A Blade in the Dark: “I don’t want to hurt you … I only want your blood…”

A Blade in the Dark directed by Lamberto BavaA Blade in the Dark directed by Lamberto Bava

A Blade in the Dark directed by Lamberto Bava horror film reviewsLamberto Bava’s first film as a director, 1980’s Macabre, was supposedly a bit too tame in the violence department to satisfy all the gorehounds out there, so in his next picture, 1983’s A Blade in the Dark, the son of the legendary “Father of the Giallo,” Mario Bava, created a bloodbath that might well have made papa proud. Filmed on the cheap in only three weeks at the country villa of producer Luciano Martino, the film is yet surprisingly effective and looks just fine.

The plot centers around a young composer named Bruno (appealingly portrayed by Andrea Occhipinti) and the four stunning-looking women in his life. Sandra, a film director (Anny Papa), has just hired him to compose the score for her latest horror film, and has ensconced him in a secluded country villa to get the job done. Bruno, as the viewer soon learns, in not untalented, and the score that he comes up with — and that crops up regularly throughout Bava’s film — is quite an eerie one. His work, however, is constantly interrupted by the arrival of his actress girlfriend Julia (Lara Lamberti) and by his two hottie neighbors, models Katia and Angela (Valeria Cavalli and Fabiola Toledo). And when these last two mysteriously disappear, apparently by homicide, and other strange events begin to transpire in his lonely rental pad, Bruno finds himself in a real-life horror situation that puts Sandra’s fictional one to shame…

A Blade in the Dark takes its time creating atmosphere and delivering shocks. Its deliberate pace has proved off-putting for many viewers, it seems, but I found the picture to be consistently suspenseful and interesting. The film’s shocks are well placed and the body count is fairly high, although there are a bit too many “false scares” and red herrings for this viewer’s taste, cleverly integrated as they are. It is, as I mentioned up top, a fairly violent giallo, and some of the slayings are quite gruesome to behold. In the worst (if I may spoil things for you/prepare you a bit), the victim has her hand impaled by a kitchen knife, her head wrapped in a plastic bag and battered to a bloody pulp, and her neck pierced through with that same blade. Yikearoo! This killer sure does know how to do a thorough job! And I haven’t even mentioned his/her weapon of choice: a retractable box cutter that clicks open, segment by excruciating segment. “I find doing scenes in which women get stabbed to death repugnant,” Lamberto says in one of this Blue Underground DVD’s extras, but that surely did not prevent him from getting his picture made in an effective manner! The slaying just mentioned is one of the most difficult to watch that I have seen in any giallo, and would fit right into papa Mario’s gorefest Bay of Blood (1971). Lamberto’s later giallo film, Delirium (1987), was far less sanguinary, by the way, while his two Demons films of the mid-’80s combined the gore with a goodly leavening of humor.

A Blade in the Dark also features a clever script from the remarkably prolific Dardano Sacchetti, although his psychological explanation for the killer’s motive is a flimsy one, at best. Indeed, if everyone had a similar reaction to such a paltry stimulus, 1/4 of all human beings would be homicidal maniacs! As for this Blue Underground DVD itself, the print looks just fine, but has been horribly translated and dubbed (resulting in such lines as “Is it possible you’re such a vacant nerd?”); subtitles would have been infinitely preferable. Modern-day interviews with Bava and Sacchetti make for nice extras, however, and, in all, the film is a must-see for all gorehound and giallo completists. When it comes to Lamberto and Mario, it would seem, the apple did not fall far from the tree; or perhaps it would be better to say that the blood did not fall far from the vein…

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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  1. Christoph /

    I don’t think I’ll see this one, but I love the October horror movie reviews.

    • Sandy Ferber /

      Very glad that you’ve been enjoying these, Christoph. And yes, this particular film is most assuredly not for all tastes….

  2. I’m looking at that DVD cover and there’s something wrong with the perspective… or the murderer is a giant. Is that just me? I’m talking hand/arm compared to woman’s face/head.

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