It’s muchacha macabra Leia LaBiblia, back for another in-depth look at a classic Euro-Chiller, in this case the 1971 Italian shocker A Bay of Blood , or as it was re-named for American export, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE!
That is some fucking title. It is able to simultaneously make no sense yet be deeply disturbing. It promises all manner of grisly demises and almost dares us to try to sit through it, as if flipping us off with a skeletal finger or sticking out and waving a partially severed tongue at us. And it delivers the goods with a non-stop parade of shocks– it’s a double-whammy: the first modern splatter AND slasher movie, and it played to delighted, disgusted audiences for almost ten years at drive-ins and grindhouses across the nation. Now UK cult and horror specialists Arrow Video has released the definitive edition of this classic sickie in a gorgeous new Blu-Ray (unlocked, so it plays on any BD device) and 2-disc Region 2 DVD (which is PAL and requires a region-free DVD player).
I first saw this movie as a tween in the late 70′s, at a Long Island drive-in with my cousins and two of their dates. Starting around age 7, I spent summers at my aunt and uncle’s, who’d moved from The Bronx (which had become really scary, even if you were Puerto Rican) to the suburbs, where their four kids could attend better schools, get a trampoline and above-ground pool, and, luckily for me, learn to drive. If they’d stayed in the city, my aunt would never have allowed me to scurry down to then-super-sleazy Times Square, where many of the horror movies I craved were playing. But when these same flicks ended up at a nearby L.I. drive-in, they became a seemingly wholesome teen night out. My hunky eldest cousin Octavio loved horror films, the scarier and grosser the better, since that meant more clutching and squeezing from his many various dates. At the drive-in, these girls would spend entire double-features on his lap in the backseat while my youngest cousin Jose and I were transfixed to the screen in the front.
At first, the general deal was we got to watch the first movie then were supposed to “go right to sleep”, but as long as we kept quiet and didn’t ask for more snack-bar items or otherwise interrupt their petting sessions, Octavio and his one-year-younger brother Luis didn’t care if we stayed up. I would scour Newsday‘s movie ads for the trashiest and most horrifying-looking R-rated films, movies I never could have gotten away with seeing in San Juan, even if there had been videocassettes or movie channels, which there weren’t. Sometimes my aunt would pack a picnic for us, having no idea, I’m sure that we’d be munching on her empanadillas while watching people get carved up by chainsaws.
Like most of the movies distributed by Hallmark Releasing (no connection to the card company/schmaltz network), Twitch of the Death Nerve had a fabulous ad campaign, which declared that it was the first horror film to require “A Face-To-Face Warning”. I remember being annoyed that the drive-in cashier ignored this mandate and let us in unwarned. I later found out the movie had been trimmed by Hallmark to get an R-rating, but Arrow is of course presenting it completely UNCUT, with a huge buffet of Extras including commentaries, interviews, trailers and beautiful reversible cover art.
The film was directed by Mario Bava, the legendary fright-flick auteur who single-handedly birthed the Giallo cycle with the 60′s classics The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace. Giallo means Yellow in Italian and refers to the covers of a certain brand of lurid mystery novels published from 1929 on. In film, Giallo can best be described as Erotic Thriller meets Slasher, with a glossy coat of European visual style. Gorgeous, frequently naked stars (usually the ladies only, sadly), bizarre murders, overwrought soundtracks, painful English dubbing and long, elaborate titles like Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave are standard equipment for these twisted flicks.
Bava, a former cinematographer, brought effortless, unpretentious visual panache to this deeply cynical little gem about ugly doings at a beautiful coastal retreat. Devised as a vehicle for him to work with character actress Laura Betti, Twitch/Bay ended up making horror history when Bava hired special effects maestro Carlo Rambaldi. Never before had such a well-made thriller featured these kinds of graphic onscreen deaths, and most of them have been copied and ripped-off dozens of times since. Friday the 13th and its sequels (especially Part 2) are essentially tarded-down remakes of this movie! Most recently, the hacky 2009 CBS murder mystery flop Harpers Island also felt extremely familiar to Twitch fans. I’m sure it’s hard for kids today to understand the power a truly shocking horror film had– how it spawned buzz like an urban legend at a time when the only way to see these movies was en masse, either at some dive theatre in a sketchy part of town or in the summer, after dark, in a parking lot under a towering outdoor screen as people got stoned and laid all around you.
