Paul Bond and I were as good as our word, we worked through ten of Mario Bava’s best films for the Bavafest we’ve been doing since March. This post has the tenth and final (for now!) discussion of what might have been Mario Bava’s bleakest film: Rabid Dogs. This film never saw the light of day during Bava’s lifetime because of some bad luck Paul outlines in his post. It was released on VHS in 1998 for the first time, but if it had been released in 1974—when it was scheduled to be—it would most certainly have been considered a classic Poliziotteschi (a subgenre of 1970s hyper-violent and gritty street crime films in Italy). What’s more, it resonates within a broader, international exploration of violence in films at the time, two in particular come to mind, namely the class of 1971: A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs.
Rabid Dogs is the title of the rough cut by Mario Bava, which is significanty different—and better —than the re-edited version by Lamberto Bava released on DVD titled Kidnapped. I would go as far to say Kidnapped is a radically different film than Rabid Dogs, and not only because it includes a series of additional scenes shot after the fact. Kidnapped includes a few scenes that force feed the surpirse ending, while at the same time subverting the real import of final scene in the the rought cut—essentially changing the entire register of the film (but more on that soon). If you havent seen Rabid Dogs, well today is your lucky day, or for as long as the copyright bots allow it. Below is the full version of the 1998 cut on YouTube.
We moved to Google Hangouts for these discussions since the fifth film, but I hate that we had to. I’ve learned a lot about Hangouts as a result, and I still have a deep-seated loathing of them—even though they’re easy and now in HD! Anyway, during this discussion we were playing with broadcasting YouTube videos within the Google Hangout interface, which didn’t work in the end. So at minute 11:25 to 12:25 we are talking abou the credit sequences—which is a frozen screen on this video. I’m trying to re-edit this discussion, but as a reference point we were talking about the differnet credit sequence for Rabid Dogs versus Kidnapped. You can see the Twitch of the Death Nerve-inspired credit sequence for Kidnapped we mention in this conversation below. What’s more, while we are talking about opening credits, the sequence for Kidnapped on Netflix is just a black background with off-white scrolling text. That was also the case for Kill, Baby, Kill! on Netflix—I wonder what’s going on there.
Here are the credits for Rabid Dogs:
Here are the credits for Kidnapped:
We then talked about the intensity of the opening robbery scene, which is one of my favorite scenes from all of Bava’s films. Once again we tried using the YouTube feature in Google Hangouts to no avail, which I admit is probabaly user error. Anyway, there’s more frozen-screen from 18:53-20:41. You can see the sequence we were trying to share by watching the first video immediatey below. I also included the opening sequence from Kidnapped so you can get a sense of some of the difference between the two films:
Rabid Dogs Robbery sequence
Kidnapped Robbery Sequence
We also showed the car garage scene which I’m including below. It’s another hyper-violent scene from this film that really captures the street violence, as well as the idea Paul Bond hits on when talking about bad luck in this film: “Pretty much every character in the film was unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. ” Thsi couldn’t be more accurate, and the two women in the following scene who find themselves between the cops and the criminals in a parking garage prove a really powerful and deeply effecting example of this.
Car Garage Scene
A scene we mentioned in passing, but didn’t spend too much time is the “piss scene.” A Scene in which two of the criminals/sociopaths force their hostage to piss in front of them. This is probabaly the most overtly psycho-sexually depraved moment in Bava’s film career (and there are a bunch of them), and it reinforces some of the discussions that Bava is trying to push into new territory. Paul talked about Tim Lucas’s suggestion that given this is the most realisitc world Bavaever created on film, it might demonstrate how he really felt about the world. It’s not something you can ever really know, but if it were the case then both the piss scene and the final scene paint a very dark vision of Bava’s sense of the world. And gven the state of violence in Italy during the “Years of Lead,” it might not be all that surprisng.
Speaking of the final scene, the question camee up during our discussion as to whether or not Kidnapped included the final scene wherein the kidnapper opens up the trunk of his car to expose the body of the what we assumed throughout the film was his deathly ill child. [As an aside, I love the whole crime-within-a-crime twist we shockingly learn about at the end of the film.] I went and checked the version of Kidnapped on Netflix and can confirm that it did not have that final shot of the child in the trunk. Leaving that detail out totally changes the film. Seeing the body of the kidnapped child in the trunk—presumably dead— makes the vision of an already dark film, paranoid, and claustrophobic film downright horrific and misanthropic.
But I can’t end on a misanthropic note, because the process of taking the time and energy to have the conversations of the past five motnhs has been generative. When the conversation starts about each film Paul and I have no clear or rehearsed idea of where it’s going. In fact, it’s amazing how much comes out as a result of letting go of a plan, sharing your ideas with someone, and trusting in a sense the ability to conenct around ideas. I love this process cause it peels it all back to a certain amount of simplicity—take time to read/watch/write the things you dig and share that with others. Learn more about the things you love, share them openly, and experiment along the way. That’s kind of what I’ve come to apprecaite about Mario Bava. Over the course of 13 years of films we watched, hee has a presistent vision of platfulnees, experimentation, not taking himself to seriously, and being at one with his b-status. Less is more for Bava, the less he has, often the more spectacular the film. And regardless of resources, he was continually able to push into new territory and create a vision of what’s possible. His work parallels beautifully with what I feel like we are doing at DTLT for my day job, adn it just further reinforces my deep conenction to his work.
I also want to stop and say that Paul continues to be an amazing partner in all these cultural crimes. I hope we can keep the Bava series going with ten more films, but for the moment we simply need to relish that it’s done. But only for the moment!