Mario Bava (1914 - 1980)

Date of Birth: 30 July 1914
Place of Birth: San Remo, Italy
Date of Death: 25 April 1980 (from a heart attack)
Place of Death: Rome, Italy
Also Known As: John Foam; John Hold; John Old; John M. Old


Even more so even than Dario Argento, Mario Bava is the key figure in the development of the Italian horror and thriller genres. Though the multi-skilled Bava was to turn his hand to many genres (including westerns, comedies, science fiction and sword-and-sandals pseudo-historicals) it is his work in the horror genre that has earned him his deserved reputation as one of the great visual stylists.

The son of cinematographer and later sculptor Eugenio Bava, Bava junior trained initially as a painter, a skill that was to be put to excellent use in his later career. His training in the arts gave him an eye for composition and detail that was unsurpassed and when he followed his father into the industry as a cameraman (in the liner notes to the Image DVD release of La maschera del demonio (1960), Tim Lucas notes that Bava "hated the pretentiousness of the word 'cinematographer'") he was soon in demand as a master lensman.

During the 1940s, bava began directing, albeit just short subjects, and also earned himself a reputation for creating impressive camera and visual effects with limited resources. He finally stepped up to the director's chair on a feature when Riccardo Freda abandoned the 1956 horror film I vampiri following a row with producers and Bava - who was initially hired as the film's cameraman - stepped in to complete the film.

I vampiri marked the start of a gothic horror revival - it beat Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein to the screen by a year - though it's international importance has unfairly been overshadowed by the global success of the Hammer film. It was another Hammer film, The Quatermass Experiment (1955) that indirectly gave Bava his next directorial assignment - Caltiki - il mostro immortale (1959) was a Quatermass lookalike again to have been directed by Freda who again walked off the set following further arguments with his producer. Bava again stepped in to save the day. Similarly, the same year he 'rescued' Jacques Tourneur's La battaglia di Maratona and his sterling work did not go unnoticed by the producers, Galatea Films.

Galatea offered Bava the chance to direct any film he chose and he opted to make another horror film for his first solo flight in the canvas backed chair. The result, La maschera del demonio (1960) is one of his finest achievements, though contrary to beliefs all too frequently expressed elsewhere, he did make equally impressive films again and indeed even made better ones. It starred the young British actress Barbara Steele who, at the time, was a barely known small part player with just a couple of undistinguished minor film and TV roles to her credit. La maschera del demonio launched not only Bava's career, but also made Steele a horror icon.

In 1963, Bava wrote and directed La ragazza che sapeva troppo, a black and white thriller that virtually invented the giallo genre, the peculiarly Italian blend of horror and thriller tropes that was reactivated in the 1970s by Dario Argento. Indeed many of the obsessions that would inform virtually all of the Argento canon - particularly the notion of the central character witnessing something important that he or she then can't properly recall - were all played out here to stunning effect. Bava would refine the fledgling giallo movie form in the Il telefono segment of I tre volti della paura (1963) before turning in the definitive example of 60s gialli, the classic Sei donne per l'assassino (1964).

Throughout the 60s, while continuing to dabble in other genres (the science fiction of Terrore nello spazio (1965), clearly an influence on Alien (1979); the spy comedy / spoofs Spie vengono dal semifreddo (1966) and Diabolik (1968); westerns like 1964's La strada per Fort Alamo; and pseudo-historicals like I coltelli del vendicatore (1965)), Bava continued to create a string of increasingly beautiful horror films that looked and played quite unlike anything else being made in the genre at the time.

As the 70s dawned, the lush gothics and convoluted gialli of the 60s were being superceded by a new breed of horror that was more visceral and confrontational. Argento's reworking of giallo tropes added more explicit sex and violence than Bava was ever able - or willing - to employ and the gothic horror of La frusta e il corpo (1963) and Operazione paura (1966) was all but dead.

But Bava responded to the challenges of the new horror admirably, turning in the vicious but darkly comic Ecologia del delitto (1971), a film released under a bewildering array of alternative titles and one that was to play an important - though for many years unacknowledged - role in the development of screen horror later in the decade. When John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) - which the director admitted was inspired by Bava and Argento - kicks-started the 80s slasher movies, it was Bava's film that proved surprisingly influential - a scene in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) in which a pair of lovers are skwered together during sex was lifted wholesale from an identical scene here.

