A Movie A Day: Quint on TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1971)
Gee, they’re good at playing dead, aren’t they?
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we continue our Bava run with TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, which is under the title BAY OF BLOOD in my Anchor Bay Mario Bava box set, but the hell I use that title even if it is more appropriate to the movie. TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is way too good of a title to put after the aka.
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is putting me back into my comfort zone. Watching the flick, I found myself instantly transported to the original downtown Alamo Drafthouse, where I spent almost half of my teenage years watching movies like this either for the first time or for the first time on the big screen.
That might not be an accident, actually. I’ve been informed that this film was in one of the Alamo’s all night horrorthons that I know I was at. While I was watching the flick I recognized moments, kills specifically, but I thought that was due to having seen so many trailers and clips from movies of this era that I just caught a few of the gorier moments, but it’s quite possible I’ve seen this one before. That would only be the 2nd film I’ve done that with in the history of this column (the first being Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN), but what the hell. It still felt like a new experience.
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is pure ‘70s goresploitation. It opens up like a giallo (Italian thriller, much like Dario Argento’s first few movies) as an old woman in a wheelchair is murdered by a pair of black-gloved hands.
This is a pretty gruesome, but not gory, scene as the woman is made to look like a suicide. Suddenly, we see the face of the murderer, which should clue in any genre fan that this dude isn’t going to be around for a while and he’s not the main villain of the movie.
Sure enough, a knife comes out of nowhere and graphically stabs the murderer and the movie goes crazy.
Yes, it’s true that Sean S. Cunningham probably owes some royalty checks to Mario Bava here. This film is as influential to the first few FRIDAY THE 13TH flicks as BLACK CHRISTMAS was to HALLOWEEN.
The setting, a scenic lake, has a lot to do with it, but it’s not just that. You get promiscuous teens getting naked, then killed while doing it (one death in particular, a spear going through two people fucking, impaling them both at the same time was lifted for a FRIDAY movie)… hell, one of the killers is even wearing a sweater that could have been taken off of him and put directly on Betsy Palmer.
And yes, I said killers… plural. That’s something that really is different about this flick… it’s convoluted as all hell. EVERYBODY is a fucking killer here. Everybody wants a piece of the bay and part of the fun of the movie is finding out who killed who… and then finding out who the final two killers are put this movie right the fuck over the top.
But I’m a sucker for summer camp-ish horror movies. I love the FRIDAY THE 13TH flicks, I love SLEEPAWAY CAMP. I don’t know why… I never really did the summer camp thing as a kid… I went to a nerdy science camp once during 6th grade where I went up to the mountains of Santa Cruz and studied nature stuff, which was a lot of fun, but I never had the summer camp thing. Maybe these movies kind of fill in a missing hole in my childhood.
The acting isn’t stellar, but the focus isn’t on performance, but boobs and blood. It’s a slasher film with giallo underpinnings. It’s definitely more common to find convoluted stories with no innocents in them in giallos. It must have been a fascinating time in Italian genre cinema, with flicks like TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and Argento’s first, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE hitting within a year of each other.
Final Thoughts: If you haven’t seen this flick and you dig ‘80s horror, especially ‘80s slasher flicks, then there shouldn’t even be a thought. Netflix it, buy the Bava box set, call up the video stores. This is definitely one for the stacks, the queue, whatever. The ending is awesome and you can’t go wrong with stalking, nudity and gore… at least if you’re a genre fan.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Sunday, September 7th: TRAGIC CEREMONY (1972)
Monday, September 8th: LISA AND THE DEVIL (1976)
Tuesday, September 9th: BARON BLOOD (1972)
Wednesday, September 10th: A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)
Thursday, September 11th: THE PINK PANTHER (1963)
Friday, September 12th: THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975)
Saturday, September 13th: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976)
Tomorrow we follow actor Luigi Pistilli over to a rather obscure Italian horror flick TRAGIC CEREMONY before coming back for a couple more Bava flicks. See you folks then.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Sept. 7, 2008, 3:48 a.m. CST
It'll be fun. I'll post a list soon of the 40-50 films I'll put in the pool... You know, it might actually be fun to put them all in a box, twirl them around and blindly pick one a day, leaving the rest to be absorbed back into the regular AMAD list afterwards... I kinda like that idea...
Sept. 7, 2008, 3:57 a.m. CST
F13 is a blatant rip-off of this movie. Only shit.
Sept. 7, 2008, 4:08 a.m. CST
the one where dreyfusus tries to take over the world is the funniest one of the whole series. yes i've seen shot in the dark and many herald it as the best and it probably is technically and plot-wise but it's very proto, the brief cato scuffle for example is a pale imitation to the crazy house-wrecking routines of the 70s movies. strikes gives pound for pound the best laughs, though it's pretty close between return and revenge. Best Cato fight as well
Sept. 7, 2008, 4:48 a.m. CST
if you haven't seen Pieces I definitely recommend that you add that to your October horror list. Just a thought.
Sept. 7, 2008, 5:05 a.m. CST
in fact, you should do that with ALL the films in your collection. As commish, I'm going to look into getting that rule instituted. I do like the randomness of AMAD, but let me add my voice to the small chorus of folks who are urging you to watch PP before SITD. Step back from that ledge Quint!! Before it's too late!!
Sept. 7, 2008, 7:46 a.m. CST
Glenn Erickson over at DVDTalk wrote an in-depth review of this movie a while ago. Wthat he deciphered and what I got when watching it is this: the bay is actually defending itself by somehow turning people into homicidal maniacs so it won't be developed into a resort... I think M. Night Shamalamadingdong might have seen this before "coming up" with the idea for THE HAPPENNING. Except he feels the need to hit you on the head with exposition and explanation instead of leaving it up to interpretation.
Sept. 7, 2008, 11:04 a.m. CST
Here's some fun fact. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from the French play L'Idiote by Marcel Achard. As Blake Edwards and future The Exorcist creator William Peter Blatty began work on the script, they decided the story would be a good vehicle for the Clouseau character, and rewrote the script around the new premise. The film was released only a few months after the first Clouseau film, The Pink Panther." The American version of the play, adapted by Harry ran for 389 performances, The stars were Julie Harris, Walter Matthau and William Shatner.
Sept. 7, 2008, 12:01 p.m. CST
I have so many "MUST WATCH" movies still to see I feel like I'll never be considered film literate.
Sept. 7, 2008, 5:37 p.m. CST
I’m going to agree with aint_it_cruel and others; you should watch PP before SITD. In what I watch and especially read, I very much enjoy, and am a major proponent of, seeing creative voices develop. I think it brings insight to the creative process as a whole. Plus it’s cool to see little ideas or characters grow into something bigger and mature later. As for your connective tissue M.O., rules are made to be broken and I think you’re aptly justified here. But it’s your party and if you’re going to feel weird breaking connective tissue, then do what you feel is best.
Hey... I went to the same summer camp in Santa Cruz..weird
Sept. 8, 2008, 12:45 p.m. CST
Quint, my man, this really is an outstanding series - way back when I was schoolboy in the late 50's in the UK I was tremendously infuenced by a teacher who lauded both Bergamsn's 7th Seal and Fisher's Dracula - and this IS the movies - the whole wide sea and everything in it. Thanks, Watervole!
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