Movie Review

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  • Reviewed Format: Theatrical Preview
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Stars: Riccardo Cucciolla, Lea Lander, Maurice Poli, George Eastman, Don Backy
  • Writers: Cesare Frugoni, Alessandro Parenzo
  • Director: Mario Bava
  • Distributor: Kismet Entertainment


The return of Bava

By Jason Henderson     July 31, 2002

So I caught KIDNAPPED at the Alamo North the other day, the first time I'd seen it, which is no big surprise because practically nobody's seen this movie, except about nine people who bought a previous DVD version called RABID DOGS. This movie is not RABID DOGS, but the completed work that RABID DOGS almost was.

If that's confusing, it's part of what makes this film noteworthyKIDNAPPED is one of those movies whose origin is almost as interesting as the film itself. The short version is: giallo auteur Mario Bava, director of such Italian horror staples as BLACK SUNDAY and BARON BLOOD, made a film called CANI ARRABIATI (RABID DOGS) a few short years before his death. The movie, which has almost no special effects and chronicles a carjacking in modern-day (1974) Rome in almost real time, was almost completed when financial problems shelved the picture until Bava's death, at which point the nearly-finished movie sat in a vault for over 25 years. An edited but still unfinished version finally emerged on bootleg DVD a few years ago as RABID DOGS. Then in 2001, with the help of financiers from Kismet Entertainment, owners of the Bava library, producer Alfredo Leone and Mario's director son Lamberto Bava worked from Mario's notes to shoot the scenes needed to complete the filma task the possible results of which should make any cinephile cringe. The final film, blessed by the Bava family and the surviving cast, is called KIDNAPPED, and while its future fate awaits, it has so far been screened twice, once at a premiere in L.A., and once in Austin at the incredibly strange and wonderful Mecca of film appreciation, the Alamo Cinema and Drafthouse.

Ah, but the film. Luckilyand were all shocked to see itKIDNAPPED is a genuinely disturbing, taut thriller that shows us the kind of violence that people can't seem to watch without mentioning either LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or RESERVOIR DOGS, although it's another Tarantino scriptFROM DUSK TILL DAWNthat features the most eerie similarities to KIDNAPPED.

Here's the setup: four criminals rob a payroll truck in Rome and lose their getaway driver and car in the shootout as they escape into a crowded parking garage. The surviving criminalsthe suave leader "Doc," the knife-wielding "Stiletto" and the oafish, well-endowed "32"grab a panicked female shopper as a hostage, andwith the hostage in towcarjack an old man and his sick, blanket-wrapped comatose son. That leaves us with three criminals and three hostages (including the unconscious son).

The cast of KIDNAPPED

The crazy thing is that all happens in about ten minutes of real-time screen timethe movie has this remarkable flair for feeling like reality and yet being a lot more efficient than that. The rest of the film is one suspense setup after another, as the characters play cruel mind games with one another. The two thugs harass and humiliate the female hostage so ruthlessly that the audience squirms in discomfort although the violence (again as in RESERVOIR DOGS) remains off screen and in your imagination. The old man tries to reason with the seemingly reasonable criminal Doc, alternately bargaining and begging to get his son to a hospital. Various thresholds are crossed and re-crossed as the car makes its way past roadblocks and tollbooths, every time twisting the suspense as the characters try to negotiate their shifting situationshould the victims yell out and risk being killed? Run for it? All the while Bava turns the screws, keeping us aware of the five cramped characters' sweaty discomfort and paranoia.

I'm a big Bava fan, of course, and I love the brilliant-colored fever-dreams he and his contemporaries and followers created (such as BARON BLOOD) as well as languid supernatural fairy tales like Bava's black-and-white, nearly expressionistic BLACK SUNDAY. This movie is nothing like thatKIDNAPPED is Bava reinventing himself with a completely different creation, a movie so intense and modern that it feels nothing like the '70s crime films and horrors coming out at the time. It feels real and scary in a different way. I'm trying to imagine KIDNAPPED at a theater with DOG DAY AFTERNOON and I'm struck by the quick editing and the constant pressure the screenplay maintains, which is a mark of today, not yesterday. It was a mark of Bava's tomorrow, which he never got to share.

KIDNAPPED never came out. It's ripe for remaking, of course, but before you see that one, you should see this one. With any luck, you'll be able to.

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