A BAY OF BLOOD (1971)
aka Reazione a catena, Carnage, Twitch of the Death Nerve
Article 4941 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso
What it is: The birth of the slasher film
When a count and a countess are murdered, a bloody struggle develops between potential heirs to the estate.
IMDB lists over forty alternate titles for this, the most notorious of Mario Bava’s films. I’d first heard about it as TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (my favorite of the titles), it entered my list under the rather generic but descriptive title CARNAGE, and the print I saw was titled A BAY OF BLOOD. It’s often heralded as the first true slasher film, but I also like to think of it as the missing link between the slasher film and the “old dark house” film where heirs to an estate are knocked off one by one. Granted, there’s no real “old dark house” here, but the basic plot structure makes it feel like one, while the appearance of a group of teenagers to add to the body count certainly puts it in slasher territory. I also like to think of it as Mario Bava’s PSYCHO in that to some extent, the movie is conceived as a bit of a joke; certainly, the ending of this one can be seen as a punch line. It has more of a plot than your average slasher movie, though it does get a little confusing at times and you might be tempted to keep a score card. According to the trivia section of IMDB, this was Bava’s own favorite of his movies, and though it wouldn’t be my personal choice, it is probably his most influential.