No matter how cool your plasma and Blu Ray combo are, it’s not quite the same. But it’s still pretty good, if you have the right friend(s) over and choose the right film. This is definitely one of my faves, and Arrow has done a really sweet job with this. So let’s travel back 40 years to a time when the concept of dangerously unhinged lunatics knocking off entire casts one by one was still fresh and appalling… So take a whiff of The Stench of Flesh (the working title) and shudder at the Twitch of the Death Nerve!
Groovy 70′s music by Stelvio Cipriani accompanies shots of a sun-dappled bay ringed by woods. Nary a single Waverunner nor a blacked-out Snookie disturbs the tranquility. As darkness falls, we see a light burning in the window of a nearby villa. Cut to The Countess, an old bat in a mauve dress and orthopedic granny-shoes wheelchair-ing herself through an elegantly furnished parlor. The sounds of a storm compete with mournful piano notes as she rolls herself closer toward a window. She peers through the rain-spattered panes at the bucolic twilit bay, and a small cabin next to a dock. A lit window at the cabin is the only other sign of human life. The music swells, The Countess lost in reverie, perhaps imagining a younger, happier time, a time when she could walk, perhaps to that very cabin, where some sexy 1920′s handyman perhaps regularly showed her what’s what.
Among the many titles slapped on this 1971 film– Last House on the Left Part 2… even though Last House on the Left wasn’t made until 1972.
She wheels herself away from the window and catches a sad glimpse of herself in a mirror before she switches off a table lamp. The room is dark as she wheels back to the window… and suddenly stops, startled. We see a noose held in a black-gloved hand. The assailant loops the noose around her neck then shoves the wheelchair back. She lurches forward, hanged! The chair whizzes back, bangs into some furniture and topples over, collapsing. The Countess claws at the noose, tongue bulging, granny-shoes scraping against the floor. You ain’t gonna see that on Hot in Cleveland.
The killer waits patiently for her to expire, then pulls off his obligatory black gloves. We see he’s a dapper middle-aged man with a mustache. Wait– you’re never supposed to see who the killer is in these Gialli! It’s like Andy Cohen turning down camera-time– or Andy Cohen saying something funny– it simply isn’t done. Sorry. That’s what 6 straight months of Real Housewives recapping can do to you. Mustache barely gives Hanging Countess a second look– he hears a noise that sounds like someone touching the discarded wheelchair. He crosses the room to investigate, walking down the hall to the front doors, which he opens, peering out. Across the terrace, a small metal gate bangs in the wind.
Mustache goes back into the house and places a hand-written suicide note on a table in the room where The Countess is hanging out. He walks over to her and leans as if to possibly unstring her when a sharp knife suddenly and repeatedly stabs him in the back and torso. Blood squirts from the wounds and spills out of his mouth. He collapses under the swinging Countess. His killer drags his body away.
Horror icon Christopher Lee attended the premiere at a European film festival and was reportedly “completely revolted”!
Cut to two lovers lounging in a bed: Laura, a blonde beauty and her hairy-chested macho-man pal Ventura. She wants to cuddle, he’s had his fun and is out the door. As he gets dressed, he teases her about hearing a creature outside called a “squonk“. Jose Luis Borges fans I’m sure found this hilarious– but how many of them frequented drive-ins? Turns out Macho’s a businessman having an affair with “secretary” Blondie, and the two of them are also plotting some lucrative business deal together. I know it’s hard to focus on the dialogue when you have 1971- set decoration to marvel at– and this fuck-pad is all Keith Partridged– but he’s leaving for “the bay” to get an important signature. It has something to do with the police ruling The Countess’s death a suicide and her husband vanishing. He says maybe she can come join him tonight. She tries to tempt him with her naked body but all he does is tell her to “call first”, then leaves.
A swarthy Young Fisherman slaps some octopi around his boat. A Sinister-Looking Middle-Aged Man and a Fortyish Bombshell use binoculars to observe the fisherman and a Bearded Butterfly Collector wandering along the shoreline with his net. Fisher and Butterfly know each other just enough to require a very exposition-heavy chat. It seems that Butterfly has been hunting down a specific fluttering friend since capturing him and tagging his feeler some time back. That’s like trying to put a cock-ring on Glenn Beck. Butter released the critter in order to “study his movements”, but Fish thinks Butter just wants to prolong the ex-caterpillar’s suffering. Butter insists he loves his insect pals, but they still end up “squirming under your microscope” Fish fires back, adding that he at least eats the “squid” he kills (which, for the record, are clearly octopi). His opinion is that “man should live and let live!”
