DVD Reviews: And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO
|Picture: As part of Image Entertainments "Mario Bava
Collection", this disc contains the uncut print of Bavas La Maschera Del
Demonio. This includes the original credits, complete with the misspelling of Barbara
Steeles name ("Steel") and the entirely inappropriate superimposition of
the "Jolly Film" logo over the image of the executed Asa! The print contains a
few very minor imperfections. There is some white flecking at different times, most
noticeably when Kruvajan and Andrej enter the crypt. A couple of lightning bolt-like
scratches are present, and the picture breaks up twice, very briefly, towards the end.
Other than these tiny flaws, the print quality is stunning. This is the kind of
film that you should show to those stupid people who "dont like black and white
movies". Incredible unthinkable that it was almost made in
colour! The excellence of the transfer allows the viewer to appreciate fully Bavas
cinematography, which is rich and gorgeous, creating an appropriately dream-like
atmosphere, and also the directors painting-like compositions and attention to
Sound: The soundtrack is mono only, but is clear and even throughout. This version of the film contains Roberto Nicolosis original score, which was replaced in the AIP version by a score written by Les Baxter (I havent seen the AIP version, so I cant compare the two). Nicolosis music is, on the whole, excellent (although I must confess, I find the signature "Katias Theme" a trifle overflowery), and is appropriately used throughout. The clearness of the soundtrack allows the viewer to appreciate as well both the films silences, and its careful use of sound effects. Particularly striking are the sound of Asas nails scraping the stones of her shattered tomb; the soft croaking of frogs as Kruvajan stands by the pond in the moonlight; and Kruvajan and Javutichs entrance to the castle, which is accompanied by an ominous tolling of bells. Also crystal clear is one of the most wonderfully disgusting sound effects Ive ever heard: the soft icky sucking noise when Kruvajan removes Asas mask!
Liner notes: The packaging includes three pages of notes by Tim Lucas briefly covering the careers of Mario Bava and Barbara Steele, the production of the film, and its (mis)handling by AIP in America
Trailers: Included is the original English-language trailer, which clearly demonstrates that giving away too much of a film in the trailer, particularly its shocks, is not just a recent phenomenon! The trailer is also at 1.66, and is of the same excellent picture quality as the feature.
Deleted scenes: Included is the text of a deleted scene of a daytime conversation between Princess Katia and her father, Prince Vadja. This scene was in the original Italian print of the film, and no other version. Explanations for the scenes omission from this version of the film are also provided. The notes themselves claim that a still from this scene is included, but I couldnt find it.
Biographies and filmographies: The disc contains a full filmography for Barbara Steele, and biographical notes and a partial filmography for Mario Bava "partial" because of his habit of doing uncredited work for friends and colleagues, meaning that a definitive filmography has not yet been compiled.
Photo and poster gallery: The disc contains a series of international posters, lobby cards, production stills and photographs which can be paused and zoomed. Of most interest are a picture of Mario Bava substituting for John Richardson to direct the scene of Andrejs fight with Javutich; shots of scenes not appearing in the film, particularly two of Arturo Dominici in full vampire mode (presumably taken before Bava decided the whole "vampire" thing looked silly); and a shot of Javutichs coach-ride demonstrating how little studio space Bava had to work in!
Audio commentary: The disc has a commentary by Video Watchdogs Tim Lucas, currently writing a book on the life and work of Mario Bava. The commentary is a nice mix of cinematic history, biographical information and technical detail. The real value of it is that again and again it draws attention to the artistry of Mario Bava, particularly with respect to his (uncredited) special effects work, allowing the viewer to conceive an even deeper appreciation for this film in particular and Bavas work in general. (I was most impressed with the simple explanation of two of the films grosser effects, the reformation of Asas eyes!) It is also helpful in providing a rationale for certain lapses in the films logic, and some inconsistencies in Barbara Steeles performance. There are some silences along the way, which wont please everybody. However, the commentary never feels forced; Lucas talks when he has something to say, not for the sake of it. I understand that Lucas has been accused in some quarters of using the commentary to plug his upcoming book on Bava. This is ridiculous. The book is mentioned at the outset as a way of establishing Lucass credentials, then twice more, briefly, describing certain rare Bava material that will be included in it (notably photographs from the period in which this film was being prepped for a colour shoot) information I should think Bava fans would want to know!