‘Shock’ Arrow Video Blu-Ray Review – Horror Icon Mario Bava Delves Into The Supernatural In Final Film

In a career spanning four decades and encompassing virtually every genre under the sun, Mario Bava inspired multiple generations of filmmakers, from Dario Argento to Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton. Best remembered for his gothic horror movies, for his final feature, Shock, he eschewed the grand guignol excesses of Black Sabbath or Blood and Black Lace for a more intimate portrait of mental breakdown in which true horror comes from within. Dora (Daria Nicolodi, Deep Red) moves back into her old family home with her husband, Bruno (John Steiner, Tenebrae), and Marco (David Colin Jr., Beyond the Door), her young son from her previous marriage. But domestic bliss proves elusive as numerous strange and disturbing occurrences transpire, while Dora is haunted by a series of nightmares and hallucinations, many of them involving her dead former husband. Is the house itself possessed? Or does Dora’s increasingly fragile grip on reality originate from somewhere far closer to home? Released in the United States as a sequel to Ovidio G. Assonitis’s Beyond the Door, Shock more than lives up to its name, proving that, even at this late stage in his career, Bava hadn’t lost his touch for terror. Now restored in high definition for the first time, the Maestro of the Macabre’s chilling swansong disturbs like never before in this feature-laden release from Arrow Video.

For thoughts on Shock, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic here

Video Quality

Shock comes to Blu-Ray courtesy of Arrow Video in its original 1.85:1 sourced from an excellent 2K restoration of the original 35mm negative with an additional scan of 35mm intermediary elements for the opening and closing titles in the English language version. The only word to describe this presentation is beautiful. The striking photography which captures the domestic location sparkles in high definition with natural grain intact and nicely resolved. There is a fantastic amount of detail present with nice textures on the clothing and production design. The new transfer shows off a great amount of depth and enhanced detail. There are certain elements like close-up shots of decaying hands that look quite striking in their clarity. Black levels are very deep with no trace of black crush or compression artifacts. The contrast is well defined, and there is virtually no print damage to be found outside a few stray moments. Arrow Video has done a miraculous job with this transfer in a way that should make anyone who decides to pick this release up extremely happy. 

Audio Quality

This Blu-Ray comes with DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mono tracks in English and Italian (with optional English subtitles). Dialogue sounds perfectly clear without sound effects or the score trouncing on important information. The film employs some powerful sound effects in the form of terrifying moments that are given the appropriate weight within the mix. The film is more of a straightforward dialogue-driven affair with only sporadic frights leading up to the climax. The score from Libra comes through nicely in relation to the competing sounds. This presentation presents everything accurately with pleasing fidelity and without damage or other unwanted issues. 

Special Features

The first-pressing of the Arrow Video Blu-Ray of Shock includes a booklet featuring the essay “Shock Horror à la Bava” by film scholar Troy Howarth. This piece provides a great analysis of the film in the context of the career of Mario Bava, its themes, its legacy and more. The booklet also contains the details of the restoration. The on-disc special features are as follows: 

  • Audio Commentary: Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, delivers a fantastic commentary track in which he discusses the contributions of Mario and Lamberto Bava, how the film was marketed domestically, the performances in the film, the production schedule, how this feature connects stylistically to other works from the creatives, how this fits into the filmography of Mario Bava, the plot developments of the film and more. Lucas is very steady and consistent in delivery, leaving you feeling like you have taken a crash course on Mario Bava by the end of the track. 
  • A Ghost In The House: A new 31-minute interview with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava in which he discusses the work of his father, how this project came to be, his contributions to the film, the tonal shifts within the story, the performances in the film and how they tried to diversify the casting, the special effects in the film, the collaborations with the crew and more. This is filled with great insights and fun anecdotes that fans of the Bava family will really appreciate. 
  • Via Dell’Orologio 33: A new 34-miinute interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti in which he reflects on the legacy of the film, regrets he has concerning his career, his collaborations with Mario Bava, how he got cut of the project due to bankruptcy logistics, the look and tone of the film, provides some incredible backstory on the meaning behind the wall and much more. This is a real gem of an interview that gives so much background detail that is more than just surface level. 
  • The Devil Pulls The Strings: A 21-minute visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas which delves into the the connection between art and horror, the sculptures in the film, how imagery of hands is utilized within the film, the allusions to string and puppetry, the invisible and unspoken forces of the narrative and more. 
  • Shock! Horror! – The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava: An excellent 52-minute visual appreciation from author and critic Stephen Thrower which analyzes the work of Mario Bava, how Shock is judged in the context of his larger work, recurring visual motifs within his work, the connection to other art of the era, numerous stylistic choices and more. Once again, this supplement is an invaluable resource that is nearly as rewarding as the film itself. 
  • The Most Atrocious Tortur(e): A new four-minute piece with critic Alberto Farina in which he talks about star Daria Nicolodi and her work with Bava. 
  • Trailers
    • Italian Theatrical Trailer (3:35)
    • US Beyond The Door II TV Spot 1 (0:31)
    • US Beyond The Door II TV Spot 2 (0:27)
    • US Beyond The Door II TV Spot 3 (0:11)
    • US Beyond The Door II TV Spot 4 (0:11)
    • US Beyond The Door II/ The Dark TV Spot (0:31)
  • Image Galleries: This disc provides galleries for Posters, Italian Fotobuste and a Japanese Souvenir Program. 

 

Final Thoughts

Shock is perhaps best known for being the final film from the legendary Mario Bava, but those who go into it expecting more of the same will be thrown for a loop. This story has some of the traits that made him such an important figure, but the overall change in tone and approach is apparent, perhaps due to a mixture of his age and collaboration with his son, Lamberto Bava. The result is fitfully compelling with some memorably creepy imagery that shows he still had some gas in the tank. There are portions of the film that are a bit underwhelming, but it is still very much worth exploring for fans of the late filmmaker. Arrow Video has released a Blu-Ray featuring a stellar A/V presentation and an array of special features that are as enticing as the feature film itself. If you are a fan of Mario Bava, this release is calling your name. Recommended 

Shock is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Arrow Video has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.