Rabid Dogs (aka Cani arrabbiati), 1974.
Directed by Mario Bava.
Starring Ricardo Cucciolla, Lea Leander, Maurice Poli, George Eastman, Don Backy, Maria Fabbri and Erika Dario.
A ruthless Roman gang conducts a violent kidnapping and car-jacking after a botched robbery leaves death and destruction in their wake…
Rabid Dogs, or Cani Arrabbiati in the original Italian, is a frenetic crime drama from a true master of acerbic nerve-shredding, Mario Bava. In something of a move away from the supernatural/Gothic elements of his earlier career of films such as Black Sabbath and Mask of Satan, this late period Bava creates a modern 70’s crime scenario captured in real time.
Pitched at the hard-boiled edge of the giallo world, this tougher than tough slice of gangsterism leaves you imagining it on repeat at Quentin Tarantino’s house. Indeed this is meant as a compliment, as the street smart codes of revisionist crime cinema come ready prepared in this invigorated and experimental thriller.
Focusing on the titular street gang from Rome as they take part in a bungled robbery, killing and taking a captive in the process, the film is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There is a lot of violence on show, with the necessary day-glo blood red so well loved by Bava and others. Indeed, in many ways this film – and the re-scored and re-edited Kidnapped, also part of this release – can be seen as a reaction to Dario Argento, who with releases such as The Bird With The Crystal Plumuage in 197o brought about a new sensibility to the genre, which was in part kicked off by Bava himself in 1963 with The Girl Who Knew Too Much and 64’s Blood and Black Lace. The threat of violence – some implied, some carried out – is always in the air, with a strongly coloured and sheen highlighting the worst excesses of the criminal players.
The violent gang move from a stand-off with the local carabinieri to holding up a car and ordering the driver to just drive. They have also abducted a local woman (Lea Lander), who is subjected to the most extreme of the violence. The situation is further complicated by the driver’s ill little boy in the back seat. As a trip to take him to the local hospital, it couldn’t get much worse…
The interplay between the criminal group and the hostages is intensified by the shooting of the film, which all takes place in real time. As a cinematic device it ups the tension significantly, adding a disturbing docu-realism to the unfolding plot. The reactions of the key players are all believably handled, whether it is with terrified alarm, controlled rage or sickness induced unconsciousness.
Pointing towards a tremendous versatility in range and vision, the film shows beyond any doubt that Bava could take on most styles and subjects and felt a strong motivation to progress with the times…
Extras include Bava’s son Lamberto’s re-scored and re-edited version of Rabid Dogs, Kidnapped plus an audio commentary with Bava biographer Tim Lucas, a docu about the film’s making with Lamberto Bava and Lea Lander plus an interview with fellow cult Italian crime film-maker Umberto Lenzi.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.