Mario Bava's Kidnapped (A.K.A. Rabid Dogs) – DVD Review

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Directed by
Mario Bava

Riccardo Cucciolla … Riccardo
Don Backy … Bisturi
Lea Lander … Maria
Maurice Poli … Doc
George Eastman … Thirtytwo
Maria Fabbri … Maria Sbravati
Erika Dario … Marisa
Luigi Antonio Guerra … Employee
Francesco Ferrini … Gas Station Attendant
Emilio Bonucci … Taxi Driver
Pino Manzari … Toll Collector
Ettore Manni … Bank President

The Movie:

It’s sad to hear stories about great filmmakers falling on hard times. From Orson Welles to Akira Kursosawa, genius directors can often become outcasts for one reason or another. Perhaps the worst is when a director seems to become obsolete as the next generation becomes popular and usurps their position in the film community. This was the case for Mario Bava, the greatest maker of Italian Horror films in the 1960’s, who by the mid 70’s was struggling to compete with the new wave of Italian Horror directors, lead by Dario Argento.

With his last bid to reinvent himself for a new generation, Bava conceived a new film that would be free of the supernatural elements that normally accompanied his films, opting instead to tell a gritty thriller with a unpleasantly claustrophobic setting. Unfortunately for the filmmaker, as his film Rabid Dogs went into the editing stage, the studio funding the project went bankrupt. The film’s ownership went into question, which lead to decades of legal battles, never allowing the project to see the light of days until the late 90’s, more than 15 years after the director’s death.

Finally getting an American DVD release, Mario Bava’s last film, now entitled Kidnapped, can finally be seen by fans of the master for the first time, showcasing his immense talent even in his late 60’s, when most of his contemporaries had already retired. Kidnapped is a pulse pounding, gruesome experience with terrific performances from all involved. Available in two different versions on this new disc, this film is one that Bava would have been proud of, as it probably would have garnered him further and much deserved worldwide attention upon its release.

Much like Reservoir Dogs, the film has a simple premise involving a botched heist. The movie stars Maurice Poli as Doc, the leader of a small gang who manage to steal the payroll of a local pharmaceutical company, but in the getaway lose their driver and have to take hostages in order to make their escape. Already kidnapping one woman named Maria (Lea Lander), the criminals come across innocent motorist Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla) and a young boy, carjacking their vehicle and taking them as extra hostages.

Much like Hitchcock’s experiments in claustrophobic surroundings (Lifeboat and Rope), Kidnapped puts its characters in a small setting and simply lets their fears and desires take the film where it needs to go. The relationships of the criminals slowly devolve as Doc’s associates, Thirty-two (George Eastman) and Bisturi (Don Backy), let their almost animal instincts take them over, resulting in violence against Maria and others. When their actions lead to the group possibly getting caught, ties are severed within them and a brutal reality starts to set in.

Bava cleverly shot the film using a working car and a replica set upon a flatbed truck. Really only shooting for a couple of weeks, the director adapted to the more guerrilla style creating his most stark work, ratcheting up the tension as the heat and the emotions of the characters pulls them all further and further down. Violence is also staged with finesse, as Bava lets the most atrocious acts take place off screen, showing only the horrible aftermaths.

The film is boosted by the terrifically understated work by Riccardo Cucciolla and Maurice Poli, the only men that seem to manage to keep their cool while all others in the car start to completely lose their minds. Both do masterful work as these characters that have to calculate how to make their moves in order get out of this situation alive. With the others in the vehicle letting the tensions break them; these two remain the eye of the storm, with the final conflict of the film coming down to how far they are willing to go and how quick their wits are.

Again, this disc provides two different versions of the film; Bava’s original workprint version of the movie, and a newer re-cut version with some added scenes shot by Bava’s son and accomplished director in his own right, Lamberto Bava. While the newer version is edited a little tighter and is also boosted by the new footage, the movie loses a bit of its unrefined energy displayed within Bava’s original cut. Perhaps the biggest loss in the transition was the brilliant 70’s score by Stelvio Cipriani, reminiscent of the Giallo classics of the period, which is replaced on the newer version.

Still, both versions offer up the work of a master trying to stay on the cutting edge. Bava was an amazing artist and it is brought fourth even further here, as Kidnapped shows just how far Bava was willing to adapt his style to accommodate a modern audience while still giving us a great film. It’s just too bad this work was unable to see the light of day until it was too late for its creator to get to enjoy it.

The DVD:

The Video
The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The newer cut of Kidnapped is a much better looking print, as it was seriously cleaned up for this new release. The older print suffers some visually, but not enough to be very distracting, especially if you’re a fan of this genre and know what to expect in this department already.

The Audio
The audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also fine in both cases, with the newer version having a better Italian dub. As I said before though, the newer version loses the film’s original score, and the new one feels too clean for a picture of this type.


End of the Road – This featurette goes about 16 minutes and deals with everything from the film’s origins to its eventual release and then re-release with new footage that premiered just a few years ago. Even for its length, this is chocked full of tidbits about the film’s production, with Lamberto Bava dishing on how difficult it was to finally finish the movie. There’s a section in here about how the production started with Al Lettieri, who played Virgil ‘The Turk’ Sollozzo in The Godfather, in the role of Richardo, who was let go from the picture due to sickness and alcoholism. They apparently lost quite a bit of time by having to start over, and I wonder if the movie would have finished if they had originally cast Riccardo Cucciolla.

Audio Commentary with Author Tim Lucas – Lucas is an accomplished Bava historian and gives an excellent audio track here. This track is flooded with facts about this production and discussions that take place within the film. Lucas also goes into details about Bava’s career, as well as the cast in the film. There’s an interesting story about how one distributor in Europe wanted to market the movie as a sequel to Reservoir Dogs. Lucas states that when he was asked about it, Quentin Tarantino states he was honored that someone would want to do that, showing his love for Bava.

Trailers – You get the trailers for all the films collected in the new Mario Bava Collection as well as this film.

Mario Bava Bio

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Mario Bava’s Kidnapped (A.K.A. Rabid Dogs)
(OUT OF 10)