It has been suggested that Bava's career nosedived during the 70s, though a look at the quality of his work throughout the decade makes a mockery of such claims. The astonishing Cani arrabbiati (1974 but unreleased until the late 1990s) is atypical Bava but is nonetheless quite remarkable; Lisa e il diavolo (1974), badly butchered and issued as an Exorcist (1973) rip-off by its producer Alfredo Leone, is a fabulous surreal masterpiece in its original form; while Shock (1977) is simply one of the best Italian horror of the decade and again featured one of the terrifying children that had figured prominently throughout Bava's work since Operazione paura (1966).

Bava's final work was on Argento's Inferno (1980) to which he contributed the memorable underwater scenes in the first moments of the film. He died that same year, leaving behind a hugely impressive body of work that lay neglected for some time but which was reappraised in the 1990s by a new generation of fans suddenly given access to films that hadn't been available for decades.

In his final years, Bava worked with his son Lamberto, an assistant director to both his father and Argento, who would later take up his own career as a director with generally dreadful results.


* = television

(director (uncredited))
Die Fahrten des Odysseus - Austrian / West German title
Odysseus - Finnish title
Ulysse - French title

I vampiri (director - uncredited; director of photography)
The Devil's Commandment - US title
Evil's Commandment
Lady Vampire
- French video title
Lust of the Vampire - US title
Der Vampir von Notre-Dame - West German title
Les vampires - French title
The Vampires
Los vampiros
- Spanish title

Le fatiche di Ercole (director of photography; editor)
Hércules - Portugese title
Hércules - Spanish title
Hercules - US title
Labors of Hercules - English language title
O travaux d'Hercule - French title
O Triunfo de Hércules - Portugese title
Die Unglaublichen Abenteuer des Herkules - West German title
Los viajes de Heracles - Spanish title
Voittamaton Herkules - Finnish title

La morte viene dallo spazio (director of photography)
Le danger vient de l'espace - French title
The Day the Sky Exploded - US title
Death Comes from Space - US title
Death from Outer Space
Der Tod kommt aus dem Weltraum - West German title

Caltiki - il mostro immortale (director - uncredited; director of photography (as John Foam))
Caltiki the Undying Monster - US title
Caltiki, le monstre immortel - French title
Caltiki, Rätsel des Grauens - West German title
Caltiki, the Immortal Monster - US title

Ercole e la regina di Lidia (director of photography, director, special lighting director)
Heracles y la reina de Lidea - Spanish title
Hercule et la reine de Lydie - French title
Hercules and the Queen of Lydia - English language title
Hercules and the Queen of Sheba
Hércules e a Raínha
- Portugese title
Hercules Unchained - US title
Hércules y la reina de Lidia - Spanish title
Herkules ja Lyydian kuningatar - Finnish title
Herkules und die Königin der Amazonen - West German title

La maschera del demonio (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Black Sunday - US title
The Demon's Mask
The Hour When Dracula Comes
House of Fright
A Maldição do Demônio
- Brazilian title
La máscara del demonio - Mexican / Spanish title
The Mask of Satan
Mask of the Demon
Le masque du démon
- French Belgian / French title
Paholaisen naamio - Finnish title
Revenge of the Vampire - UK title
Die Stunde wenn Dracula kommt - Austrian title
Die Stunde wenn Drakula kommt - West German title

Ercole al centro della terra (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Hercule contre les vampires - French title
Hercules at the Center of the Earth - English language title
Hércules contra o Vampiro - Portugese title
Hercules in the Center of the Earth - English language title
Hercules in the Haunted World - US title
Hércules no Centro da Terra - Brazilian title
Hercules vs. the Vampires
Herkules gegen die Vampire
- Austrian title
Herkules voittaa helvetin - Finnish title
Vampire gegen Herakles - West German title
The Vampires vs Hercules
With Hercules to the Center of the Earth

Le meraviglie di Aladino (director)
Aladdinin ihmeet - Finnish title
Aladins Abenteuer - West German title
Les mille et une nuits - Italian title
The Wonders of Aladdin

La ragazza che sapeva troppo (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
The Evil Eye - US title
La fille qui en savait trop - French title
The Girl Who Knew Too Much - US title
L'incubo - working title
Más allá del exorcismo - Spanish title
Olhos Diabólicos - Brazilian title
A Rapariga Que Sabia Demais - Portugese title

