A Bay of Blood – Italy, 1971

‘They came seeking pleasure, they found death’

A Bay of Blood – Italian title: Reazione a catena (Ecologia del delitto) Chain Reaction (Ecology of a Crime)” is a 1971 Italian giallo horror film directed by Mario Bava. Bava co-wrote the screenplay with Giuseppe Zaccariello, Filippo Ottoni and Sergio Canevari, with story credit given to Dardano Sacchetti and Franco Barberi.

The genesis of the project was a simple story idea concocted by Bava and actress Laura Betti as a way to allow them to work together again, as the two had got along so well on Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969). The project’s original title was Odore di carne (“stench of flesh”), and the murder-filled story had enough promise to convince producer Giuseppe Zaccariello to provide financial backing. Numerous other writers, including Zaccariello himself, had their hands involved in devising the final screenplay.

The film began production in early 1971, originally under the shooting title Cosi imparano a fare i cattivi (“Thus Do We Live To Be Evil”), which was soon changed to Reazione a catena (“Chain Reaction”). Bava showed great enthusiasm for the film, but unfortunately the movie’s budget was extremely low, and it had to be shot very quickly and cheaply. Due to the severe budgetary restrictions, Bava not only acted as his own cinematographer, but also utilized a simple child’s wagon for the film’s many tracking shots.

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The location shooting was mostly completed at Zaccariello’s Sabaudia beach house and its outlying property. Bava had to resort to various camera tricks to convince the audience that an entire forest existed when in fact, only a few scattered trees were at the location. Betti recalled, “All of this had to occur in a forest. But where was it? Bava said, ‘Don’t worry. I will do the forest.’ And he found a florist who was selling these little stupid branches with little bits of foliage on them, and he began to make them dance in front of the camera! We had to act the scenes strictly in front of those branches—if we moved even an inch either way, the ‘woods’ would disappear!”

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After production was completed, it was announced as Antefatto (“Before the Fact”), but when finally released to theatres, the title had changed, this time to Ecologia del delitto (“The Ecology of Crime”). When the film did poorly on its initial release, it was pulled from theaters and retitled Reazione a Catena (“Chain Reaction”) and was later re-released as “Bahia di Sangre” (“Bay of Blood”).

In the United States, it was originally released as Carnage, then retitled Twitch of the Death Nerve. It is also known as simply Bay of Blood, Last House on the Left – Part II (or Last House – Part II) and New House on the Left. In the UK it was banned for cinema under the title A Bay of Blood and again banned for video as Blood Bath although all subsequent UK home video releases have used the former title.

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The film stars Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Laura Betti and Brigitte Skay. Carlo Rambaldi created the gruesome special makeup effects.

The story details the simultaneous murderous activities of several different characters as they each attempt to remove any human obstacles that stand in the way of an inheritance. Easily Bava’s most intensely violent film, its emphasis on graphically bloody murder set pieces was hugely influential on the slasher film sub-genre that would follow a decade later.

At night in her bayside mansion, wheelchair-bound Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) is attacked and strangled to death by her husband, Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti).

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In turn, an assailant suddenly stabs him to death. Donati’s corpse is then dragged to the bay. The police find what they believe to be a suicide note written by the Countess. Donati’s murder goes undiscovered.

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Real estate agent Frank Ventura (Chris Avram) and his lover Laura (Anna Maria Rosati) plot to take possession of the bay. They had arranged with Donati to murder his wife after she had refused to sell her house and property to them. To finalise their scheme, Ventura needs Donati’s signature on a set of legal documents. They have no idea that Donati has been killed…

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Review:

Often disregarded are the wealth of peculiar details which raise this film way above the level of a mere slasher – for example, the obsessive entomologist and his bitchy Tarot reading wife, the repulsive sight of an octopus sliding across a corpse and the warped children at the conclusion.

The gory proceeding are a satire on the avarice that can result when ‘centuries of civilisation’ are reduced to a dog-eat-dog cycle of murder, but the film’s foremost attraction is the thirteen murders that are crammed into its short running time, particularly as several of them are graphic enough to have earned the film ‘nasty’ status.

The overall impact is considerably enhanced by a cheesy yet seductive score by Stelvio Cipriani (the playful end theme was re-used in the Spanish giallo A Dragonfly for Each Corpse).

Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“Though it may not have a familiar gothic aesthetic, the film still bears the marks of Bava’s eye for visual flair and a dark sense of humor. Bava establishes early on that it’s not one murderer behind the slayings, but quite a few greedy heir hopefuls. Very few endings have such a wry wink and a twisted sense of humor either.” Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

“Strangulation and edged weapons are the methods of choice for murder, as one by one every cast member meets their demise. Naked greed is the motivator in this dog-eat-dog massacre. Anyone is capable of the most heinous act of barbarism to advance their agenda. But Bava’s savage and often sly skewering of Man’s baser instincts ultimately blows it with a supposedly humorous ending that’s just too ridiculous to be funny.” Eccentric Cinema

” …once it becomes clear why people are dying like flies on all sides, and that every single surviving character shares the same possible motive to kill, the question of who is behind it all becomes deeply fascinating. Twitch of the Death Nerve is thus one of the very few gialli that really works as a murder mystery as well as a straight-up horror film.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

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“Bava seems much more interested in showing the visceral thrills of the murders themselves than generating any run-of-the-mill clichés associated with the genre at that time. (And, of course, that makes it all the more interesting.) Bava also brings, an unprecedented, level of voyeurism to the murder scenes. They are really graphic; machetes in face, decapitation by axe, throats slit- all in loving detail.” Hysteria Lives!

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk

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Cast and characters:

  • Claudine Auger … Renata Donati
  • Luigi Pistilli … Albert
  • Claudio Camaso … Simon (credited as Claudio Volonté)
  • Laura Betti … Anna Fossati
  • Leopoldo Trieste … Paolo Fossati
  • Isa Miranda … Countessa Federica Donati
  • Chris Avram … Frank Ventura
  • Anna Maria Rosati … Laura (credited as Anna M. Rosati)
  • Brigitte Skay … Brunhilda (Hilda)
  • Paola Montenero … Denise (credited as Paola Rubens)
  • Guido Boccaccini … Duke
  • Roberto Bonanni … Robert (Bobby)
  • Giovanni Nuvoletti … Filippo Donati
  • Renato Cestiè … Son [uncredited]
  • Nicoletta Elmi … Daughter [uncredited]

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