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Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas

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I’ve had my eye on Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas since it was published in 2007, and this year I was lucky enough to get a copy from my wife as a birthday present. (If you knew the price, you’d know why it took so long.)

Since today would have been Mario Bava’s 97th birthday, I would have liked to have posted a proper review. However, given that I’ve only had the 1000+ page book a couple of very busy weeks, I’m not going to be able to give it a proper write up. However, that’s not going to stop me from saying a little about it.

First of all, you don’t have to read this book to see that it’s a work of art itself. It is simply a beautiful book. I’m not close to being a Bava fan at the level of Tim Lucas, but it’s the beauty of this book that made me want to add it to my bookshelf when I first saw it in Sammy Harkam’s Family bookshop four years ago. It’s the book equivalent of a film masterpiece in widescreen 70mm.

Perhaps the best thing that you can say about Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark is that it’s like a humongous size issue of Tim Lucas’ magazine, Video Watchdog. If you don’t know what Video Watchdog is, then this book is probably not for you. Of course, if you do know what Video Watchdog is, then you probably know all about or have this book already.

I first learned of Video Watchdog in the early nineties when I was working for Philips Media. Our department ran a film trivia contest a few times and for one of the contests it was announced that the prize would be a subscription to Video Watchdog. I won that contest and even though the promised subscription never materialized, I was intrigued enough to seek out the magazine, and finally found it at Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles. I quickly became a fan. Then, almost just as quickly, I fell out of love with the mag when, a few years later, an issue that I had pre-ordered (I did not have a subscription) showed up in my mailbox without the advertised contents. At the time, my cash for luxuries such as this was extremely limited, so I complained, hoping for a refund, directly to Video Watchdog headquarters. When I received no satisfaction, I kicked my habit and stopped buying the mag. But l look at it this way: the money saved not buying the magazine for more than a decade helped me buy this book.

Of course, Video Watchdog managed to survive without my patronage because it has many fans. The first pages I turned to in the book were two pages that list what appear to be hundreds of “patrons,” people who pre-ordered the book years before it was published. They are all fans of Video Watchdog, and being fans of that book, they knew what they were supporting when they became patrons: a great book.

Most of these patrons appear to be guys. Is there any significance to that?

So unfortunately I have not had the time to read much of this book and could only sample a few chapters. The first one I delved into was the one on Inferno, one of my favorite Dario Argento films. Even though I only read a bit of the chapter, I already learned a lot that I did not know. My first thought was, why is there a chapter on Inferno in a book about Bava? The book says that it was an open secret that Bava worked uncredited on the film, but it was new to me. Did Bava do the work as a favor to Argento? Nope. It’s was due to the sad state of the Italian film industry at the time and the book covers this very well.

 Another chapter I sampled was the one about Planet of the Vampires.

The chapter on Planet of the Vampires is typical of the book’s format. It begins with a two page spread and intro, followed by a synopsis.

 Then a little about the source material:

Then we are treated to separate sections on preproduction, production, the cast, music, and special effects. If you like to read about the story behind the film  (and unless you are David Lynch, who doesn’t), you will not be disappointed. Then there’s a well-informed commentary section which addresses the aesthetics of the film. (Lucas is not someone who loves Bava uncritically. For example, he is not shy about saying Planet of the Vampires is not one of Bava’s best films.) Finally, if the preceding sections were not enough, you also get sections on the release and influences of the film.

In other words, there’s a good reason why this thing is more than 1000 pages!

To sum up: this is a thing of beauty, a well-written treasure trove of information about filmmaking in general and Mario Bava in particular. Even if you have no special interest in Bava, if you love film, especially cinemafantastique, you will probably love this book.

I can’t wait to read every word of this book! You can learn more about the book here.

When it comes to books, I’m Mr. Anal himself. So I must be true to my character and point out that I do have a small gripe. However, it is not about the book’s contents, but about the book’s shipment through the mails. This is a very heavy book, 12 pounds in all, so heavy that Bava’s Hercules himself might be challenged to read it without help. This remarkable weight means that shipping the book through the mails without it getting damaged is itself somewhat of a Herculean task. Therefore, while it is not entirely unexpected, it is still unfortunate that I must report that although my copy of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark was packaged very well, it still sustained a bit of damage to one corner.

So have I returned to the Video Watchdog fold, buying every issue as soon as it hits the newsstands? Actually, no. But look at it this way: I’m saving the money for their next book.

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Written by David Kilmer

July 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

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