La frusta e il corpo (director)
The Body and the Whip
Le corps et le fouet
- French title
El cuerpo y el látigo - Argentinian title
Der Dämon und die Jungfrau - Austrian title
Drácula, o Vampiro - Brazilian title
Der Mörder von Schloß Menliff - West German title
Night Is the Phantom
Son of Satan
The Way and the Body
- US title
The Whip and the Body

I tre volti della paura (scriptwriter; director)
Black Christmas
Black Sabbath
- US title
Die Drei Gesichter der Furcht - West German title
I skräckens klor - Swedish title
Der Ring der Verdammten - Austrian title
The Three Faces of Fear
The Three Faces of Terror
Las tres caras del miedo
- Spanish title
As Três Máscaras do Terror - Brazilian title
Les trois visages de la peur - French title

Sei donne per l'assassino (scriptwriter; director)
L'atelier de la peur - French title
Blod och svarta spetsar - Swedish title
Blood and Black Lace - US title
Blutige Seide - West German title
Fashion House of Death
- Finnish title
Lustmördaren - Swedish title
Seis mujeres para el asesino - Spanish title
Seis mujeres para un asesino - Argentinian title
Six femmes pour l'assassin - French title
Six Women for the Murderer - English language title
Der Würger mit der Maske - Austrian title

Terrore nello spazio (scriptwriter; director)
Demon Planet
The Haunted Planet
The Haunted World
The Outlawed Planet
Planet der Vampire
- West German title
Planet of Blood
The Planet of Terror
The Planet of the Damned
Planet of the Vampires
O Planeta dos Vampiros
- Brazilian title
La planète des vampires - French title
Schrecken im Weltall - West German title
Space Mutants
Terror en el espacio
- Spanish title
Terror in Space

Operazione paura (scriptwriter; director)
Curse of the Dead - UK title
Curse of the Living Dead - reissue title
Don't Walk in the Park
Kill, Baby... Kill!
- US title
Mata, Bebê, Mata - Brazilian title
Operation Fear
Opération peur
- French title
Die Toten Augen des Dr Dracula - West German title
Die Toten Augen - West German video title

Spie vengono dal semifreddo (director)
Bonecas Explosivas - Brazilian title
Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs - US title
Dr Goldfoot and the Love Bomb
Dr Goldfoot and the 'S' Bombs
Dr Goldfoot and the Sex Bombs
L'espion qui venait du surgelé
- French title
Spies Come from Half-Cold
The Spy Came from the Semi-Cold
- English language title
Two Mafia Guys from the FBI - English language title

Diabolik (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Danger: Diabolik - US title
Danger: Diabolik! - French title
Diabolik ger ingen nåd - Swedish title
Mies mustassa Jaguarissa - Finnish title
Perigo: Diabolik - Brazilian title

L'odissea (director) *
The Adventures of Ulysses - English language title
Avanture odiseja - Croatian title
Las aventuras de Ulises - Spanish title
Le avventure di Ulisse - Italian title
Odissea - Italian video title
Die Odyssee - West German title
L'odyssée - French title

Cinque bambole per la luna d'agosto (director; editor)
Cinco muñecas para la luna de agosto - Spanish title
Five Dolls for an August Moon - UK / US title
L'île de l'épouvante - French title
Island of Terror - US title

Il rosso segno della follia (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Un'accetta per la luna di miele - alternative title
An Axe for the Honeymoon - English language title
Blood Brides - UK title
Un hacha para la luna de miel - Spanish title
Hatchet for the Honeymoon - US title
Kalman hääyö - Finnish title
The Red Mark of Madness
The Red Sign of Madness
Red Wedding Night
- West German title

Ecologia del delitto (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Bahía de sangre
- Spanish title
La baie sanglante - French title
Banho de Sangue - Brazilian title
A Bay of Blood - US / UK title
Before the Fact-Ecology of a Crime
- UK title
Bloodbath Bay of Blood
Bloodbath Bay of Death
Blutrausch des Teufels
- West German title
Im Blutrausch des Satans
- West German title
Last House on the Left Part II - US reissue title
A Mansão da Morte - Brazilian title
New House on the Left
Reazione a catena
O Sexo na Sua Forma Mais Violenta
- Brazilian title
Twitch of the Death Nerve - US title

Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga (director)
Baron Blood - US title
Baron vampire - French title
The Blood Baron
Chamber of Tortures
The Thirst of Baron Blood
The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood
Verinen paroni
- Finnish title