You probably weren’t expecting a little chat about the morality of killing, but this is no ordinary hack-’em-up. Even the klunky English dub-job can’t nullify the movie’s smarts. Fish tells Butter that “killing for killing’s sake makes you a monster!” Butter reminds him that they’re talking about insects here, not people, who have “centuries of civilization” behind them, y’dig? Fish snarls no, he doesn’t dig– “I wasn’t there!” Butter says Fish has changed since The Countess was murdered– “It was suicide!” Fish hisses. That’s what the police said. Butter apologizes then scurries after his butterfly while Fish cackles like a maniac, but looking like Mark Consuelos. If this was school, we could stop the DVD and write an entire paper based on this interaction and whether Butter and Fish are potential victims, killers, or both. But since your Recap Artist is the only one writing an essay here, you get a pass.
Actress Paola Montenero ended up doing hardcore porn and lots of heroin!
Cut to Sleazy Businessman on the phone– he’s getting the necessary building permits and they’re going ahead with the project, whatever that is. The man on the phone wants his name out of it– they’re starting this much too soon after The Countess died! Certainly, Sir, says Sleazy. He gets back in his car and we see black gloves as he pays the service-station attendant. Ever wonder where the horror staple of a carload of vapid, horny, over-aged “teens” getting in the path of a killer began? Look no further than this dune buggy containing Denise, Brunhilde, Duke and Bobby! They’ve come to the bay looking for kicks, and quickly find what appears to be an abandoned seaside hotel, with dock, swimming pool and discotheque. Luckily Teutonic siren Brunhilde carries a portable cassette player around with her. Duke must be American because she chides him: “You are full of hot dogs and Cadillacs and have no music in your soul!” You gotta love the poor bastard whose job it was to translate these scripts into English. Almost as much as you should love the hairdresser who OK’d Bobby’s out-of-control Brady ‘Fro, complete with woolly mullet-flap in back.
Cut to a tarot card-reading where a Fortune Teller listens to the party music a short distance away while flipping cards and predicting “a veil of fear” for someone. Maybe it IS the movie’s hairdresser, because who else put Fortune Teller in this frizzy Audra Lindley perm? She babbles something about the lines of “earth, air, fire and water” being “in alignment”, then peers out her window at the deserted motel visible through the woods. It is adjacent to the modern white house we saw behind Middle-Aged Man and Fortyish Bombshell when they were spying on Fish & Butter earlier. Turns out Butter is Fortune Teller’s husband, and he’s right in the middle of a private chat with his favorite beetle when she blusters into his Bug Room warning him that “there will be tears will be shed over the bay” and “the sickle of death is about to strike!”
This couple really ARE The Ropers, with Stanley the Butterfly Collector bitching that Helen the Tarot Queen’s predictions for “a gust of joy” last week led to the murder of The Countess, so WTF does she know? Helen calls Stanley insensitive and he complains about “lecherous” real estate sleaze Ventura and the “orgies” he holds on his bayside property. Helen notes that Stanley hates Ventura for the same reasons Stan hates the Countess’s husband Filippo (who is now dead, too, but nobody knows that yet)– for knowing how to take pleasure in life! Stanley angrily throws her out of his bug room before she can spill his butterfly “acid”. He yells at Helen that the real reason he hates Ventura and Filippo is their shared goal to “turn the bay into a sea of cement”. And Stanley won’t have that.
The film was shot in the dead of winter, making Brigette Skay’s nudity all the more commendable.
Cut to Brunhilde performing a sexually provocative dance for Bobby in her teensy little dress, while Duke leches after pricktease Denise, who I hope gets topless real quick if only to spare us any more of her phug-nacious, fringe-trimmed hippie vest. Duke is about to give up on her and try for a 3-way with Bru and Brady-Head, when Denise announces she’s discovered a swimming pool out back. A voyeuristic eye peeps at them through the wall, which is rarely a good sign. Bru wants to go swimming and since the pool is filthy and full of garbage, she’s going to jump in the bay. Bobby whines that it’s too cold, but Denise has other plans for him and leads both guys next door to the white house we’ve seen over the trees.
