Home Video Hovel: Kidnapped, by Sarah Brinks
I have to admit that, going into Mario Bava’s Kidnapped, the only knowledge I had about Bava was from the “WTF Are You Watching” podcast. I was expecting bad dubbing (check), some good and some really bad performances (check), and hopefully a stroke of unexpected brilliance (check). Kidnapped for a long time was a “lost Bava film.” After being shut down in the mid-70’s due to a loss in funding, the film wasn’t completed until years later when Bava’s son Lamberto and producer Alfredo Leone got the footage and pieced it together. It has been released on Blu-ray, and I was surprised how great it looked. The sharp picture doesn’t have the 70’s graininess I was expecting. The sound is also quite clear, though the dubbing is pretty terrible, but I think that was a sign of its time.
Four men rob a pharmaceutical company of its payroll and drive off. Their driver is shot and killed. Those remains – Doc, 32, and Blades – go on the run, kidnapping a woman named Maria on the way and stealing a car from a man, Ricardo, who was driving his son to the hospital for surgery when. And the chase is on.
For about ninety percent of this movie, I was really annoyed with the characters. 32 and Blades spend most of the movie spazzing out and laughing maniacally, and their victim isn’t much more endearing. Thankfully, I’ve never been held at gun point, but I am assuming the best plan is to be as invisible as possible and not annoy your kidnappers constantly with your hysterics. The two exceptions are Doc and Ricardo, both of whom play it pretty cool, creating a better dynamic. George Eastman (32) is by far the worst actor in the film; he just plays crazy all the time. Without any sort of change to his character, the crazy comes off a obnoxious and uninteresting. He is also very creepy and rapey. He escalates his creepiness with Maria very quickly and everyone, save Ricardo, seems pretty cool with it. Blades at least has some variation to his character. He is full-on crazy too, but at least is able to tone it down from time to time.
I learned a few things watching this movie about 1970’s Italy. Firstly, I know technology was very different back then, but the Italian police must have been really bad at their jobs because they never even come close to catching them. Secondly, 1970’s Italian radio only played about three songs which were all bad electro/jazz hybrids. Lastly, and I know this is an oldie but it is still a goody, don’t bring a gun to a knife fight.
One of the things I like most about the film is the sense of place that you get. They are in Italy on a hot day stuck in a car with six people, and the physical effect is not ignored. They also use the setting of the Italian countryside well. You see farms, rivers, and even a vineyard. Also, the few interactions they have with other people feel very “Italian.” People are either very laid back and cool or they are really wound up and ready to fight. The misogyny of the film is also very much a sign of its time. Maria is treated terribly – she is beaten, nearly raped, and basically tortured the whole time she is in the car. The way she is treated made me feel very uncomfortable many times throughout the film.
I didn’t really like the film very much right up until the end. The cleverness of the ending really saved it for me. At a short running time of only ninety-two minutes the grating nature of most of the characters makes it feel over long. Kidnapped was one of Quentin Tarantino’s inspirations for Reservoir Dogs. So if seeing the origin of that film interests you then I would give it a watch. Also, I think Bava fans will enjoy Kidnapped. The reveal at the end of the film is worth the short running time, but just be prepared to put up with some really annoying characters in the meantime.