An evening with Lamberto Bava

We meet the director of horror hits like Demons and Blade In The Dark.

by Jennie Kermode

The third in what is now a four generation film-making family, Lamberto Bava is perhaps most famous in Britain for his Demons films and Blade In The Dark, but he has been a prolific director of horror and fantasy work and has also contributed to films directed by the likes of Ruggero Deodato and Dario Argento. We met when he visited Glasgow and he spoke enthusiastically about his experiences in Scotland, where he had enjoyed visiting Loch Lomond (even if he doesn't like Irn-Bru). Charming and friendly, apologising (unnecessarily) for his imperfect English, he's the antithesis of what the pro-censorship lobby have taught us to expect of horror directors. As we prepared to attend a screening of Macabre, I asked him how it all started.

"Macabre was my first film, 30 years ago, but no matter how often I watch it today I still think it's really good. It's the reason why I wanted to make films," he tells me. "Even today I think it stands up very well, with a story that's a bit out of the ordinary."

The story concerns a woman who remains somewhat overenthusiastically attached to her dead lover, provoking suspicion in the owner of the guest house where she lives. It's largely a psychological horror story with a heavy helping of melodrama and a startling twist ending.

"I got on really well with the actors. The methods I used to film it and the music all worked well together. There are a few things about it that I might do differently today, but generally I still like it very much."

It's famously based on a true story - I ask him if he developed the idea himself.

"Four of us wrote it - Pupi Avati, Antonio [Avati], Roberto [Gandus] and me," he explains. "It was better with four of us than writing alone because alone it would have been too easy to start writing in a direction that didn't work, and with the four of us we could keep everything going on the right track."

So was it difficult, at that stage in his career, for him to carve out his own space, or did he feel that his family background was a strength and something which supported him in his work?

"My father [Mario Bava] was very helpful and I hope I have learned a lot from him," he says fondly. "When I wrote the script I asked him if he wanted to read it and he actually said no, he didn't want to because he didn't want to influence what I was going to do. Even though I felt a bit bad about that I soon realised that he'd done the right thing. When it was shown for the first time, privately, with my father and Dario [Argento], my father said that now he could die happy; but unfortunately, a month later, he did die. It was a hard thing to go through and it's only now, after 30 years, that I can tell that story with a smile."

I ask about the work they did together on his father's films and how that helped him to develop his skills.

"Even though I started as third assistant to my father on Planet Of The Vampires, he would give me things to read up on and consider, and he'd ask what I thought of things and whether or not I thought they would work. Even at quite a young age I was helping him," he says. He also has fond memories of working with Dario Argento from whom, he says, he learned a lot.

Lambert has done a lot of different types of horror and fantasy filmmaking. What are his favourites?

"Every film I've made has something interesting about it," he says. "Three of my favourites are Demons, Fantaghiro and Ghost Son. I really like the fantasy genre - I actually like fairytales more than anything. In the real world there's not much one can do about one's problems but in the fantasy world there is. I like making films for children. The first film I ever saw with my mother and father was Bambi, and when Bambi's mother was killed I was so upset that I cried for two days afterwards. That's a film that has more badness in it than any horror film!"

I ask him what it is that draws him to a story and inspires him to develop it.

"I'm attracted to stories that are totally out of the ordinary. For example, Ghost Son wasn't a horror film to me, it was a love story. It's just that the love story continued after one of them had died, so then it became a fantasy type story."

Is it difficult to find funding and support for films like this?

"Yes," he says. "Ten or 15 years ago it was pretty easy to find money but now, at least in Italy, it's really difficult. I think it's harder when it comes to films with a fantastic element, or horror, because they're not considered cultural. That's unfortunate. But I have a lot of different interests. I'm writing a new adventure story at the moment, for a film, and I'm also finishing up a novel ready for publication."

Despite this busy schedule, Lamberto is happy to take the time to sign autographs for fans who have come to see him. When one offers him a gift a music CD, he insists on getting the musician to sign it for him, in return. Horror and fantasy films may not be seen as cultural, but it's clear that Lamberto is very much a part of this thriving subculture.

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