Kino Lorber // 1974 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Matt Dicker (Retired) // July 8th, 2013
Lock the doors, close the windows, and buckle up...for the ride of your life!
Kidnapped -- like Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, a film it's often (mistakenly) credited as inspiring -- is a heist picture whose suspense is not in the act of the heist, but in its aftermath. Director Mario Bava's long lost gem is tense, horrifying, and...dare I say...sinisterly fun.
On the run after a heist that turned violent, Dottore (Maurice Poli, Belle and Sebastien) and his gang take hostages and force Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla, Sacco e Vanzetti) -- a mild-mannered man transporting a sick child -- to drive the criminals to safety.
Italian director Mario Bava moved through genres with ease, directing films ranging from sci-fi and traditional horror to slasher. However, his best work came in the realm of giallo, the Italian hybrid genre of crime and horror that Bava helped pioneer.
Kidnapped, also known as Rabid Dogs and Red Light, was one of Bava's best. Yet due to the production's bankruptcy, the film went unreleased for more than two decades, not seeing the screen until long after Bava's death.
Like Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat and many of Agatha Christie's best mysteries, Kidnapped derives its tension from putting too many people in too close proximity in too terrible a situation. Most of the film's run time is spent inside a single automobile, the characters almost piled on top of each other. External forces occasionally add to the film's suspense, but Bava ingeniously derives almost all his narrative devices from within the car.
Given the situation, the performances are all the more important here, as these actors have nothing to hide behind. Riccardo Cucciolla is wonderful as the driver just trying to survive. Maurice Poli is completely believable, even as he recites some truly ridiculous dialogue. George Eastman (Belle Starr) and Don Backy (Bread and Tulips) are terrifying as Dottore's henchmen, with Eastman's hulking sweaty frame bringing menace to every moment in which he plays. Of all the leads, Lea Lander (Blood and Black Lace) is the only disappointment, offering little to the role of the endangered woman being put through hell.
Over the years, Kidnapped has gained notoriety for its violence. The film is indeed violent, not in the high-body count manner of modern crime films, but rather in the brutality and directness of its violent acts. The worst examples come from a slow simmer, such that by the time they finally occur, it's almost more of a release than a shock.
Kino Lorber gives us a very nice 1.78:1/1080p transfer of the film, and Bava's horribly ridiculous bright red blood couldn't look any better. Granted, there's not enough here to truly show off the wonders of Blu-ray, so watching Kidnapped on DVD wouldn't lessen the experience. The LPCM 2.0 Stereo track is perfectly adequate, with little to make it stand out. The only bonus features are trailers for Kino's other Bava films.
It would have been an absolute shame, if Kidnapped had continued to remain hidden away from public consumption. Those who rescued it from obscurity did a great service to the legacy of Mario Bava and giallo. This is a vicious and violent crime film, but thoughtful and wickedly clever all the same.
Guilty of cinematic kidnapping.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated