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BOOK OF SHADOWS

BY TRAVIS CRAWFORD

COVER OF MARIO BAVA: ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY: TIM LUCAS

Less a standard film reference volume than an obsessive and admittedly daunting lifelong labor of love, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas‘s mammoth study, Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, is easily the most elaborate — and potentially intimidating — cinema book of the year. A 1,130-page large-format hardcover tome that requires considerable forearm strength to move from place to place, Lucas‘s work is the very definition of an individual critical passion taken to virtually unprecedented heights — the writer has been toiling on the book for years, and the passion shows: This may be the most exhaustive volume ever written about an individual filmmaker. Bava was an Italian cinematographer-turned-director who thrived in the 1960s and ‘70s, a masterful visual stylist whose films (often in the horror genre) influenced everyone from Scorsese (who penned the introduction) to Tarantino. Black Sunday; Black Sabbath; Danger: Diabolik; Kill, Baby...Kill!; Planet of the Vampires and (my personal favorite) Lisa and the Devil remain some of the most significant European genre endeavors of the era, and Lucas has clearly been heavily affected by their impact, yet thankfully he never sacrifices his critical perspective (though he may occasionally overstate Bava‘s talents), and, surprisingly for such a sizeable work, he also refrains from lapsing into overly anecdotal asides. And as one would expect from such a lavish publication devoted to a visually accomplished filmmaker, the book is filled with hundreds of colorful photographs and poster reproductions, making it as much of a feast for the senses as Bava‘s films.

POSTERS OF BAVA'S DANGER: DIABOLIK, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD AND BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY: TIM LUCAS

Yet perhaps Lucas‘s most fascinating cine-historical achievement is not the critiques and histories of Bava‘s most renowned directorial work, but his analysis of Bava‘s work as a cinematographer and his reviews of Bava‘s lesser-known, non-horror films, ranging from peplum adventures to “Spaghetti” Westerns (the illuminating “Mario Bava‘s Secret Filmography” chapters). It is in these passages that the book transcends biography of Bava the acclaimed horror helmer and becomes nothing less than a history of the Italian film industry of the period. Thorough in the extreme, All the Colors of the Dark is subsequently a bit of a luxury item, as it retails for a whopping $250, and this is perhaps the only complaint: The book will likely only be purchased by Bava converts, and this study will leave curious novices with limited bank accounts out in the rain. One might suggest that Lucas could consider assembling a mass-market, scaled-down edit of the volume one day...if it weren‘t for the fact that trimming anything from such a staggering accomplishment would be akin to the careless expurgating Bava‘s own work suffered in the American market. As it stands now, Lucas‘s book must be considered one of the greatest coffee-table film publications of all time — providing your coffee table is strong enough to endure the weight.



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