Monday, September 24, 2007

A Look at the Bava Book:
Tim & Donna Lucas Make Dreams Come True!

Holding to a dream for decades is something many of us do, one way or another; realizing and sharing that dream is something richer, rarer and more rewarding than anything most of us touch in our lifetimes.

Kudos, then, to Tim and Donna Lucas for the stunning culmination of Tim's 37-year project, Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Sure, it's a heavy accomplishment -- 12 pounds in heft! The specs are staggering, but that's not the substance of this book; this is a book I've literally dreamed about myself since Tim and I first exchanged letters about Bava in the mid-80s. No, this transcends any and all expectations, the most substantial of all books on any filmmaker I've ever had the pleasure to read.

My copy arrived over a week ago, but I've only the past few days have I had the time to dive in. I spent large portions of the weekend savoring it stem to stern, pouring over its luscious pages and diving into the reading (which I've only begun, really; this is a massive read!), resisting the temptation to plunge ahead and read the chapters on my favorite Mario Bava films. It's a mighty strong temptation; every page thus far has harbored some revelatory material.

With unprecedented tenacity and access to the Bava family members, albums and archives, Tim charts the life of an artist -- many artists, actually, beginning with Mario's father Eugenio, who created many cinematic illusions from the Italian cinema's earliest years -- and a man whose work was central to the lives of many of us. Tim does so with such intensity and purpose that Mario Bava: ATCOTD also illuminates the history of Italian cinema as no other writer or book ever has.

Donna's impeccable book design and execution is staggering, and to these eyes every moment spent with the tome is the opening anew of an impossibly vast treasure chest of images. I get drunk upon it every time I open the pages, always finding something new, never seen before -- it's incredible, truly incredible. One-sheets, lobby cards, fotobustas and promotional graphics of all shapes, sizes and nations, family photos, behind-the-scenes tomfoolery, frame grabs and ad mats -- it's all here, the fruits of not one but many lifetimes of devotion and collection (including choice graphics from the collections of a few Bava fans who didn't live to see this book, the late Alan Upchurch prominent among them), offsetting the cost of the book itself by tens of thousands of dollars. If you tried to amass a private collection approximating a fraction of all that's on view in this glorious book, you'd spend a fortune, and still never come close. Many books these days are satisfied with showcasing just the graphics; Tim's writing is as engaging, entertaining, enlightening and insightful as ever, increasing the value and import of this lavish book far, far beyond that of almost any other book in my library.

Most of all, for this lifelong Bava fan, Tim and Donna have opened a door I've ached to just peek within since I was seven years old, indelibly marked by the first Bava film I ever saw (Black Sunday). They open it wide and generously, inviting one in for a full inspection of the house and its master, opening every room and window for as full a view and deep a meditation as one can indulge. Every sitting with the book affords another invitation, another exploration, leaving me hungry for more. After I feast on each chapter, thanks to the miracle of DVD in the 21st Century, I can revisit almost every one of Bava's films, further enriching my return to Tim's text and Tim and Donna's illumination of every film's creation, completion, and life in the theaters and marquees and marketplaces of the world.

I could (and will, no doubt, in coming days and weeks) go on and on, but anything I have to say is small potatoes.
  • There is no greater reaction to a book one has labored over for almost four decades than this, my friends... read the letter, ponder the photo (Lamberto Bava and his family), and consider all that Tim has accomplished.

  • Next to that, all I can offer publicly is a comparatively feeble, "Congratulations, Tim and Donna," and thank you for the hours of incredible reading this past weekend -- and all that lies ahead!

    In near-perfect timing, Anchor Bay is releasing their second set of Mario Bava classics in sharp new transfers, sporting superior imagery and audio tracks (at last, Bay of Blood with a better soundtrack!).

    Tim Lucas has contributed new commentary tracks to a number of the films, and he's also been discussing the set on his blog
  • here (the first announcement) and
  • here (the initial specs of the set),
  • with an important clarification and pre-order link here.

  • But that's not all: Tim has been posting his illustrated previews of the full Anchor Bay lineup on the Video Watchblog in recent days. Thus far, in chronological order of each film's release, Tim has discussed
  • the underrated transitional Bava feature 5 Dolls for an August Moon,
  • whose themes and schemes fully blossomed in my all-time favorite of all Bava's color films, the seminal 'slasher' opus Antefatto/Ecologia del Delitto aka Bay of Blood, Carnage, Last House Part II, Twitch of the Death Nerve, etc.,
  • but Tim also finds much to savor anew in the Gothic romp Baron Blood,
  • and the most haunting of all Bava films, the ravishing, enigmatic Lisa and the Devil, aka (actually, in a very different version) The House of Exorcism aka Devil in the House of Exorcism.

  • With his eye ever-sharp for corrections, revisions and new info, Tim's pre-viewing of the set has already yielded fresh insights (literally!) and addendums to his completed commentary tracks, and also as ever, the Video Watchblog is where Tim is posting his revisions and fresh takes on venerable material.
  • ___________

  • One of the greatest movie trailers ever made -- Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho -- is now online at Trailers from Hell, my fave weekly online flashback site.
  • As noted, it's 7 minutes long -- and should be screened sans commentary, to thoroughly enjoy Hitchcock's masterpiece of promotion and black humor. I usually hit 'pause' as soon as the clips begin, to ensure they load fully before I watch 'em. With this the among the longest trailers of all time, be sure to give it extra loading time. Enjoy!

    (Why "one of the greatest" instead of just the greatest? Well, there's a lot of trailers I love, and one of my all-time favorites remains the original preview for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining -- the lobby, the elevator doors, the blood, the blood, the blood filling the room until the coaches are floating and the screen partially submerged -- when first seen, it was a genuinely chilling mindbender. Best trailer of the '80s, bar none.)

    When Marge and I labored our way through the major move from Marlboro, VT to our new home in Windsor, VT, we were helped a number of times by an always-energetic group of Center for Cartoon Studies students. In every trip save one, Marge and I fed the respective CCS students then and there, piling the tables with food and breaking to dine after the trucks and cars were loaded. In the home stretch, though, with one house almost empty and our new home still being pulled together to live in, one group was left dangling.

    This afternoon, I'm at last hosting a barbeque/cookout for the final group of four, the valiant CCS quartet who labored over the last stacks and shelves of books in the once-horrific Bissette basement library/studio to box up the last of my collection for the final day of the move. I'll be grilling burgers, dogs and enjoying a chunk of the afternoon with these marvelous folks, and it looks like we'll have a splendid Vermont autumn afternoon in which to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to it, and to CCS BBQs to come...

    Have a great Monday, one and all...

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