— Dr. Giallo (@Dr_Giallo) July 31, 2018
I learned on Twitter that today is Mario Bava’s birthday. This blog has been inspired by this Italian film director in more ways than one, and I figured his birthday represents as good an opportunity as any to share a recent discovery I made thanks to Antonella. While sharing the 1968 Italian TV series Odissea with the kids, she noted that the special effects* as well as the entire episode about the cyclops Polyphemus was directed by Bava. The series itself is interesting. It was the very first color program on Italian TV (appropriate that Bava would be involved) and was produced by the legendary Dino De Laurentis, who Bava would work with again when he was hired to save Danger: Diabolik. Odissea was enormously popular all over Europe with more than 16 million viewers.
You can see Bava’s classic usage of colorful light within the darkness of Polyphemus’ cave, and the sets (as well as the various apparitions in other episodes) reminded me of Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World (1961). But possibly the most insane scene was when Polyphemus snatches up, crushes, and then eats one of Odysseus’s crew members. It is truly chilling without being overtly gory. You can watch the scene above, but essentially Polyphemus not only crushes the poor bastard, but smashes him against a rock before tearing him apart, cooking him in the fire, and eating him like a piece of chicken. The beauty of this is that much of this is done while the cyclops has his back to the camera. Bava uses shadow, light, and suggestion to create the cringing effects—it’s awesome. In fact, watching the series in Italian inspired me to pick up the Odyssey again and work my way through that foundational narrative. So, anyway, just a quick post to share the magic that is Mario Bava in honor of what would have been his 104th birthday—so close to 106 🙂
- Carlo Rimbaldi (the designer of E.T.) worked alongside Bava on the special effects for this series.