If you're a horror fan who hasn't heard of Mario Bava then, as the saying goes, you'd better check yourself before you apply a not inconsiderable amount of damage to yourself. Bava is a towering influence over the horror genre, a man with an eye for gorgeous visuals, and also quite a few gorgeous women to cast in main roles. That doesn't mean that I love everything he ever did. I am one of the few people who doesn't view Planet Of The Vampires as a masterpiece. This is another film that I view as a lesser outing from the man, but it has just enough in the mix to make it worth your time.
A bunch of people are gathered on a small island. Most of them are simply hoping to relax, but some are trying to persuade Professor Gerry Farrell (William Berger) to sell a new scientific formula that he has come up with. And then someone turns up dead. Soon followed by someone else. It's not long until everyone is fearing for their lives. But who is the killer?
Working from a story by Mario di Nardo (an idea taken, apparently, from an uncredited, classic Agatha Christie tale), this is a fun, if lightweight, whodunnit. In fact, the third act pulls the rug from under the feet of viewers in a way that underlines the humour of the piece. Bava often laces his movies with black humour - arguably peaking in the punchline that would end his next film, A Bay Of Blood - and this is another that will make you smile in between the bloodshed.
It's a shame that this feels so ugly and unstylish compared to Bava's other movies, and the drab visuals and low energy levels end up dragging the whole thing down a level. Compare this to the likes of Blood And Black Lace, for example, and the differences seem vast. Others may disagree, but this felt like the most un-Bava movie I've seen yet from him.
The cast all do what is required of them, although nobody really stands out. Well, apart from the glorious gorgeousness that is Edwige Fenech, who would stand out in anything. Fenech is a highlight, due to the fact that she's Fenech, but Berger, Edith Meloni, Ely Galleani, Helena Ronee, Howard Ross, Ira von Furstenberg, Mauro Bosco and Teodoro Corra all try their best. Corra, in particular, has fun as the man who owns the island, therefore making him a prime suspect when the killing begins.
No Bava film is ever bad, from the selection I have seen so far. It just so happens that some aren't as good as others. This one isn't half as good as his best outings. It's still alright though. And when was the last time you read a movie review that ended on that kind of ringing endorsement? Sometimes the words just seem to flow right through me.