Mario Bava Centennial
July 4-September 17

Italian cinematographer-turned-director Mario Bava (1914–1980) is one of the most influential visual stylists of late-20th century cinema. Although working exclusively in Italian genre cinema – most famously gothic horror, but also giallo thrillers, swinging '60s spy spoofs and crime capers, sci-fi/fantasy spectacles, spaghetti Westerns and sword & sandal epics – his stylish visuals and aesthetic sensibility (even after becoming a full-fledged director, he continued to oversee his own cinematography) have been cited by celebrated auteur filmmakers including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino. On the occasion of Bava's centennial year, AFI Silver proudly presents this selection of some of his best films, nearly all on archival 35mm prints and, even rarer, several in their Italian language originals with English subtitles.

AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings.

Presented in association with the Italian Cultural Institute, Washington, DC.

BLACK SUNDAY [La maschera del demonio]

In 17th century Moldavia, a beautiful woman (Barbara Steele, launching what would become a prolific career as a horror film scream queen) is sentenced to a gruesome death for witchcraft, but vows revenge on the descendants of those responsible. Resurrected two centuries later, she keeps her promise. Hailed by many as the definitive Italian horror film, BLACK SUNDAY's influence has been specifically cited by Francis Ford Coppola for BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA and Tim Burton for SLEEPY HOLLOW.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, from a short story by Nikolai Gogol; PROD Massimo De Rita. Italy, 1960, b&w, 87 min, 35mm. In English. NOT RATED


Fri, Jul 4, 10:45; Sun, Jul 6, 8:20

BLACK SABBATH [I tre volti della paura]

This trio of haunting tales inspired not only the name of the seminal heavy metal band (they started out as "Earth"), but also Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary's multi-strand script for PULP FICTION ("what Mario Bava did with the horror film in BLACK SABBATH, I was gonna do with the crime film." –Tarantino). A call girl is terrified by threatening phone calls, which she believes are coming from the pimp she snitched on; in 19th century Russia, Boris Karloff and his family fall prey to a vampiric creature called "the Wurdalak"; and a nurse is haunted by the ghost of a former patient, from whom she stole a sapphire ring.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato, from stories by Ivan Chekhov, F. G. Snyder and Aleksei Tolstoy; PROD Salvatore Billitteri, Paolo Mercuri. Italy/UK/France, 1963, color, 92 min, 35mm. In English. NOT RATED


Fri, Jul 11, 10:45; Sat, Jul 12, 11:30

THE WHIP AND THE BODY [La frusta e il corpo]

Sadistic nobleman Christopher Lee returns to his family mansion after many years in exile. He soon sets his sights – and whips – on Daliah Lavi, his brother's wife and Lee's former lover, whom he flogs for perverse sexual satisfaction. The torture ends after Lee is mysteriously murdered, but continues anew when his ghost returns, still seeking to satisfy his terrible carnal desires. "Perhaps horror maestro Bava's best film, moody, beautiful and deceptively simple. Lee is excellent, despite being dubbed." –Leonard Maltin.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Ernesto Gastaldi, Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino; PROD Federico Magnaghi. Italy/France, 1963, color, 91 min, Blu-ray. In English. NOT RATED


Sat, Jul 19, 12 midnight; Tue, Jul 22, 9:00

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE [Sei donne per l'assassino]
50th Anniversary!

"The roots of the Hollywood slasher are often traced back to BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, yet Mario Bava's seminal giallo has a richness of texture and complexity of gaze that have kept its elaborate carnage scintillating even following decades of leeching from genre vultures." –Fernando Croce, Slant Magazine.

Bava's landmark giallo thriller is universally cited as the inspiration for the slasher subgenre. Lovers Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok run a fashion house rife with vice, and the murdered model recently slain by a mysterious masked man may have been killed for her diary documenting the business' history of financial improprieties, blackmail, secret abortions and drug addiction. As the diary changes hands among the dead girl's coterie of model friends, each winds up dead.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Marcello Fondato; PROD Alfredo Mirabile, Massimo Patrizi. Italy/France/Monaco, 1964, color, 88 min, 35mm. In English. NOT RATED


Mon, Jul 28, 9:30; Wed, Jul 30, 9:30

KILL, BABY, KILL [Operazione paura]

Regarded by Martin Scorsese as Bava's masterpiece, and often linked with contemporary Japanese horror. A Transylvanian village suffers from a spate of strange murders, the victims found with silver coins embedded in their hearts. Is the killer the town witch? The mysterious baroness? Or the ghost of the baroness' murdered daughter? "KILL, BABY, arguably Bava's greatest achievement, a coolly unnerving and aggressively stylized tale of ghostly obsession that appeals both to fans of Bava's whodunit gialli and his more psycho-sexual jaunts." –Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale; PROD Luciano Catenacci, Nando Pisani. Italy, 1966, color, 85 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Fri, Aug 1, 12 midnight; Sat, Aug 2, 12 midnight


Based on the Italian comic-book character Diabolik, Mario Bava's campy caper is a touchstone of swinging '60s style – all mod threads and sci-fi lounge décor – starring John Phillip Law (BARBARELLA) as the masked, sartorially resplendent super-thief. Ennio Morricone provides the groovy score; the Beastie Boys' video for "Body Movin'" paid homage and even incorporated actual clips from the film.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Arduino Maiuri, Brian Degas, Tudor Gates; PROD Dino De Laurentiis, Bruno Todin. Italy/France, 1968, color, 105 min, digital presentation. In English. RATED PG-13


Fri, Aug 8, 9:30; Sat Aug 9, 11:00

5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON [5 bambole per la luna d'agosto]

Never released theatrically in the U.S., this obscure film was only seen by many Bava fans after it was finally released on DVD in the '90s. Something of a giallo take on an Agatha Christie-style whodunit, the story concerns a wealthy industrialist who invites a group of investors to his private island to discuss a top-secret new venture. The greedy group's scheming and backstabbing derails the meeting, but after one of their number is mysteriously killed, and then another, they must band together lest they all perish one by one.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Mario di Nardo; PROD Luigi Alessi. Italy, 1970, color, 80 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Sat, Aug 16, 10:00

HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON aka BLOOD BRIDES [Il rosso segno della follia]

The handsome owner of an upscale bridal shop suffers from a variety of sexual traumas and hang-ups, including crippling impotence, which has left him unable to consummate his marriage to his beautiful, bedeviled wife, and which starts him luring women to his shop, dressing them in his wedding gowns, and then murdering them. Events escalate after he murders his wife, who returns as a creatively vengeful ghost. Plus, there's back-story involving his mother. This over-the-top sex killer tale gets Bava authority Tim Lucas' vote as the maestro's "most personal horror movie" – Yikes!

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Santiago Moncada; PROD Manuel Caño. Italy/Spain, 1970, color, 88 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Fri, Aug 15, 9:30; Tue, Aug 19, 9:40

A BAY OF BLOOD aka TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE [Reazione a catena aka Ecologia del delitto]

Bava's most violent film, featuring gory makeup and blood-splattering special effects by Carlo Rambaldi, later an Oscar® winner for his work on ALIEN and E.T. Looking for a love shack, four lusty teens break into a seaside cottage, not realizing that they've intruded, not only upon a murderous squabble among a family of decadent aristocrats, but also a murder plot cooked up by greedy real-estate speculators. All the murders converge and multiply, becoming ever more outrageous as the body count rises.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Filippo Ottoni, story by Franco Barberi, Dardano Sacchetti; SCR/PROD Giuseppe Zaccariello. Italy, 1971, color, 84 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. RATED R


Sat, Aug 23, 9:00

BARON BLOOD [Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga]

