BLADE IN THE DARK
textbook example of the giallo, Lamberto Bava's A
Blade in the Dark is an obvious homage to Dario Agento,
the Italian director who (along with Bava's father Mario) served
as his filmmaking mentor. Bava worked as assistant director on
shot the year before; that film's influence is readily apparent.
A major plot element is lifted from Argento's Deep
Red (1975) as well — Blade's
story also revolves around a composer who finds himself embroiled
in a bizarre series of homicides. But Argento was working with
much bigger budgets, longer production schedules, and better stories.
Unfortunately, A Blade in the Dark
can't begin to compare to its inspirational sources.
envisioned as a limited, episodic series for Italian TV, it was
shot with a European theatrical release also in mind. The spare
scenario (penned by prolific exploitation scribe Dardano Sarchetti)
establishes only the most bare-boned of plots. Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti),
a young composer, rents a large, rambling villa in which to work
on his latest project, the score for a horror film being directed
by his friend Sandra (Anny Papa). To the detriment of Bruno's
solitude the house comes complete with a suspicious-acting caretaker
(are there any other types in Italian horror?) and some unexpected
visitors — Katia (Valeria Cavalli) and Angela (Fabiola Toledo),
two attractive women, acquaintances of the former tenant, who
live nearby. When the women mysteriously disappear shortly after
he meets them, Bruno begins to suspect they've been murdered on
the premises... He can't find any bodies, but clues abound. (Knife-holes
and bloodstains would certainly qualify in that regard.) Someone
definitely entered the villa uninvited and destroyed his latest
demo tape, that much is sure. Stupidly, Bruno never once picks
up the phone to dial the police.
our dimwitted hero did the smart thing, however, there'd be no
more people die horrible deaths. Meanwhile Bruno wanders about
the house and its grounds, poking around and peering into the
dark. There are a lot of such scenes in the flick, which will
severely test the patience of even the most avid giallo fan. (Rapido,
Lamberto!) Obviously this was done to pad out the running time;
too many of these sequences are obvious red herrings, devoid of
any suspense, or just plain pointless.
does pile on the shocks, though, in the film's two main murder
sequences. The stalking/slaying of Katia owes a lot to Tenebre
in look and style (particularly the murder of the hotelier's daughter
in that film), but Bava ends the set-piece with an original motif
— the victim is trapped behind a sheet of chickenwire through
which the killer slowly slashes her to death with a box-cutter
— that's guaranteed to get your flesh crawling. The death of Angela,
when she's attacked in the villa's bathroom, is a real doozy:
a brutal, nihilistic bit of filmmaking that some could easily
interpret as an exercise in misogynistic sadism. (Here Bava does
for hair-washing in the sink what Hitchcock's Psycho
did to taking a shower.) But amidst the unrepentant brutality
Bava injects an occasional touch of sardonic humor, most notably
when Sandra the horror director is strangled with a spool of her
own film — murdered with her own movie.
from the visceral thrills and chills generated by these murder
scenes the film is pretty much a dud. The characters are all uninvolving
ciphers. It's not much of a mystery, either; most of the red herrings
offered up by the plot are plainly obvious for what they are.
As mentioned, an inordinate amount of time is spent following
Bruno as he wanders about the villa, checking this room and that
— scenes devoid of dialog but accompanied by repetitious music
that quickly becomes annoying. In one way the dearth of dialog
is a good thing… The English dubbing job is poor, featuring ludicrous
translations ("You're a female!"/"I am not a female
child!" etc.) that might be funny in a Godzilla movie, but
not one about a sadistic serial killer. At times it seems evident
that the translators weren't even looking at a copy of the script...
How else can one explain the scene in which Bruno chides Katia
over her fear of a spider, telling her with a straight face that
the bug isn't even a spider, but rather a cockroach… at the very
moment we're shown a close-up shot of — yep — a spider.
film has its champions, no doubt appreciative of its effective,
wince-inducing murder set-pieces. I love gialli, too — just not
Blade in the Dark.
Given my druthers, I'd much rather watch Bava's supernatural splatterfest
(1985) for the umpteenth time than sit through this one again.
Blade in the Dark
is among the former Anchor Bay titles reissued by Blue Underground
in 2007. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is old, dating from 2001,
but is 16x9 enhanced and looks quite good all things considered.
(Since the film was originally shot in 16mm the picture is understandably
on the grainy side.) The
Dolby mono audio track is serviceably clear. In addition to talent
bios and the theatrical trailer, a short (10 min.) video interview
with director Lamberto Bava and screenwriter Dardano Sarchetti
is included. (This is in Italian, with good English subtitles.
Do not watch this before viewing the film itself. It's chock full
of spoilers, including the murderer's identity.) 11/08/09