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Following a bungled robbery, three violent criminals take a young woman, a middle-aged man, and a child hostage and force them to drive them outside Rome to help them make a clean getaway.
For more about Kidnapped and the Kidnapped Blu-ray release, see Kidnapped Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Riccardo Cucciolla, Maurice Poli, George Eastman, Don Backy, Lea Lander
Director: Mario Bava
» See full cast & crew
Kidnapped Blu-ray Review
Bava's once-lost thriller speeds onto Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 8, 2013
One of Italo-horror maestro Mario Bava's final films, Kidnapped—a.k.a. Rabid Dogs—was made in 1974 but soon thereafter was seized by courts when the movie's investor died in a car accident, bankrupting the production. The film went almost entirely unseen until 1998, when its lead actress, Lea Lander, helped arranged for a region-free DVD release in Germany under the title Rabid Dogs, even bookending the film with newly shot footage to help smooth out the almost-but-not-quite-finished movie's plot. A few years later, producer Alfredo Leone bought back the rights and re-released the film, this time under the name Kidnapped, adding and subtracting his own cuts—with the oversight of Bava's son, Lamberto, a director in his own right—and bringing in original composer Stelvio Cipriani to create an all-new score. (An unnecessary all-new score, considering the original music was fine, while the re-score sounds like a bad imitation of cornball 1980s and early '90s cues from action TV series.) In 2007, Anchor Bay put out a DVD with both cuts of the once-lost film, along with an audio commentary by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas, who personally translated the subtitles, and a featurette about the movie's strange history. Kino-Lorber's new Blu-ray release is comparatively bare-boned—devoid of extras and featuring only the Kidnapped cut, which is arguably the lesser of the two—but it is stunning to behold, easily besting all prior home video versions in picture quality.
With a career rooted in gothic horror, sci-fi/fantasy, and proto-slasher gialli, Kidnapped was quite a departure for Bava. It certainly still has giallo elements—a bloody switchblade, leather gloves, a certain stylishness—but the film is closer to the poliziotteschi action/crime movies popular at the time, and it hums along with a Peckinpah-like sense of unease, with long stretches of tension punctuated by moments of sudden violence and sexual cruelty. It's the most realistic of Bava's movies, and it's a shame he didn't get to explore this avenue in further films before retiring in 1978.
The story is exceptionally simple, but plotting is less important here than the suspense and uncertainty Bava generates. The film opens with a gang of criminals—disguised with Groucho glasses—holding up the payroll clerk of a pharmaceutical company. The thugs kill the guy and make off with the satchelful of cash, but when Rome's politzia municipale close in on them, they duck into a parking garage, taking two terrified female shoppers hostage, one of whom accidentally gets stabbed in the neck and bleeds out on the concrete floor. They escape with the other woman, Maria (Lea Lander), and knowing that the cops will be looking for their green Fiat 125, they carjack a vehicle at a stop light—the film's original shooting title was Semafora Rosso, or Red Light—and force the driver, Ricardo (Ricardo Cucciola), to stear them outside of town. The one issue? The police have set up roadblocks. The other issue? Ricardo was on his way to drop off his very sick young son—who's sedated in the backseat—at the emergency room.
With the scenario set up, Kidnapped becomes about the increasingly intense interactions between the characters, who are trapped together in a tiny European car on a hot summer day with no air conditioning. Ricardo is trying his best to stay cool—figuratively and literally—while Maria is in full- on meltdown mode, sobbing and freaking out and making lame attempts at escape. You can hardly blame her; her captors are vile, cackling dirtbags who shut her up with a stone cold fact: "We've already killed four people; one more won't make any difference." Dottore (Maurice Poli), riding shotgun, is the level-headed brains of the outfit—he's most keen to simply get through this—but Maria is sandwiched in back between the on-edge "Blade" (Don Backy), a knife-wielding lunatic who who looks like an even dopier Sylvester Stallone, and the pruriently-minded "Thirty-Two" (cult favorite George Eastman), whose suggestive sobriquet is a reference to his penis size in centimeters. (That's just over a foot long, for the metric-impaired.) There's a shot late in the film—where Thirty-Two's bulge is visible through his tight-ass jeans—that puts the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album cover to shame. He's a sexually aggressive presence, and the film reaches its apex of seamy uncomfortableness when he makes Maria pee in front of him during a pit stop.
