DirectorMario Bava, Lamberto Bava
Release Date(s)1977 (January 18, 2022)
Studio(s)Laser Film/Titanus (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
The final film directed by Mario Bava (his son Lamberto Bava picking up the rest), Shock is more of a straightforward supernatural horror film than many of the films that were coming out of Italy at the time. Often thought of as one of his lesser works, film historians continue to put the film on a pedestal and claim it to be far better than most have given it credit for since its release in 1977 (later making it to the US in 1979). And though its distributor released it stateside as Beyond the Door II, it has little to do with the first film outside of David Colin, Jr., who appears in both films.
Dora (Daria Nicolodi) is the newly-married mother Marco (David Colin, Jr.), a jovial seven-year-old. Dora, Marco, and Dora’s new husband Bruno (John Steiner) move into a house where Dora lived previously with her ex-husband Carlo. An abusive drug addict, Carlo was declared dead when his boat was found adrift, which caused Dora to have a nervous breakdown and resulted in rounds of electroshock therapy. When Bruno is away on business, strange things occur around the house, especially to Marco, which triggers Dora’s memories as she begins to experience seemingly supernatural encounters. While Marco is drawn to the brick wall of the basement and begins to act out in unnatural ways, Dora continues to have nightmares about her past and finds herself the target of a ghostly assailant.
While there’s plenty in Shock that hasn’t been seen before or since, it still manages to offer many things of particular interest to genre fans. Chief and foremost is Daria Nicolodi, who gives a fantastic performance in an otherwise Edgar Allan Poe-ish tale of sorts. There’s also Mario Bava’s unmistakable use of strong visuals, particularly when it comes to the effects. The body count isn’t high (at least compared to his 1971 film A Bay of Blood), but there’s an interesting turn of events when the reason behind the metaphysical disturbances is revealed, showing another side of a character that was previously hidden. Some of the script’s elements are a little messy in the end, but Shock remains an above average thriller that many horror fans tend to undervalue, particularly from an era when similar films from Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci were being released.
Shock was shot by Alberto Spagnoli on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray debut of the film features a new 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative, utilizing additional 35 mm intermediary elements for English language opening and closing credits and text inserts within the film. The option to watch the either version, which are otherwise identical, can be selected in the main menu. This presentation is miles beyond the previous DVD releases in every conceivable way. There’s a healthy layer of well-attenuated grain on display, which only spikes during the few optical shots. The film also sometimes uses diffusion filters for effect, but even so, detail has increased dramatically, particularly in the shadows. The color palette offers a nice array of hues, including strong uses of green, red, and blue. A very faint yellow line briefly runs through the frame in the beginning of the film, but disappears thereafter (it’s so faint that you might not even notice it). There’s also a couple of frames at the 7:58 mark wherein the color temperature is a little hotter, but it’s hardly noticeable. Blacks are deep with excellent contrast, and outside of the previously-mentioned minor flaws, it’s incredibly clean and stable. Doubtless that a 4K scan and restoration presented in 2160p would yield more visual information, but this is a striking transfer all its own that most fans will be more than satisfied with.
Audio is included in either English or Italian mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It should be noted that even though there are two language options to choose from in the main menu, the disc will not allow you to toggle between them, regardless of which version you choose. The post dubbing is also loose against the picture on both versions. In terms of quality, they’re extremely similar outside of their languages. The dubbing on the Italian track is a bit flatter, but both tracks work well with good support for the music and sound effects.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
- A Ghost in the House (HD – 30:34)
- Via Dell’Orologio 33 (HD – 33:48)
- The Devil Pulls the Strings (HD – 20:45)
- Shock! Horror! The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava (HD – 51:46)
- The Most Atrocious Tortur(e) (HD – 4:12)
- Italian Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:35)
- US Beyond the Door II TV Spot #1 (HD – :31)
- US Beyond the Door II TV Spot #2 (HD – :27)
- US Beyond the Door II TV Spot #3 (Upscaled SD – :11)
- US Beyond the Door II TV Spot #4 (Upscaled SD – :11)
- US Beyond the Door II/The Dark TV Spot (HD – :31)
- Posters Image Gallery (HD – 7 in all)
- Italian Fotobuste Image Gallery (HD – 12 in all)
- Japanese Souvenir Program Image Gallery (HD – 11 in all)
Mario Bava biographer and film historian Tim Lucas provides another invaluable audio commentary, talking extensively about the creation of the film. He also delves into Mario and Lamberto Bava’s working relationship, and Daria Nicolodi’s involvement in the film, noting her recent divorce from Dario Argento and her subsequent battle with anorexia. He speaks on the film’s style compared to other works by Bava, the score by Libra, and discusses the subject matter as it plays out on screen.
In A Ghost in the House, co-director Lamberto Bava talks about the genesis of the project, eventually writing the script, elements of the film, Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin, Jr., Ivan Rassimov, working with his father, practical effects, Alberto Spagnoli, Libra, and the film’s release. In Via Dell’Orologio 33, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti talks about his career up to and including Shock, getting to know and working with Mario Bava, the process of writing the film, the differences between his original script and the final version, Daria Nicolodi, and Mario Bava’s death. In The Devil Pulls the Strings: Puppetry and Possession in Mario Bava’s Shock, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas delves deeply into her favorite Mario Bava film, discussing its thematics and motifs in detail. In Shock! Horror!, author and critic Stephen Thrower also discusses the film, defending it for many of its positives against those who would otherwise deem it unworthy in comparison to the rest of Bava’s filmography. In The Most Atrocious Tortur(e), critic Alberto Farini (in aural form) talks about interviewing Daria Nicolodi and speaking to her about a drawing given to her by Mario Bava. Next is the film’s Italian theatrical trailer, five US TV spots—one featuring a double bill with the film The Dark, and three Image Galleries, which comprise 30 stills of posters, an Italian fotobuste, and a Japanese souvenir program. Not carried from the Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVD releases is an interview with Lamberto Bava.
The disc sits inside a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork: new artwork by Christopher Shy on the front and the original Italian theatrical artwork with English text on the reverse. Also included is a 24-page insert booklet containing cast and crew information, Shock Horror a la Bava by Troy Howarth, restoration information, and production credits. Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring the same new artwork.
Shock is bound to have a resurgence thanks to Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release of the film. Presenting it with the best picture quality available and a set of quality extras, opinions on the film are bound to change. And folks new to the film are likely to find a new slice of Italian horror that they’ve been missing out on. Either way, this release comes highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons