Sunday, 7 June 2015

Rabid Dogs (1974)

This review is for the Arrow Blu-Ray (in the original Italian with English subs) of Mario Bava's 1974 Poliziotteschi thriller Rabid Dogs and not the re-edited Kidnapped.

The film starts with an outstanding and typically "Bava" title sequence in lurid colours and then straight into the action with a violent robbery. During this scene the editing is frenetic and almost nonsensical. You have no real idea what is going on. A bit like what I would guess a robbery would be like! This is followed by an escape in a wee little Fiat in which gigantic George Eastman is continually bumping and rubbing his head on the ceiling. Following a police chase the criminals take a father and his young, ill son and an unrelated young woman hostage and make a break for the countryside. It's here that the rest of the film takes place - in real time, and this is the cause of most of the issues with the film.

After such a frantic first act there's no way that Bava could keep up the pace and the film drags in places as we are treated to endless shots of cornfields and gorges interspersed with some pretty nasty dialogue and exploitation scenes. Rabid Dogs was filmed at the end of Bava's career and only six years before his death. On occasion, I could almost feel Bava's embarrassment at filming the more exploitative scenes and could imagine the producers saying to Bava: "Come on Mario, this is what the audience want nowadays! They don't want shadows and atmosphere. They want humiliation, piss and rape" and then Bava, crying silently into his cappuccino. Something that could have helped would have been some focus on the Police's attempt to stop them which, at least for me, makes Lenzi's Almost Human the superior film.

The criminals are full of menace and unpredictable and barely controlled aggression. Bava doesn't want you to feel any form of sympathy with them. There is none of the romanticisation that is used to coat villains in today's films. The title Rabid Dogs is perfect as you can almost see the foam spilling from their mouths. The blood is of that 70's Italian type; thick and bright and unnaturally red. The photography and editing are great, but the score is far less successful with some misjudged organ driven jazz funk being used over a chase through a cornfield being a case in point. It's not used for emphasis or even for counterpoint (a'la Last House on the Left - which was obviously an influence on other aspects of this film), it's just like someone the their record player on. There's a nice twist at the end that I unfortunately guessed a good 45 minutes before it happened - it was still good when it happened though. As for the restoration? There are colour and resolution shifts during the scenes cut from the Kidnapped version which is understandable considering this original cut of the film was originally thought lost and perhaps never even fully edited. These are not really too intrusive and we should be grateful to Arrow for at least attempting what must have been a difficult restoration. Finally, J&B Whiskey makes a welcome appearance!

Where's One-Shot Finch when you need him.

Original Letterboxd review

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