Quante volte... quella notte (director)
Four Times That Night

Cani arrabbiati (director; director of photography)
Les chiens enragés - French television title
Kidnapped - restored version title
Rabid Dogs - English language title
Semaforo rosso - alternative title
Wild Dogs

Lisa e il diavolo (scriptwriter; director)
La casa dell'esorcismo
Besatt av djevelen
- Norwegian title
The Devil and the Dead
The Devil in the House of Exorcism
El diablo se lleva a los muertos
- Spanish title
Il diavolo e i morti
Exorcismens näste
- Swedish title
The House of Exorcism - US title
Lisa and the Devil - US title
Lisa och djävulen - Swedish title
La maison de l'exorcisme - French title
Manaajan talo - Finnish title
Paholaisen kourissa - Finnish title
Der Teuflische - West German title

Moses the Lawgiver (special effects) *
Mose - Italian title
Moses - US / West German title

Schock (director)
Beyond the Door II - US title
Schock (Transfert-Suspence-Hypnos)

La venere di Ille (director) *
Venus of Ille

Inferno (director of underwater sequences - uncredited)
Dario Argento's Inferno
Feuertanz der Zombies
- West German advertising title
Horror Infernal - West German title
Infernal Horror - West German title
Inferno 80 - Finnish title
Infierno - Spanish title
A Mansão do Inferno - Brazilian title

Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre
(subject of film) *


Camicia nera(director of photography)

La vispa Teresa
(director of photography)

Il tacchino prepotente (director of photography)

L'avventura di Annabella (director of photography)

Sant'Elena piccola isola (director of photography)

Il barbiere di Siviglia (camera operator)

L'elisir d'amore (director; director of photography)
This Wine of Love - US title

L'orecchio (director of photography)

Anfiteatro Flavio (director; director of photography)

Legenda Sinfonica (director; director of photography)

Pagliacci (director of photography)
Bajazzo - German title
Love of a Clown - Pagliacci - US title
I Pagliacci: Amore tragico 
Pajazzo - Finnish title

Santa notte (director; director of photography)

Uomini e cieli (director of photography)

Follie per l'opera (director of photography)
Mad About Opera - US title

Natale al campo 119 (director of photography)
Christmas at Camp 119
Escape Into Dreams

Antonio di Padova (director of photography)
Anthony of Padua - US title
Antonio de Padua - Spanish title
Antonius von Padua - West German title
A Vida de Santo António - Portugese title

Quel bandito sono io (director of photography)
Her Favorite Husband - UK title
The Taming of Dorothy - US title

Variazioni sinfoniche (director; director of photography)

Canzone di primavera (director of photography)

Miss Italia (director of photography)
Miss Italy
My Beautiful Daughter
- US television title

Vita da cani (director of photography)
Dans les coulisses - French title
A Dog's Life
Hundeleben - West German title
It's a Dog's Life
Vida de Cão - Portugese title
Vida de perros - Spanish title

È arrivato il cavaliere! (director of photography)

Amor non ho... però... però (director of photography)
Keine Liebe, aber... aber... - West German title
Love I Haven't... But... But - English language title

La famiglia Passaguai fa fortuna (director of photography)
Aufruhr im Familienbad - West German title
Eine Verrückte Familie - Austrian title

Goya (director of photography)

Guardie e ladri (director of photography)
Cops and Robbers
Guardias y ladrones
- Spanish title
Ikuisen kaupungin varas - Finnish title
Räuber und Gendarm - West German title

Papà diventa mamma (director of photography)

Perdonami (director of photography)
Verzeih mir! - West German title

Il bacio dell'Aurora (director of photography)

Balocchi e profumi (director of photography)

Cose da pazzi (director of photography)

Gli eroi della domenica (director of photography)
Ei miestä miljoonilla - Finnish title
Die Helden des Sonntags - West German title
Los héroes del domingo - Spanish title
Sunday Heroes - English language title

Il viale della speranza (director of photography)
Um Salto para a Vida - Portugese title

Villa Borghese (director of photography)
Les amants de Villa Borghese - French title
It Happened in the Park - US title
Römischer Reigen - West German title

Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova (director of photography)
Adventures of Giacomo Casanova (1954) - English language title
Aventures et les amours de Casanova, Les (1954) (France)
Casanova - seine Liebe und Abenteuer (1954) - West German title
Casanovan lemmenseikkailut - Finnish title
Loves of Casanova, The (1954)
Sins of Casanova (1957) - US title

Graziella (1954) (director of photography)

Hanno rubato un tram (director of photography)

Terza liceo (director of photography)
High School - US title
Teinirakkautta - Finnish title

Buonanotte... avvocato! (director of photography)
Buenas noches, abogado - Chilean television title
Não Venhas Tarde - Portugese title

La donna più bella del mondo (director of photography)
Beautiful But Dangerous - US title
La belle des belles - French title
Ihana mutta vaarallinen - Finnish title
Maailman kaunein nainen - Finnish title
La mujer más bella del mundo - Argentinian title
La mujer más guapa del mundo - Spanish title
Die Schönste Frau der Welt - West German title
Verdens smukkeste kvinde - Danish title
The World's Most Beautiful Woman - English language title

Città di notte (director of photography)
City at Night

Mio figlio Nerone (director of photography)
Neron pidot - Finnish title
Neron viikonloppu - Finnish title
Nero's Big Weekend Nero's Mistress - US title
Nero's Weekend - UK title
O.K. Nero - US title
Les week-ends de Néron - French title

Orlando e i Paladini di Francia (cameraman)
Roland the Mighty - English language title

Agi Murad il diavolo bianco (director of photography)
La Beli djavo Charge des Cosaques - French title
El diablo blanco - Spanish title
Hadschi Murad - Unter der Knute des Zaren - West German title
The White Warrior

La battaglia di Maratona (director - uncredited; director of photography)
La bataille de Marathon - French title
La batalla de Marathón - Spanish title
Giant of Marathon - US title
O Gigante da Maratona - Portugese title
Giganten fra Marathon - Danish title
Marathonin sankari - Finnish title
Maratonski silacz - Polish title
Die Schlacht von Marathon - West German title

Esther and the King (director; director of photography)
Ester e o Rei - Portugese title
Esther e il Re - Italian title
Esther y el rey - Spanish title
Persian miekka - Finnish title
Das Schwert von Persien
- West German title

Gli invasori (scriptwriter; director; director of photography)
Erik the Conqueror - US title
Fury of the Vikings - UK title
Das Invaders, The Königsmal - West German video title
Die Rache der Wikinger - West German title
La ruée des Vikings - French title
Viikinkien kosto - Finnish title
A Vingança dos Vikings - Brazilian title

L'ultimo dei Vikinghi (director - uncredited)
Le dernier des Vikings - French title
The Last of the Vikings - UK / US title
Der Letzte der Wikinger - West German title
El último Vikingo - Spanish title
Viimeinen viikinki - Finnish title

La strada per Fort Alamo (director - as John Old)
Arizona Bill Camino de fuete Alamo - Spanish title
The Road to Fort Alamo

I coltelli del vendicatore (scriptwriter - as John Old; director)
Los Bladestorm Cuchillos del vengador - Spanish title
Duel au couteau - French title
Eine Handvoll blanker Messer - West German title
Knives of the Avenger Koston tikarit - Finnish title
Os Punhais do Vingador - Brazilian title
Raffica di coltelli Viking Massacre

Ringo del Nebraska (director (uncredited))
Les dollars du Nebraska - French title
Gringo salvaje - Mexican title
Gunman Called Nebraska - US title
Nebraska il pistolero - Italian title
El rancho maldido - Spanish title
Ringo de Nebraska (El rancho maldito) - Spanish title
Ringo from Nebraska - US title
Savage Gringo

Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (director)
Colt e Wincester Jack - Italian title
Roy Colt and Winchester Jack Tappavat kaverit - Finnish title


Bruschini, Antonio and Tentori, Antonio: Operazione paura: i registi del gotico italiano (Bologna: Punto Zero (1997))

Howarth, Troy: The Haunted World of Mario Bava (Godalming, Surrey: FAB Press (2001))

Lucas, Tim: Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark (Cincinnati, Ohio: Video Watchdog (2003))

Martinet, Pascal: Mario Bava (Paris: Edilig (1984))

Pintabona, Giuseppe (ed.): Incubi notturni: il buio oltre lo schermo: un filo rosso sangue tra cinema e musica (Genova: Erga Edizioni (1998))


Lamberto Bava
Dario Argento


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009


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