The Mondo-Esoterica Guide to

Lamberto Bava


Born in Rome in April 1944, Lamberto Bava was destined to enter the cinema. His grandfather was Eugenio Bava, a special effects artist and director who had worked in Italian cinema since its birth at the beginning of the century, his father was Mario Bava - at the time a struggling production designer finding work hard to come by in wartime Italy, but soon to become one of the most reliable cameraman in the business. After working with Riccardo Freda to create the first real Italian horror film I Vampiri (1956), Mario Bava got the push into directing and made his debut with La Maschera del Demonio (1960). Lamberto started to visit his father on the set and help out with the production. He would receive his first on-screen credit on Terrore Nello Spazio (1965) as assistant to the director and subsequently worked as assistant director on almost all of his father's productions including some of his best films like Diabolik (1968) and Il rosso segno della follia (1970). On Lisa and the Devil (1973) he was tasked with shooting the nude scenes along with producer Alfredo Leone when his father refused to stay on the set.

In the early 1970s he gained his first work on other director's productions, working as assistant director on Mario Lanfranchi's drama Il bacio (1974), co-writing Una ondata di piacere (1975) for Ruggero Deodato, before working as assistant director on his first jungle horror Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977), drama L'ultimo sapore dell'aria (1978) and later on Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Concerned that his father's style was rather outdated, Bava co-wrote the script for Shock (1977) along with Dardano Sacchetti and ended up directing large sections of the film after Mario feigned illness (a trick he credited to his own mentor Riccardo Freda). He subsequently received a co-director credit along with his father on La Venere d'Ille (1979), a short television horror that would be the horror veteran's last production. The pair did work on one final project together, Dario Argento's Inferno (1980) with Mario designing a few special effects shots and Lamberto working as the assistant director.

During the production of Inferno, the producer Pupi Avati invited Bava to help write a script for a low budget horror film based on a magazine article. The film eventually got the go ahead as Macabro (1980) with Bava making his directoral debut. His father stayed out of the production to let his son stand on his own, only seeing the film after it was completed. Mario Bava was seemingly very proud of his son's film saying that he could now die in peace - two months later he did. Commercially however the film performed poorly, its slow pacing and exploitation-free script left audiences disappointed in an era of over-the-top horror and Gialli. As a result, no more director roles were forthcoming for Bava and he worked as assistant director for Argento again on Tenebre (1982) as well as finding some work in advertising.

He was eventually able to return to the director's chair for the very low budget Giallo film La casa con la scala nel buio (1983) for producer Luciano Martino. Made in just three weeks in a single location and with borrowed lenses, the film gave Bava a reputation for being able to work quickly and cheaply, which at the time, when Italian genre cinema was in decline in the face of fierce competiton from the US, ensured his continued employment. He helmed a couple of Italian produced cheapies in the US, the excessively over-the-top Rambo inspired Blastfighter (1984) and painfully low budget Jaws knock-off Shark: Rosso nell'oceano (1984) on which he took the credit as John Old Jr. (in tribute to his father's credit on La frusta e il corpo (1963)).

Fortunately Bava was not condemned to making a career of these ultra-low budget productions and he was asked by Dario Argento to direct Dèmoni (1985), a well financed, slick and ultra-gory horror project. Working along with his own son Roy Bava (here earning his first credit, as trainee assistant director) and Argento's protégé Michele Soavi (who also starred), Bava proves the cyclical nature of cinema by bathing the film in the elaborate lighting schemes that Argento had made his own after being inspired by Bava Snr's iconic films. Released on Hallowe'en night 1985 the film proved successful across Europe and Bava was brought back to helm the sequel Dèmoni 2: L'incubo ritorna (1986). He was also involved in development of a third film, although the Demon mythology was dropped in the final film which was directed by Michele Soavi as The Church (1989).

