I need to do a follow-up once I add some more header images. What’s more, if you click on the Rabid Dogs link above, you’ll notice it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia article, which has to change as well.
Long live the banners, long live the bava!