A Blade In The Dark (1983)

FEBRUARY 11, 2009


Man, I love these movies. They’re pretty much all the same (some sort of creative person getting involved in a series of murders), yet I never tire of them. You can add A Blade In The Dark (Italian: La Casa Con La Scala Nel Buio*) to the group that includes Deep Red, Bird With Crystal Plumage, Tenebrae... and I’m sure some others that weren’t even directed by Dario Argento.

This one is from Lamberto Bava, who followed it up with the inimitable Demons. Clearly he was on a roll, and I wish that he was still as active as Argento is. He may unfortunately live in the shadow of both Argento and his father (Mario), but one shouldn’t discount him as an also-ran - he’s clearly got his own talent, and it’s only the familiar patterns of these films that lead some people to suggest he’s a copycat. Like American slashers, these giallos have a formula and rhythm that can’t really be deviated from too much, lest they become something else entirely (see: Argento’s god awful Phantom of the Opera).

Of course, this means there isn’t a hell of a lot I can say about the movie without repeating myself. It’s got all the things you expect - nonsensical translation errors (“This is all the whiskey you possess?”), stylish set-pieces, people doing things that don’t entirely make any sense (why is his neighbor hanging out in his closet?), red herrings up the wazoo... it’s sort of like a greatest hits version of a Giallo.

Speaking of the translation... it seems everyone in the movie is speaking Italian anyway, so why Anchor Bay did not provide a dubbed track is a bit peculiar. In movies like Suspiria, everyone speaks their native language, so no matter what you are going to get dubbed voices mixed in with the originals. But to my ears, everyone here was dubbed, which means an Italian track would be preferable. I’d investigate, but I’m too damn backed up on Tivo right now to do much else.

The kill scenes are above average, in that they are pretty goddamn harsh. One in particular - he bags a woman’s head and stabs her and what not. And even after she is clearly dead, he slits her throat! This leads to a hilarious sight gag - the killer’s gloved hand grabbing tissue after tissue trying to clean up the blood. Of course, tissues suck all known ass, so with each sheet he’s mostly just smearing the stuff around, absorbing maybe .001% of the visible grue. Awesome. There’s also a kill scene that I am pretty sure Patrick Lussier and/or Todd Farmer saw prior to My Bloody Valentine 3D, it’s almost the exact same thing (killer stabbing through a bedspring).

One other thing I want to point out - whenever a character in a movie claims he is leaving town for whatever reason (in this case, he says he’s going to Kuwait!), he is probably the killer. Unless it’s a teen comedy and they are the parents, movie characters never really leave town. It’s no different here, and even with the above average number of red herrings, I never doubted the killer’s identity for a second.

The DVD’s only extra of note is a pretty entertaining interview with Bava and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. They talk mainly about the script development, and the most significant facts can be found on the IMDb trivia page for the film, but at 10 minutes it’s hardly a lengthy endeavor. Check it out, assuming you have time after the movie, which runs 5 minutes longer than the DVD claims. Jerks! Horror Movie A Daying is a time consuming process as it is, I don’t need you lying about the running time and making me late for work! Indeed, I’ve owned the DVD for well over a year, but had been putting it off due to the length (104 minutes according to the DVD, but actually 109). 90 minutes people!!!

What say you?

*Which translates to House of the Dark Stairway. Bava actually prefers the American title. As do I, though the Italian one suggests a lost Fulci film.

1 comment:

  1. I know the film with this title "La casa con la scala nel buio". But is the same because is about a a composer, working in isolation on a score for a horror movie meets two women who used to know his house's former tenant. When the women disappear, he's forced to look into the film he's working on to determine what happened to them, and who's responsible.


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