In the mean time Bava continued to direct low budget Gialli including Morirai a mezzanotte (1986) and Le foto di Gioia (1987) despite expressing in interviews his dislike of the genre. As Italian genre cinema finally faltered to a halt at the end of the decade, he made the transfer to television horror films including the Canale 5 series Brivido giallo (1986) which included George Hilton vampire film A cena col vampiro and La casa dell'orco (which incidentally would be released in the UK as Demons 3 - The Ogre in 1989) as well as a few one-off titles including Il maestro del terrore (1988) and Il gioko (1989). The most interesting of his productions during this period was La maschera del demonio (1989), shot as part of a pan-European television film series and a tribute to his father's iconic film - Lamberto looked to the original short story, Nikolai Gogol's Vij, for new inspiration and created a completely different film to the original (it would wind up entitled Demons 5: The Devil's Veil on video release).

In the 1990s Bava made a solitary Giallo, the rather confused Body Puzzle (1992), instead making a series of fantasy films for television, starting with Fantaghirò (1991). He would later admit that he greatly prefered creating fantasy worlds to shooting gory horror films and went on to shoot four more films in the series as well as a few other similar but unconnected titles including Sorellina e il principe del sogno (1996) and the pirate adventure Caraibi (1999). He subsequently disappeared from the film business for several years until a resurgance in interest in Italian horror, stemming from the release of a number of his films onto DVD, saw him return to directing horror films with the gory The Torturer (2005) and the highly effective Ghost Son (2007). In 2011 he returned to television screens to helm a trio of thrillers and is working on an Italian answer to the Masters of Horror television series and a rumoured third entry to the Demons series..

DVD Reviews: Films directed by Lamberto Bava

Demons (1985)

Anchor Bay US R0
A slick and absurdly gory horror film is pretty enjoyable, although the pacing is poor.
Partly recommended
Demons 2 (1986)

Anchor Bay US R0
Largely a retread of the first film, this is an enjoyable but again quite slow horror.
Partly recommended
Ghost Son (2007)

Xenon Pictures USA Region 1 DVD
Bava's return to horror is an incredibly effective ghost story with genuinely terrifying atmosphere.
Highly recommended.
Macabre (1980)

Blue Underground Region 0 DVD
Bava's horror debut is an eeriely atmospheric but very slowly paced horror film.
Recommended but not for all tastes.

DVD Reviews: Other films worked on by Lamberto Bava

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Anchor Bay US Region 0 DVD
One of Mario Bava's three twisted Giallo, the catch here is a fascinating slasher movie set-piece.
Of interest
Baron Blood (1972)

E-M-S German Region 2 DVD
Mario Bava's last return to the gothic horror genre is let down by an unimpressive storyline and a lack of tension.
Not recommended.
Cani arrabbiati (1974)

Anchor Bay US Region 0 DVD
Mario Bava's taughtly plotted real time crime film is a brutal masterpiece showing his incredible versatility.
Danger: Diabolik (1968)

USA Paramount Region 1 DVD
Mario Bava's masterly direction brings a true comic-book atmosphere to this well directed and scored film.
Four Times that Night (1972)

USA Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD
Mario Bava's sex comedy has some interesting ideas but they are poorly developed.
Of interest but not recommended.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

UK Odeon Region 2 DVD
A cleverly written and well directed psycho killer take on the Giallo.
Recommended and one of Bava's best
Kill Baby Kill (1966)

Anchor Bay US Region 0 DVD
The culmination of Mario Bava's 1960s gothic horrors is this outstandingly atmospheric and genuinely scary film.
Highly recommended.
Lisa and the Devil (1973)

Anchor Bay US R0 DVD
Mario Bava's masterpiece, wonderfully nightmarish horror with a vividly realised dreamlike atmosphere.
A must see for Bava fans.
Ringo del Nebraska (1966)

Koch Media Germany Region 0 DVD
Mario Bava was called in to save this Western and presents an enjoyable if anonymous film.
Certainly of interest to Western fans.
Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (1970)

Anchor Bay US Region 1 DVD
Mario Bava's third and final entry into a genre for which he had little interest is a rather generic comedy.
Enjoyable but not recommendable.
Shock (1977)

Blue Underground Region 0 DVD
Lamberto wrote and partly directed with father's last cinematic film, a forgettable horror.
Of interest
Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

01 Distribution Italy Region 2 DVD
Lamberto gets his first on-screen credit on his father's stunning and visionary sci-fi horror.
Highly Recommended


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All text in this page written by Timothy Young - October 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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