This later period Mario Bava giallo was an impulse buy through Kino Lorber, and an addition to my Mario Bava Collection that is growing on my shelf. As we approach the last decade of his filmmaking, and a time period that I particularly love in Italian cinema, I have high hopes for this one, despite its history as being a troubled production.
A cleaver-wielding bridal designer murders various young brides-to-be in an attempt to unlock a repressed childhood trauma.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Tagline: I Do, I Die.
AKA: Il rosso segno della follia, The Red Sign of Madness, Blood Brides
You see, Mario Bava double booked two ego driven actresses, Dagmar Lassender as Helen, and Laura Betti as Mildred. Betti, an accomplished actress who had worked with Fellini, was looking to get an Oscar, and asked Bava to be in the film. He obliged and created a large role for her that wasn’t even in the original script. However, this pissed off Dagmar, who was promised to be the lead. Scenes had to be created to make sure Dagmar was considered as such. There was tons of tension on the set, suffice to say.
Stephen Forsyth plays John, the lead male character, and the murdering antagonist of the film. He would go on record as having communication issues with Bava as well, as he would get little direction to what he was supposed to be doing.
The budget was the lowest special effects budget for any previous movie Bava had directed, and he was forced to work with what he had, resulting in camera effects doing much of the work. At one point, money ran out and Stephen Forsyth stopped getting paid, so they had to use a double for some of his shots. With such money troubles, a significant layoff happened in filming, causing the film to be released a full year after completion. It wasn’t even released in the United States until 1974.
The movie has a great set design with the wedding gown factory or warehouse or whatever it is. Manequins dressed in wedding gowns adorn the dark rooms, lit only by candlelight as he rubs his face lovingly against their cheeks, kissing their lips, dancing with them and dipping them ever so slightly. The music is twisted and dark, unlike the opening theme which should be forever buried alongside the dead bodies of his victims. Bava really knows how to set a scene, moving the camera around so that you can see the painstakingly detailed adorned corners of every set and then fill it with unsettling music that fits it perfectly. The juxtaposition of the way Forsyth loves the manequins and how he cradles the meat cleaver, shows just how messed up this dude really is.
There is one particularly great scene, where John, shrouded in darkness, is dancing with the green eyed dark haired beauty while she wears her white dress, a gift for her in anticipation of her upcoming wedding. All the while, he hears the voices as the camera swirls round and round with their dancing. He shows her the cleaver, to scare her, then slowly creeps toward her, before bringing the cleaver down upon her. Sure, it doesn’t show it per se, but the way they do it is amazing. THIS is what you do when you have no budget. This is how you get around those small details. I’m not gonna spoil it here, even though it’s only 31 minutes into the 88 minute runtime, just because it is so amazing. I am not even sure I would know HOW to describe it.
I love everything about this film. I love the setting, per the usual with Bava’s films, the music, which is incredibly unsettling, and the performance from Forsyth as the homicidal sociopathic John. It is a shame that the production’s troubles overshadowed the release. I am reserving a 10 for something truly special, and I may kick myself later for not giving it to Hatchet for the Honeymoon, but I’m gonna lowball it with a 9.5.
Seek this movie out!
9.5/10 Stab Wounds