The threesome peers through the window into a deserted but far-out-looking party pad. Bobby whines that this is private property and they could get in trouble, but Duke is determined to impress his French tart and starts casing the joint. Cut to Brunhilde enjoying a stroll along the water as lovely music purrs on the soundtrack. Because this is Europe and it’s 1971 and there are guys who came to drive-in’s alone just to have a place to beat off, she slips out of her dress and panties and runs onto the wharf. Someone is watching her from behind a tree…
Duke forces a shutter open and enters the house through a kitchen window. Cut to Bru skinny-dipping. Cut back to that whore Denise canoodling with Bobby Brady outside the house. A door opens and a sharp spear-tip appears… but it’s only Duke playing around with an African mask and spear. Except he’s not too happy that Denise seems more interested in boning his poodle-pated pal. “You bastid! You’ll get a spear in your ass if you don’t watch out!” chides Duke in a oddly Bostonian accent. As “the Kraut girl” continues to enjoy her refreshing nude swim, the other three over-the-hill delinquents have busted into the liquor and phonograph records and are having what some 1950′s religious types would consider a wild party. But a P.O.V. shot approaching the house indicates trouble.
It was banned by the British film censor for 23 years! And then required extensive cuts before its release as an Adults-Only videocassette.
Duke sends Bobby off to be with “the Viking broad” as Denise discovers a comfy room with pukey 70′s lamps and bedspread, plus a nightstand photo of Sleazy Businessman Ventura. Bobby, who’s just not into banging Bru despite (or maybe because of) the fact that his cords are so tight they’re giving him male camel-toe (or moose-hoof, to use the technical term), comes back in with some firewood just in time to see Duke and Denise disappear into the bedroom. Cut to Bru swimming back to the wharf, where her leg catches a rope which had been anchoring a rotting corpse! The body, suspenders indicate it’s The Countess’s murderous husband, floats to the surface and bumps against Bru, who makes a quick, naked getaway down the wharf.
Pausing only to squirm into her dress, Bru hurries to the deserted hotel, which has also been abandoned by her pals. When she hears someone moving around inside, she flees outside, past the pool, toward the next-door house, turning around just long enough to register total terror at whatever’s chasing her. She makes it into the house’s yard and almost to the front door, when a sharp hooked machete almost slices her head off. The special effects in this movie represent the best the world had ever seen and you have to also remember when this came out and through its many years on the drive-in/grindhouse circuit, really up until 1978′s Halloween, there were NO dead-teenager movies. I personally wish the dune-buggy in this one had held three or four more.
As Bru bleeds out on the lawn, Bobby sits alone in the living room looking through Ventura’s record collection and Denise and Duke have sex on his bed. Prying eyes observe them through a slit in the shutters, then we cut to a Killer’s P.O.V. moving around the house to another shuttered window. But the killer is clumsy and knocks over a flowerpot, disturbing Bobby’s reading Xavier Cugat liner notes. Somehow, his impossibly tight pants allow him to stand and he crosses to the front door, which he opens. He looks momentarily startled, then the hooked dealie comes down, burying itself in his face in a fabulously graphic make-up effect that’s still awesome almost 40 years later.
When a giant blade to the face is almost upstaged by a ‘Fro-Mullet, you have to wonder… what must his bush look like???
The killer yanks the blade from Bobby’s face and rolls him face-first onto the blood-slicked tile floor. The subjective killer-cam finds the African spear, then locates Duke and Denise, screwing with the door open a crack, with her on top. The killer creeps up behind the boffing buddies and impales them both with the spear, skewering them through the mattress and to each other! Yes, this was copied in Friday the 13th Part 2 , along with several other deaths from this very film. Not that the lakeside setting of the F13 series hadn’t already been swiped from this endlessly popular export.
Sad music as we see the dune-buggy sitting alone, its passengers all dead, but still smiling that happy-grille grin. Pink and purple twilight at the bay. Who’s the movie really about? Mrs Roper the Tarot Queen? Here she is mulling over her cards. She gets some result with one of them and calls out to Stanley the Bug Collector. She comes downstairs and checks his bug room– empty! Mrs Roper pauses to scowl at a beetle impaled on a nail on one of Stanley’s display boards.
Cut to Stanley hiding outside from his wife. She comes out, calling him, but her only answer is a dune-buggy pulling away. Meanwhile, Swarthy Sexy Fisherman pulls in his boat for the night. Middle-Aged Man and Fortyish Bombshell, aka Albert and Renata, emerge from a Winnebago parked nearby. Renata is the mega-hot daughter of the Countess’s dead husband and Albert’s her greedy spouse. They bicker about taking the kids on this trip, and Renata says if Al knew what he was doing they wouldn’t be in this mess, but now they have to speak to the Ropers about something important. The kids, including omnipresent red-headed giallo gremmie Nicoletta Elmi, peep out the motor-home window as their parents drive off.
