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Anchor Bay presents

A Blade in the Dark (La Casa con la Scala nel Buio) (1983)

"Ever since I was a little child, I was afraid of the dark. When you're in the dark, there's menace in every sound, danger. There could be monsters, killers. Murderers lurk in the black dark. Sure, it's possible that there's nothing there, no presence, that you're all alone. Or maybe daylight cancels out the monsters, like nightmares in your sleep. But death is always, always watching, and especially in the dark."- Sandra (Anny Papa)

Stars: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Fabiola Toledo, Michele Soavi, Lara Naszinski
Other Stars: Valeria Cavalli, Stanko Molnar
Director: Lamberto Bava

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (extreme violence and gore, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:48m:38s
Release Date: 2001-05-29
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Every slasher film needs a gimmick in order to set itself off from the rest of the pack. In Italian slasher films, the gimmick often, as here, has to do with the killer's particular kink, explained in pseudo-scientific, pop psychology. On top of the usual psycho-sexual disturbances, Blade in the Dark also features the gimmick of a film within the film that seems to be triggering a series of mysterious murders.

Andrea Occhipinti stars as Bruno, a young composer. He has agreed to write the score to a horror film at a rented villa (the villa owned by the actual producer of this film, as the fact happens). Sandra (Anny Papa) is the director of the picture, and refuses to let even Bruno see the final reel for mysterious reasons. Women begin appearing at the villa, and just as suddenly disappearing. However, we know that they're not just leaving; they're being brutally slaughtered for reasons that seem to be related to the movie that Bruno is scoring. They also seem to have something to do with the mysterious Linda, the former occupant of the villa.

Director Lamberto Bava makes a decent stab at the giallo genre, started by his father Mario with the 1964 picture Blood and Black Lace. The son starts off with a flourish, as the themes are all introduced, both subtly and not so subtly, before the credits roll. The attitude throughout is thoroughly misogynistic, with the women invariably acting dippy, and then being killed in increasingly sadistic ways. Violence and gore are plentiful, though sex and nudity are limited to a few glimpses of a Penthouse magazine centerfold that the killer slices up in preparation for his handiwork on the real thing. Unfortunately, the ending suffers from the same psycho-babble desire to explain everything that wrecks Psycho in its closing moments. Another weakness is the fact that the women seem to appear solely for purposes of making themselves victims. The presence of one in particular, Andrea, is never satisfactorily explained at all. Continuity control is pretty much disregarded; for instance, the final reel of the horror movie is variously referred to as the tenth and the twelfth reel.

Some of the subsidiary themes are interesting, particularly insofar as they relate to music. While Bruno is playing, the camera is continually drawn to the recording equipment, with the flashing red lights presaging the blood that flows copiously. Even more intriguing is the blurring of the music that Bruno is composing for his film and the music that is used in this one; they are a series of variations on each other, blending the 'reality' of the framing story with the 'fiction' of the work in progress.

As is typical in a Bava film, the camera work is a highlight. One of the continuing motifs is a shift of focus from the victim to the killer, a technique that is highly effective in a picture as full of darkness and shadows as this one. The story leaves a lot to be desired as a mystery, however; there are so few characters that the identity of the killer becomes pretty obvious before long. This leaves the viewer to enjoy the bloodshed as best he can.

The cast is decent, notably Occhipinti as the bemused composer. Anny Papa is suitably intense as the driven director. Stanko Molnar, who plays Giovanni, the caretaker who collects newspaper articles about murders, displays a tremendous range in a role very dissimilar to that in Bava's earlier Macabre.

Not only is the running time over four minutes longer than advertised on the case, but this edition is a full ten minutes longer than any previous video or theatrical release either in the US or anywhere else in the world.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen image is very grainy (no doubt as a result of the very low budget that Bava had to work with), but is otherwise excellent. Colors are natural and vivid, and shadow detail is very good. The picture is a little on the soft side, but has the merit of no visible edge enhancement whatsoever.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround 2.0 track is almost entirely center-oriented. There is no directionality whatsoever. Bass response is decent (especially in the sequences where the audio is dominated by a thumping heart sound). Hiss and noise are nominal. As is usual for Italian films, the dubbing is pretty bad. No Italian track is included, which is a disappointment.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra is a set of current interviews with Bava and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. They give a little background on the making of the film, but the time (9m:26s) is rather brief to give much detail. An anamorphic trailer is included, which shows every single murder in the film and really obviates the need to see the movie at all. The insert includes a reproduction of the Italian lobby card as well as brief production notes. Wrapping up the package are bios for Bava and Sacchetti, with selected filmographies. In all, a decent set of extras for a rather minor production.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

A slightly above average slasher movie, in a very good transfer. The extras are okay but not exceptional.

Mark Zimmer 2001-05-12