Monday, June 18, 2018

Positively Shocking

Normally, a movie that makes me covet the death of its child character in the first reel is a painful slog. Thankfully, someone like Mario Bava has earned himself enough cred to allow me to power through with decent success.

Quick Plot: Dora is recovering from a nervous breakdown in the countryside estate she once shared with her late husband. Now remarried to a pilot named Bruno, Dora finds herself and her young, obnoxious son Marco changing in their new/old home.

Statues come to life, razors fly, and little Marco begins developing some peculiar habits. Is he possessed by the spirit of his late father, or did Dora's doctors move a little too fast with her release?

Shock is the great Mario Bava's last film, made in 1977 with some assistance from his son, Lamberto. While it's far from the top tier of the Italian genre master's output, it has a fair share of strengths that make it interesting enough.

Frequent giallo muse Daria Nicolodi gets one of her meatiest parts, and she makes the most of it. The score blends every popular element of its time into a gloriously bizarre mix of frantic jazz, electronic beats, and classical piano used to randomly spooky effect. Even the isolated country setting works to Shock's favor.

The downside comes with the pacing, which makes the impossible 110 minute run time feeling even longer. The climax seems to ramble on for decades, a sort of clumsy Repulsion-esque mania that just doesn't end. In fairness, when it does, it does so with a generous, eerie bang.

High Points
It's always hard to truly judge a dubbed performance, but Daria Nicolodi manages to do some genuinely deep work with the troubled Dora

Low Points
Dubbed giallo is fairly infamous for its weird/obnoxious children, but Marco is particularly grating, possibly because he reminds me far too much of my current most hated television character, Noah Brat Benson

Lessons Learned
Name your son Marco and life is a constant game of wanting to shout "Polo!"

There's nothing worse for an Italian marriage than sending the husband off without  his coffee

Living with an abusive drug addict, spending half a year in a sanitarium, and getting '70s style electro-shock treatment just might affect your parenting skills slightly

I stumbled upon Shock via a random TCM Underground airing, which worked for a lazy kind of Sunday viewing. It's enjoyable as a relic of Bava's last years and as a showcase for Nicolodi, but probably isn't worth a large investment in your own energy.

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