Special make-up effects wiz Carlo Rambaldi later went on to create family-fave E.T.!
Renata drives the Mercedes down a dark road, passing Ventura’s white house just as Sleazy Businessman Ventura puts his key in the front door. Ren drives on, arriving at the Ropers’. She calls out to Stanley, introducing herself as Donati’s daughter and telling him her father’s vanished since the Countess’s death. This movie could use a heroine and I nominate Renata– she’s a stunner played by Bond Girl Claudine Auger and with an already-offed homicidal dad PLUS Euro-Sleazo Supremo Luigi Pistilii as her husband, you just know she’s been forced to do the most vile, decadent things. So we can root for her to get her hands on the valuable lakeside property that’s the real McGuffin of this unstoppable slaughterhouse machine.
Ren and Al have tea and tarot with the Ropers, and Helen holds court, saying that even though Countess Federica’s death was ruled suicide, no one believes that, especially with Donati disappearing immediately. The Countess clung to life and her money with equal fervor. Stanley, obsessed with trying to feed milk to his pet beetle, causally informs Renata that her father was “vice-ridden”: drinking, gambling, and an obsession about building a fashionable resort here at the bay, ruining it! “The bay is a place of insects,” Stanley declares. “Then you and Mrs Roper should get along great here,” Renata snips, although this may have been more of a dig in Italian.
Helen puts it on the line: This a great place to murder your wife, get away with it and enjoy the spoils. Renata testily says she came to investigate her dad’s disappearance, not listen to moral judgments about him. Stanley says he hopes she will keep the gas stations, restaurants and other resort construction closed if she inherits the bay. Helen Roper puffs on a cigarette with a long holder, opining that the Countess’s great wealth may have been passed down to her illegitimate son. He’s the Swarthy Fisherman: or, as Helen calls him, part watchman, part fisher, part petty thief! Stanley defends the lad– he’s great, just been acting “weird” lately.
Lured by the temptation of their own sitcom, the Ropers left Three’s Company at the height of its popularity for 28 lousy episodes… followed by cancellation and immediate, near-total obscurity.
Mrs Roper lets them know if Donati has a soul, then so do insects, and as for the Countess, she kept her young protege beside her in a special cabin on the grounds and didn’t let him see the outside world, “a constant reminder of her weak flesh!” Stanley tells a disappointed Renata that it’s won’t be helpful asking Fish about her vanished dad– Fish didn’t approve of his mother’s marriage to Donati and stayed away from him. Albert says they still want to talk to him. Helen notes that Sleazy Businessman/Artichect Ventura knows more about Donati– they were very close friends. His cottage is next door. Stanley tells them not to take the road– the path through the woods is much quicker! After he ushers them out, Helen notices Stanley’s hand has a big cut on it. He says he had an accident with his “pen-knife”.
Renata and Albert traipse through the woods. He complains that now they not only have a missing person, her father, to contend with, but there’s an illegitimate heir, Swarthy Fish. Ren prefers to see it as only one thing standing between them and the inheritance. Cut to Swarthy Fisherman’s shack, where Sleazy Architect is just leaving, telling him “Alright, son, we’ll settle tomorrow.” So Sleazy is Swarthy’s dad?! There’s a resemblance– that horny old bag The Countess must have had her way with Sleazy right after the appearance of his Big Boy Hair. Or as we say in Italian– capelli cattivi. Suddenly, the two hunky conspirators hear Renata and Albert bickering down the path. Sleazy tells Swarthy “Go see who they are!”
Cut to Helen Roper hiding behind a tree, watching with dreadful fascination. Ren and Al approach Swarthy Simon at his boat. Cut to Sleazy’s house. Considering a near-Manson-level massacre took place there this afternoon, the place looks great and he seems very calm, chatting with his bimbo on the phone and telling her about “a slight complication” which is “all taken care of”. He warns her not to “start that again”– they can celebrate tomorrow, it’s too late for her to drive to the bay now. Simon signed all the documents very easily– candy from a swarthy, uncircumcised baby. Did she pick up the plane tickets for Simon? Goodbye, Sponge. His pet name for her is Sponge because she’s such a taker, remember? That and she sucks dick like a champ. I’m guessing…
The American distributor promoted the film as “Rated V for Violence”, until the ever-douchey MPAA slapped them down for creating their own rating and slapped this with an “X”, necessitating trims for an “R”. The MPAA are MPAA-holes.