Bava returned to the Gothic horror tradition with this tale of a murderous, cursed and long-dead nobleman, Baron Otto von Kleist aka "Baron Blood" (Joseph Cotten), resurrected after a spell is unwittingly read by modern-day ancestor Antonio Cantafora and Elke Sommer, an architect hired to turn the family castle into an upscale hotel. Now back to his old tricks, the bloodthirsty Baron victimizes the local populace and gets his dungeon up and running again. In order to put a stop to his reign of terror, Cantafora and Sommer summon the spirit of the witch who defeated him centuries ago.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Vincent Fotre; PROD Alfredo Leone. Italy/West Germany, 1972, color, 100 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. RATED PG


Sun, Aug 24, 9:20

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES [Terrore nello spazio]

On a deep space mission from Earth, two spaceships, the Argos and the Galliott, respond to a distress signal coming from an unexplored planet called Aura. But most of the crew become possessed by a mysterious force, first causing them to slaughter one another, then reanimating their corpses. Despite a low budget, Bava's psychedelic sci-fi visuals and dread-filled atmospherics ("The film literally feels like a pulp magazine cover come to garish life." –Derek Hill, Images Journal) have made PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES a beloved and influential film – critics and fans often cite the story's strong resemblance to Ridley Scott's ALIEN and its recent sequel PROMETHEUS.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR Alberto Bevilacqua, Callisto Cosulich, Antonio Román, Rafael J. Salvia; PROD Fulvio Lucisano. Spain/Italy, 1965, color, 86 min, Blu-ray. In English. NOT RATED


Sat, Aug 30, 10:30; Tue, Sep 2, 9:30

RABID DOGS [Cani arrabbiati]

Shot in 1974, this film remained unfinished and unreleased until it was completed decades later by Mario Bava's son Lamberto, according to the elder Bava's notes. At a red-light street crossing, fleeing bank robbers carjack an innocent woman and force her to drive them to Rome. "RABID DOGS is to Bava's career what DETOUR is to the filmography of Edgar G. Ulmer, a minimalist noir masterpiece that shows how much drama he was capable of conjuring onscreen with little or no means." –Bava authority and Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas.

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Alessandro Parenzo; PROD Lamberto Bava, Alfredo Leone, Roberto Loyola. Italy, 1974, color, 96 min, Blu-ray. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Tue, Sep 9, 7:20

LISA AND THE DEVIL [Lisa e il diavolo]

Vacationing in the ancient walled city of Toledo, Spain, the lovely Lisa Reiner (Elke Sommer) is spooked that the man shopping alongside her for antiques (Telly Savalas) bears an uncanny resemblance to the devil depicted in an old fresco she viewed that day. Despite her attempts to flee, he keeps popping up wherever she goes. Now separated from her tour group, a series of strange events lands Lisa in the mansion of a blind Countess (Alida Valli), whose butler is...yep, you guessed it. And now things really get weird – family curses, illicit and perverse sexual liaisons, reincarnation, demonology, ghosts – in this most dizzyingly surreal film in Bava's oeuvre.

DIR/SCR Mario Bava; SCR/PROD Alfredo Leone. Italy/West Germany/Spain, 1972, color, 95 min, 35mm. In Italian with English subtitles. RATED R

Note: This version is the Italian original, not the U.S. re-cut known as HOUSE OF EXORCISM.


Wed, Sep 10, 7:00


Mario Bava's final completed film follows Dora, a recently released mental patient who moves into her old home with her new husband. When her new beau heads out of town, strange things start happening, and her son seems to be possessed by the ghost of her ex-husband, a heroin addict who committed suicide. Has the electroshock treatment left her a madwoman, or is there a more sordid past barely hidden?

DIR Mario Bava; SCR Francesco Barbieri, Lamberto Bava, Paulo Brigenti, Dardano Sacchetti; PROD Turi Vasile. Italy, 1977, color, 93 min, 35mm. In English. RATED R


Fri, Sep 12, 9:30; Wed, Sep 17, 7:00