Italian horror maestro Mario Bava was an unbelievably skilled craftsman. One of Bava's greatest stylistic achievements is Hercules In The Haunted World (1964), his first color film following the unforgettable gothic chiller Black Sunday. On an extremely low budget, Bava was able to actualize ominous atmospheres and fantastical scenery using the barest of elements and filmiest of scripts in the most tired sub-genre: the Italian "Sword & Sandal" film. Bava succeeds in creating several different compelling worlds, including a stark view into the realm of Hades, only using a few pillars, fake trees, stones, painted backdrops, a smoke machine, and a lavish lighting scheme.
Hercules In The Haunted World's efficient economy of the set design and special effects are an art onto itself. There is a charm to this style of genre filmmaking which seems long-gone today with the integration of CG effects and digital cameras. I know its a tired gripe, but I believe there is merit for an aspiring filmmaker to learn from the expert genre craftsman of cinema's golden age. So many contemporary indie genre films seem to suffer from creativity in execution and most importantly -- style.
Bava applies his minimalistic craft work into completely selling a sequence where our heroes cross a bubbling pit of lava with use of hand and rope. All you need is some lights, foam, miniatures, and clever cut-aways.
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