Cut to Albert and Renata grilling Simon. No, he hasn’t seen his illegitimate step-dad Donati aka Renata’s real dad anytime recently. Renata says he has to have seen him at some point– he practically owns the bay. No, that was The Countess, Simon corrects. Renata notices movement coming from Simon’s rowboat– there’s a green blanket covering a pulsating mass of something and an octopus tentacle has slithered out. Renata yanks the blanket back and discovers her father’s corpse, with an octopus having sex with his dead, mustachioed face! Start talking, Albert orders threateningly.
Simon, seeming more dangerous and sinister than ever, tells them he found Donati’s body “in the sea”. Renata says she’s going to puke, so Simon suggests Al escort her to Sleazy Ventura’s nearby cottage. After they leave, Simon tosses the amorous octopus back into the water, making us think the body in the boat was staged for maximum shock value. Albert and Renata enter Ventura’s house. She collapses into a chair as Al calls for Sleazy and pokes around– the bedroom where the kids were doubly penetrated is back to normal, including that vomitrocious bedspread. Cut to Sleazy in the cellar, listening to them call him. A long heavy rope and a hatchet are within easy reach.
Upstairs, Ren, still feeling faint, orders Al to “go get the Mercedes” and pick her up. He leaves. Nausea rising, she hunts for a bathroom. She goes in, rinses her face, then turns a light on… and SCREAMS! The brutally butchered bodies of the 4 partying kids have been stuffed into the tub. Another major moment/first in horror history! Renata’s a bit light in the shrieking department, looking deeply stunned as she staggers out of the loo. Of course she should have run, but it wouldn’t have mattered much because Sleazy is blocking her way with the hatchet. Ren yells in vain for her husband and tries to barricade herself in the bathroom. She spies a pair of scissors and doesn’t think twice, smashing them through a yellow glass panel and into Sleazy’s leg!
Cut to Albert running through the woods along the shoreline. He bumps into Mrs Roper, who says she heard Renata screaming. Al says they found her dad’s body in Simon’s boat, then runs off to get his car out of the Ropers’ driveway. Mrs Roper heads off down the path toward all the mayhem. Al gets in the car and is about to pull out when Mr Roper appears, asking about his wife. Al says she went down to the bay. Cut to Helen walking the path through the night. Actually, it’s day-for-night, one of the most irritating “tricks” used by low-budget filmmakers of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. Did they really think putting a filter on the camera would hypnotize us into not seeing huge areas of sunlight present in these “night” scenes? O well– I guess I know Kyle MacLachlan‘s not really fucking Elizabeth Berkley and I still love Showgirls…
Based solely on what I heard from the front seat, I’m pretty sure my teen male cousins once shared a girl in the backseat. That’s gay, right?
Anyway, Mrs Roper approaches Swarthy’s cabin in the still of the night and listens to the door creak eerily in the wind. She gathers the courage to go to the window, but we don’t see what she sees. She’s startled by a squawking bird and the sound of the Mercedes pulling up to Sleazy’s house. Al gets out of the car, then is almost trampled by Mr Roper fleeing Sleazy’s house, yelling for Mrs Roper. Al goes into the dark house, sees something and gasps. Cut to Mr Roper running through the woods. Cut back to Renata, alive and well outside Sleazy’s house. Al finds her and she confesses to doing whatever he discovered was done to Sleazy. What did Al expect her to do? Well, whatevs, because now Al needs to chase down Mr Roper and get rid of HIM before he calls the cops, Renata orders coldly. So maybe she’s not the most relatable gal in the genre. Maybe she’s a foxy Lady Macbeth with a Cindy Crawford mole. Al is reluctant to kill but obviously his wife is allowed to make major couple-decisions for them because she’s super-hot and probably has just inherited a whole bay.
Frantic Mr Roper makes it back to their house, which is empty because Mrs Roper is out on a God-knows-why psychic stroll. He digs out The Yellow Pages– for our younger readers, this was how we obtained phone numbers in the olden days– it was sort of like Google in a book. Without any pictures or reviews or coverage beyond your immediate area. Or porn links. And it made your fingers black and sooty. But back then we had way fewer tourists messing up Italy! So there. Mr Roper finds the number for the police, dials, but before he can report the massacre, here comes Albert to strangle him with the cord. From the dial phone.
