Tuesday, February 27, 2018


I know that I've seen at least two different version of this film and to be brutally honest I’m seriously
thinking that the first one is the superior cut, the one I watched at the Cinematek tonight isn’t that one. (Although the Cinematek screening a good half dozen Bava films is something you never can complain about, this is about the several version of Rabid Dogs, not their selection.)

Mario Bava’s magnificent chamber-piece thriller, that more or less all takes place inside a moving automobile full of people kidnapped after a bunch of bank robbers need to make a hasty escape. Sweaty, frustrated, dirty and grimey, it’s a masterpiece of tension building drama as the movie torments its characters in one way and another until the last moment twist that knocked me on my ass the first time I saw it back in the nineties… In the cut that I feel to be the better.

Believe it or not, there’s a whopping FIVE different edits of this film, and the story goes like this.

In 1973 Mario Bava looking to recoup his failing audiences shifted focus and set his sights on the Poliziotteschi genre in his own special way. But being super low budget the production hit trouble along the way. Amongst the tales told, leading man Riccardo Cucciolla was a last-minute replacement when the original leading man Al Lettieri kept turning up late and drunk to set. Running out of funds during the short three-week shoot, cinematographer Emillio Varriano was fired and Bava stepped in to shot the film to meet ends, and then producer Roberto Loyola went bankrupt seeing the movie being shelved as his company folded. BUT despite all that, Bava was basically wrapped. All that was missing was some footage of helicopters searching for the suspects in their getaway car, and a pre-credit sequence… I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Several years later Peter Blumenstock of Luccertola Media upped funding for leading lady Lea Lander’s company Spera Cinemtographica, and the first ever version was assembled (with the help of editor Carlo Reali’s rough cut) under the name Semaforo Rosso (Red Traffic Light) a version which had its initial screening at the Milan film market in ’95, and later at the 14th BIFF in ’96. This version had some video footage inserted to make up for the lost shots.

As a strictly limited 2000 pcs release, Blumenstock’s Luccertola Media released the film on DVD in 1998 without the video inserts of the Spera version but with an added new opening that teases with a crying woman as the credits roll, according to Bava’s notes on the film. (Supposedly Blumenstock’a at the time girlfriend). This version also has the original ending compete, an original ending that shows Cucciolla talking to Mrs Girotto, telling her that he has her son, and that he want’s three billion lire if they ever are to see him again. He hangs up and walks back to the car, opens the boot to reveal that the boy now locked in the boot of the car as the credits start roll. Perfection.

Then…  Five damned versions later* and in something I’m only guessing was to reclaim the rights to the project or something bullshity like that, Lamberto Bava and son Roy Bava shoot new footage and have that inserted into the film, rename it KIDNAPPED and that’s the version that everyone seems to prefer… but not me. This version has new credits, new footage – that certainly doesn’t match up the original footage it’s cut against – and  for some god only knows why reason, Bava/Leone decided that the superbly swanky Cirpirani score had to go and rescored the movie. I cannot understand that move at all, because the phenomenally well-fitting brooding score that fits like hand in glove to Rabid Dogs is gone and exchanged for a swanky piece of crap that’s honestly an embarrassment for Cipriani as it sounds like a late Sunday night TV-movie reject score. And don’t get me started on that god-awful song that crowns the defilement of Mario Bava’s masterpiece.

They also redubbed it whilst they were at it.

The Kidnapped version has several cutaways to the 2001 version of Mrs Girotto talking on the phone, asking about her kidnapped son. She has a couple of scenes of her shot, against a police investigator, who does F-all but sit behind his desk for a quick cut away, and later with Cucciolla when he calls in his demands during the final scene. That’s also where the Kidnapped version ends. On a conventional shot of her clasping her mouth in shock as the end credit roll. Its immensely annoying as neither her clothes or furnishing in her house match the time period, the footage painfully shows the time difference in 35mm in 1973 compared to 35mm in 2001. It Does Not Work! It takes from the movie and the whole surprise of the shock ending is diminished when we don’t get the profound nihilism of Cucciolla who despite all he’s been though has the we bairn shoved in the boot of his car. In a disturbing way he comes off as the dark anti-hero of Rabid Dogs, something that’s eradicated in the sad-mom ending of Kidnapped.

Look, IT DOES NOT MATCH: (Click and see)
classic grainy 35mm vs. new crisp 35mm. 

Of course taste is a matter of opinion, and everyone had the right to their own decision, but this is my take and choice on the many version of Mario Bava’s posthumous Rabid Dogs. Just for the sake on argument, the Luccertola version runs 1:36:38, the "arrow" Rabid Dogs version 1:31:55 and the Kidnapped version 1:31:35.

- original ending

- new ending

*Yes, five versions, counting the Spera verison of ’95, the Luccertola version of ’98, the German Astro release in 2001, Alberto Leone’s version and then the Leone/Bava version edited by Mauro Bonnani in 2001, the version Bava edited in the way he “felt” his father would have wanted it.

Now Listen to the score and how it changed.

The Original:

The New Version

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