Reflecting On Fulci and Bava: Paura and Maestro Of the Macabre


So, today I thought I'd put together two interesting DVDs with a common theme: looking back at the lives of a great, departed Italian genre director. One, Lucio Fulci and the other, Mario Bava. These are individual, "sold separately" releases, but both have turned up, in whole or in part, as extra features on special editions for some of their films. These, however, are their own, dedicated editions - are they any different? Do they have any extras themselves? Let's take a look.
First up is Paura[which means fear, by the way]: Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1. I remember this was originally only available through the Paura Production's website, at two price points, standard or signed. It's a limited edition DVD, capped at 2500 copies, and they also used to sell Team Lucio vs Team Dario t-shirts. Their site's gone, but it's still pretty widely available and now copies are actually available to rent on Netflix. I pointed out in post about Grindhouse's The Beyond, that many of the interviews from this film were included as extras, and the latest news is that now anyone who pre-orders Zombie 3 from 88 Films directly will get a DVD copy. Are these still from the original 2500 batch?? Well, we'll soon see, because I've had Z3 on pre-order from them long before their Paura announcement. [Update 12/13/15: we've seen - click the link for my Zombie 3 review for the full scoop, but the short version is it's the exact same disc with a new label and included in the Z3 case.]
But what actually is Paura? Because it's not actually a documentary film, strictly speaking. Assembled by Mike Baronas, a filmmaker who's created special features for several Fulci films, it's a collection of well over 80 interviews. They're not edited together into one big film, they're 80+ tiny interviews you select from the menu screen, the average length is about 90 seconds including a 25 second intro for each clip that lists what each person's connection to Fulci is alongside some vintage photos. So these are the opposite of in depth, they're usually one anecdote apiece, of each person's memory of Fulci. But it's certainly a very impressive list of participants! Broken up into three categories: Accomplices (crew members, like Sergio Salvati and Fabio Frizzi), Peers (fellow Italian horror filmmakers, like Lamberto Bava and Luigi Cozzi) and Victims (actors, like Al Cliver and Catriona MaColl), there are "Play All" buttons for each section, but not everything from start to finish. The intros all feature mock-versions of Fulci theme music, which gets repetitive having it restart every other minute, but it is kinda cool. Serious fans of Fulci will find this rewarding, but it's definitely not for the casual viewer. It's a little frustrating to think that some interviews were held back for a Vol. 2 that was never made.
These are full-frame interviews, and the video quality is not particularly impressive, presumably shot with old DV cameras. These look like the interviews you'd see on Shriek Show DVDs, probably because that's what they pretty much are. English subtitles are forced on the interviews where the subject isn't already speaking English. But this isn't really the kind of release that's trying to blow you away with its visuals or production values. All the audio is clear and easily to make out, and everybody's reasonably well lit.

There aren't any immediately visible extras on the DVD, but there is an easter egg. Baronas turns the camera around and gives his own interview segment, talking about how he met him at a convention. It also includes an insert with a personal essay by the director on why he decided to make this DVD, and a list of all 88 interviewees on the reverse.
Next we have Mario Bava: Maestro Of the Macabre, a 2001 DVD from Image Entertainment. This is actually a pretty excellent little documentary. It's actually made for British television, so it's full of British talking heads including Kim Newman, Allan Bryce(!) and narrated by Mark Kermode. It's also got great clips from his films and a great collection of interview subjects including Joe Dante, Tim Burton, Lamberto Bava, Sam Arkoff, John Carpenter, Tim Lucas, Dardano Sacchetti and so many more. The only drawback is that because it was made for television, it's limited to a very tight 60 minute run-time. Watching this, you really get the feeling that if they had another hour, they could make a documentary twice as good, and could get more into the films that had to touch on only briefly or skip over entirely. But it's still a great watch for dedicated Bava fans or even people who've yet to see a single one of his movies.
This is an older DVD, and one imagines it would benefit nicely from an HD release; but this actually looks pretty good. It's slightly pillar-boxed to 1.74:1 (although the AR shifts a bit throughout) and thankfully anamorphic. Unfortunately, is absolutely zip by way of extra features or anything. Other releases in different countries tended to at least include a bunch of trailers for other Bava films, which would've been nice. But then again, those foreign releases are non-anamorphic, so the US disc is still the one you want.

...That's assuming you don't already own it in another package, that is. An Australian boxed set has it as part of Masters of Terror Volume 1, an Italian release included it as an extra for Black Sunday and Anchor Bay UK had it as an extra for Hatchet for the Honeymoon. You may want to watch out for that version, though, I've read online that their version, presumably to save a little money on fees, cut out all of Kermode's narration and just left in silent patches wherever he spoke.
Both entries make for pretty nice retrospectives, with Maestro Of the Macabre having the decidedly broader appeal. Most fans, even of these particular directors, may not feel it's worth buying what are in one sense DVD extras minus the movie, but for those with a stronger appreciation, these are definitely recommendable. Even if you don't wind up getting them free with something else.

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