Something else I miss– service stations where they actually serviced you. For free. They’d pump the gas, check under the hood, put air in your tires– all because it’s the decent thing to do when you’re part of the obscenely profitable petroleum industry. And you didn’t have to be a hot chick, although, as with anything else, I’m sure it helped. My mother used to get free oil-changes by just wearing certain tops. Which brings us to Sleazy’s girlfriend, the Blonde Bimbo, who’s getting her cute little red car a fill-up as she disobeys Sleazy and heads to the bay tonight. She uses the gas station phone to call Sleazy. No answer. Just as the phone stops ringing, Mrs Roper enters and finds Sleazy on the floor with a huge meaty gouge bleeding from his thigh. The gore-stained scissors rest nearby. Mrs Roper appears to be getting a psychic flash but it doesn’t come quick enough as the hatchet raises and someone lops her head clean off in a colorful, wet shock moment cut masterfully with two pajama-clad moppets dropping a ceramic head on the floor of the motor home and breaking it.
Laura Betti met another untimely end in Bava’s surreal, trippy, 1969 Hatchet for the Honeymoon, an American Psycho-style look at a crazed bridal designer!
Albert and Renata meet outside. She admonishes him to stop crowing about getting rid of Mr Roper, then adds “Those two could have saved their lives if they’d minded their own business! At least now there are no more witnesses,” she purrs wickedly. Albert is horrified that she’s insinuating she killed Mrs Roper, too– she yells at him for being “an old maid” and says one needs to “to rely on instinct in certain situations.” Albert says he wants to leave now– “things are gonna turn out bad, I know it.” Renata says she’s not going to stop now. All they need to do to get their hands on the bay is bump off Swarthy Simon.
They head down toward the shack but hold back when they see what looks like Renata’s dad’s rotting corpse moving through the trees. But it’s just Simon carrying the body piggy-back style toward the wharf. Simon goes to the end and tosses Donati into the water. Albert and Renata continue on their way to kill Simon, but hang back when a red car passes them on the road. Al points out the young woman driving it– what if she saw them? Then she’ll get it just like the others, Renata snarls. Cut to Busty Blonde Bimbo entering Sleazy’s house. She sees a hand gripping the bottom of a a doorframe and is horrified when Sleazy drags himself into view, panting and bloody. He orders her to go get Simon “and bring him here!”
She takes off running down to the fisherman’s shack. As Renata and Albert watch from behind trees, Blondie goes into the shack, calling for Swarthy. Just when we think she’s going to find a butchered mess, in walks Swarthy, perfectly healthy. At least physically. Mentally, he’s a tad off, locking the door and accusing Blondie of conspiring with Sleazy to get Donati to murder his mom, the Countess! Got that? Blondie doesn’t– she says she had no idea the Countess was Swarthy’s mother! “Don’t play innocent with me, you no-good filthy whore!” Simon snaps. A Long Island drive-in may have been the first time I heard those words, but it wouldn’t be the last. Simon thinks Blondie was the mastermind and was ready to double-cross Sleazy and marry Donati for the cash. You’ve got it all wrong, Blondie weakly protests, as Simon threatens her with that heavy, hooked fish-gutting blade.
Blondie thinks quickly, backing up within easy reach of a pot of handy boiling pasta water. She tells Simon she only met his mom once, but thought she was a great old broad. It was all Sleazy Ventura’s doing– he hatched this evil plot and threatened to kill Blondie if she didn’t go along with it. FLASHBACK: The Countess tells Sleazy and Blondie she’s not interested in selling her bay property. Sleazy says he’d turn it into a posh resort area and cut her in on the cash-stream, but The Countess is repulsed at the notion of spoiling the region’s natural beauty. So she doesn’t care what her “vulgar, unprincipled” husband told them, she ain’t sellin’. Then she dismisses them with the greatest F-U of the year: “I’m late for my nap.”
Originally Bava intended for her eyes to be gouged out and may have shot a version like that. Unfortunately, taste prevailed.
The FB continues and we see Blondie stole the Countess’s diary on the visit we just witnessed. Back at Sleazy’s she reads entries showing marital estrangement. And the last entry sounds like it could be a suicide note: “All is finished. O dear Death, come swiftly, come silently!” Sleazy reminds Blondie that The Countess’s husband, Donati, has the hots for B, so it should be easy for her to persuade the unhappy kept man to join them in murdering the old bat and making it look like she offed herself. Out of FB, Blondie insists she had nothing to do with Sleazy pressuring The Countess to sell. Her role was simply to seduce Donati and she had no IDEA Sleazy planned to kill him. “You lying bitch!” Simon growls. She helped kill The Countess AND Donati and now she’s trying to ensnare Simon in “your filthy dirty game”. But not if he gets her first, Simon exclaims, whipping out a hatchet. Outside, Albert & Renata watch through a window. Blondie grabs the pan of scalding water and tosses it on the crazed fisherman. They both hit the floor, rolling around in a death match, which Simon wins when he starts to choke the life out of Blondie. She lies there, hands on her throat, eyes bulging, remembering her conversation with Donati, telling him she was sick of just being his mistress and that he had to get rid of his wife The Countess.
With liar Blondie dead on the floor, Simon picks up the hooked blade and leaves the shack. He walks to the deserted hotel and remembers a conversation he had with Sleazy Ventura: Swarthy Simon killed the four “teens” because one of them had seen Donati’s body. Ventura tells him to dump the bodies in the bay after dark and then leave town. Ventura will advance him the money if Simon promises to sell the bay property to him. Sleazy tells Swarthy to get him a copy of The Countess’s will right away, then whips out a contract, which Swarthy signs. Tomorrow night Sleazy will give him the cash, airline tickets and a passport. Frustrated at being left high and dry by his co-conspirator, Swarthy marches outside and gets promptly speared through the gut by now-crazed Albert! Swarthy pukes blood onto the hen-pecked hubby’s hand, grossing him out. Renata appears behind him, coldly informing him there are 2 things left to do.
Claudio Volonte (Simon) descended into drugs, killed someone, then committed suicide while awaiting trial!
First they go down to the wharf and dredge up Donati’s body. Then they ransack Ventura’s house looking for the Countess’s will. Albert finds it in a briefcase, but Renata yells out a warning to him just as someone hits the fuse box and the house goes black. Al moves through with lit matches and as the last one burns out he gets attacked by Sleazy Ventura, not dead and wielding the pair of scissors he got stabbed with. They struggle on the floor and someone gets stabbed. The stabber comes toward a terrified Renata who hopes like hell it’s her husband.
Romanian-born Chris Avram brought 70′s Euro-Fuzz Sexiness to such trash hits as Emanuelle In Bangkok, The Killer Reserved 9 Seats and The Slasher Is The Sex Maniac!
Cut to the next morning– Albert burns the paperwork from Ventura’s briefcase as Renata congratulates him on his balls. They’ll leave the mess for the police to clean up then come back and claim their rightful massive land inheritance. And since they found Renata’s dad Donati’s rotting body, it clears up the question of whether or not he was the murderer. “All’s well that ends well,” Ren coos, embracing Al. Just then, we hear “Mommy, Mommy!” and see the barrel of a rifle pointed at the couple. BANG BANG! They’re both shot dead!
Who says horror warps kids?! These two turned out fine: He became “the Donny Osmond of Italy” and she appeared in classics like Who Saw Her Die, Flesh for Frankenstein and Deep Red before becoming a doctor! So suck it, annoying over-protective parents!
The freckle-faced tykes make a joke about how good Mommy and Daddy are at “playing dead”, then skip down to the water like a 1971 Oscar Mayer commercial as a light-hearted song bounces onto the soundtrack. THE END!
Horrorgasm Score Card:
Graphic Violence/Gross-Out Factor: Medium
Body Count: High
Camp Value: Low
Visual Style: High
DVD/Blu Ray Quality: Very High
Good for Groups? MAYBE– 2 DRINK MAXIMUM
Would I Let My 12-Yr-Old Nephew Watch Without Asking My Sister? NO
Arrow Video have done another fabulous job with this release, proving once more they are basically The Criterion Collection when it comes to Euro-Horror. The Blu Ray transfer is the best this movie has ever looked, revealing what a true photographic artist Mario Bava was, even on a very limited budget. The package includes liner notes, a free poster, newly created featurettes about the director, cinematography and script, rare trailers and even the original American radio spots. Plus if you’re lucky enough to bang someone from Italy, which I highly recommend, afterwards you can show them the Italian-language version, also included. It’s practically a college course in art/trash cinema all in one box. Go to Amazon UK or arrowfilms dot co dot uk to order directly.
Coming Soon: Dario Argento‘s Deep Red and Lucio Fulci‘s The Beyond!