Yes, there's a little bit of The Last House on the Left here, not just in the lifting of the infamous forced urination scene, but also in Kidnapped's overwhelmingly nihilistic tone. The cruel sadism of Thirty-Two and Blade. The lack of respect for human life. The bleakness of Maria and Ricardo's prospects for survival. It may take place completely during the day, but this is a dark film, unrelentingly confronting us with the worst of humanity. While it is a good film, Kidnapped isn't quite the long-lost masterpiece that some have made it out to be. Tension slackens on more than a few occasions—Bava just isn't as good as, say, Hitchcock at sustaining suspense in a single location—and the acting veers a little too wildly into unintentional camp, especially in regard to the two amped-up goons in the back seat. Still, for Italo-crime/giallo fans, Kidnapped's pros far outweigh its cons; not only does it have a fascinating history—it's unexpected reappearance 15 years ago was a gift from the exploitation movie gods— but it's also holds up rather well today as a pedal-to-the-metal joyride into the heart of darkness.
Kidnapped Blu-ray, Video Quality
Kino-Lorber has become known for their "as-is" high definition transfers—they typically don't do any intensive digital restoration work on their releases— so the picture quality of their titles is very much dependent on the condition of the prints. In the case of Kidnapped, the source material is in terrific shape. You'll notice a few of the usual quirks—some white specks, some hairs stuck in the camera gate, some light color fluttering—but all of these minor concerns are vastly overshadowed by how damn great the film looks in HD. (If you've seen the Anchor Bay DVD, the difference will be striking and immediate.) Without a trace of digital noise reduction or edge enhancement, the picture has a warm, organically filmic look that just couldn't ever be resolved in standard definition. The level of clarity is the most obvious improvement—fine detail is easily visible in the textures of faces and clothing—but color also gets a boost, with balanced contrast, good saturation, and no major tonal discrepancies between shots or scenes. Sure, Kidnapped could still use a bit of spit and polish, but this is by far the best the film has ever looked on home video.
Kidnapped Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kino has given the film an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 track that's stable, listenable, and—like the high definition transfer—has no substantive issues. Pops, crackles, and hisses are almost non-existent, and the mix has a consistent level of clarity and presence, with clear dialogue and effects. Of course, there's nothing outright impressive about the track—this is a low-budget Italian thriller from the '70s, after all, complete with noticeable dubbing—but this is probably the best Kidnapped will ever sound. The one glaring downside to this cut of the film, however, is composer Stelvio Cipriani's exceptionally cheesy remade score, which replaces the moodiness of the original with dated synth sounds straight from some cornball 1980s action TV series. Oh well. Let this be a lesson that some things are better left alone.
Kidnapped Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extras on the disc, unfortunately, are trailers for the other films in Kino's Mario Bava collection—Black Sunday, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Baron Blood, Lisa and the Devil, and The House of Exorcism.
Kidnapped Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mario Bava's once-lost Kidnapped is relatively straightforward and realistic compared to the director's better-known slashers, gialli, and Gothic chillers, but it hums along with a sick sense of dread that's certainly not out of place in his body of work. This is a gnarly little thriller in the nihilistic 1970s mold, and we're lucky that actress Lea Lander helped save it from obscurity in the late 1990s. With their new Blu-ray, Kino-Lorber adds another chapter to the film's home video history; though this release isn't nearly as comprehensive as Anchor Bay's 2007 DVD set—which included two cuts of the film and several supplements—there's no questioning that it's the better-looking, with a high definition transfer that's simply gorgeous. Recommended for all Euro-thriller fans!
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