Monday, March 20, 2006

INFERNO Question

Q: I heard from someone, I don't recall when/where, that Luigi Cozzi has stated that Bava actually lighted and shot Argento's INFERNO without taking credit.Is this true? -- Mattias Jonsson

A: Bava was responsible for the film's special optical effects and trick shots. The full moon seen in the movie is a Bava matte painting. The Riverside Drive house was never photographed head-on, but was recreated on the sets at DePaolis from photos taken on location. It only rose a couple of floors, so everything seen above that (and surrounding that) is a Bava illusion -- extended by a maquette and surrounded by faux skyscrapers fashioned from milk cartons and covered with photographs. These tabletop skyscrapers were also used to optically augment shots filmed on location in Central Park. The burning building seen at the end was Bava's maquette going up in optical flames. Bava also did some second unit directing when Argento was stricken with hepatitis, adding little pick-up shots like the slow zoom into the air vent that's issuing lethal gas -- a very PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES shot, I think. He had nothing to do with the underwater chamber sequence, which was shot live (no illusions) in a water tank by Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

TIme For a New Update

It's now late March. Donna and I have been working full-time on the Bava book since early January, except for the week or so that was spent on the mailing of VW #124, and there are two weeks left in our last allotted "free" month before we need to produce another issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG. So it's time to issue a new progress report.

It's been a very productive period, but unfortunately, we're not out of the woods yet. In short, the addition of some 70+ pages to the manuscript required that a couple of new chapters be added to the layout, and illustrations sought and collected and captioned. Donna had completed the book's index, based on the main text, but with the addition of this new material, the index had to be reopened -- and every film title, every name, every year of production referenced by the new material had to be matched for consistency with what was already present in the index, which is now in the neighborhood of 40 pages by itself. As I write this, the main text is now officially "locked down," and that's a huge triumph in itself.

Beginning this week, we turn our attention to adding the front and back matter to the layout. The back matter (filmographies, videography, discography, interview data, photo credits, acknowledgements, index, and List of Patrons) is largely illustration-free and shouldn't be too time-consuming to assemble. I updated the text for the discography and videography yesterday. The front matter (including title and indicia pages, Martin Scorsese's Introduction, Riccardo Freda's Foreword, and my own Preface) will be a bit more involved, but I am hoping to simplify matters by introducing as many full-page illustrations as possible. My goal with all the early pages is to keep illustrations minimal and to use only those photos and posters I would personally classify as "stunning," either for their rarity or their arresting visuals. I've spent a small fortune in the last couple of weeks, acquiring some last-minute rare materials from around the world for this specific purpose -- including another color shot from BLACK SUNDAY I'd never seen before.

I'd like to keep this update upbeat and not concentrate on our difficulties, but the rigors of the past three months have been extremely demanding, especially on Donna. Much of the last month or two alone has been focused on her meticulous correction/completion of the cast-and-credit blocks that appear on the second spread of each chapter. I have been assembling the information for these for well over twenty years, and I'm no longer certain of where I derived my information for most of these -- if I got them off the prints themselves (if so, from which country?), out of old MONTHLY FILM BULLETINS, or out of other books. But as Donna has been compiling the index, the results have brought to our attention countless inconsistencies of spelling, jobs and names, production dates, and so forth. Therefore, Donna has had to call on me to interrupt present work to ask questions about content I haven't thought about in years, or to re-research work which had already been done, or already been thought done. Try it sometime; you'll hate it -- and we've been having a daily diet of it since the day after New Year's.

Now I know why other people don't write books of this size. The sheer mass of the Bava book, and the time it has taken to assemble, means that the main text has become a kind of quicksand, as far as adding to it is concerned. To add a single detail means getting bogged down in a complex procedure, in which that detail must be checked against many others. For example, it was only after compiling the index that we learned there was a Patricia Zulini mentioned on page 756 and a Patrizia Zulmi mentioned on page 830, so we had to determine if these were two people with similar names, or if one was correct and the other misspelled, and which was which. Multiply that example times several several hundred and you'll begin to have an idea of what our year has been like.

It's important that the Bava book maintain consistency in its information, that it standardize spellings and release dates and such, however other sources may differ on such topics. To work on such soulless data for weeks on end can be very disspiriting, especially when we suspect that the very fine details bogging us down and impeding the book's speedier progress aren't going to matter to the larger percentage of the book's readership. But as Donna says, "It's one thing to make an innocent mistake, something you overlook; it's something else to make a stupid mistake." And stupid mistakes are the ones you let pass simply because you're sick to death of wrestling with them. (In retrospect, it may have been a stupid mistake to include credit blocks at all, because we now live in a world with easy access not only to the IMDb, but to the movies as well... but truth be told, neither of these outside sources is necessarily accurate or complete.)

And so we soldier on. Donna expects to get through all the print layout by the time we have to stop at the end of the month. She won't have time to start dropping in the graphics and seeing which of these digital restorations may or may not need additional work. Come April, it's not only VW time but also income tax time, and the IRS waits for no one. So, I must sadly report, we will be resuming work on VW with the Bava book greatly advanced, but still unfinished.

We haven't yet decided if we are going to have VW #125 cover a three-month period rather than the current bimonthly schedule, or if we are going to produce #125 and #126 back-to-back to buy the necessary additional time to complete the book. Either way, we intend to return to work on the book by the third week in April.

Considering that we did not finish during this period as expected, Donna estimates that our previously announced Summer release is no longer realistic, considering the work still ahead of her. Therefore, factoring in the three months' lead time required by our printer for printing and delivery, it is safest to issue a revised estimated release date of October-November 2006.

Of course, if the photos yet to be imported to the layout are good-to-go as they are, that will simplify the task and mean that the book can be delivered to the printer sooner. That could move the release date up to September. It will be another month or so before we will know anything about that, so keep checking back for additional updates.