Following a bungled robbery, three violent criminals take a young woman, a middle-aged man, and a child hostage and force them to drive them outside Rome to help them make a clean getaway.
The history behind 'Rabid Dogs' is an ill-fated tale of unfortunate luck and timing. It's rather sad actually. One of Mario Bava's best films, and one of his last before passing away in 1980, took 23 years to finally be seen and appreciated by his fans. A low-budget crime thriller that quickly ran out of funds after the producer went bankrupt and the courts seized all his assets, including any available prints of the movie. At the time, Bava's career was in a terrible decline and losing favor with audiences, so he set all his hopes on this production to revive his popularity. Sadly, things didn't work out the way the Italian horror maestro had anticipated.
Two decades later, producer Alfredo Leone and Lamberto Bava, son of the legendary filmmaker, were finally allowed to complete the movie with a few alterations, new music and eventually retitling it 'Kidnapped' when it was rereleased on DVD in 2007. It's a crying shame the director never had a chance to watch a completed version of his rather splendidly suspenseful and well-made Italo-crime film, a subgenre of exploitation crime thrillers and police-procedural dramas commonly called poliziotteschi films. I can only imagine he would have enjoyed it immensely, perhaps even felt somewhat vindicated by the positive response from his fans — myself included.
From a script by Alessandro Parenzo, the film wastes no time jumping into the action as four armed robbers make out with a pharmaceutical company's payroll. A shootout with security guards ends with the getaway driver killed, forcing the other three to drive recklessly through the streets of Rome. The fast-paced action that quickly ensues is to the credit of Bava's excellent direction, weaving and bobbing between other cars and through busy traffic. Along with the editing talents of Carlo Reali, the entire sequence has an energetic and exciting feel that culminates into a face-off with police inside a parking garage. The only way out of the building is with a female hostage named Maria (Lea Lander), and to ensure police won't attempt any heroics, she'll travel with them the rest of the way.
The scene in the parking garage is great because the confrontation sets up mood and characterization in a very unique way. After Blade (Don Backy) accidentally kills one of the hostages, the men are shocked and are, for a moment, fearful for their lives. The heist is taking them into very dark and unexpected territory, down a path they never wanted to travel. The gang's leader, Doc (Maurice Poli), starts shouting orders for the other two to jump in another car and escape, but before heading out of the city, they decide to swap cars once more and raise the number of hostages by also taking the owner, Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla), and his deathly-ill son.
From here, the plot changes into a road movie where the kidnappers and their captives learn to endure one another while the heat of the summer day bears down on them. The tension slowly grows to a sweltering boil as the group encounters others on the road, and personalities continuously clash like head-on collisions. The third man, the one they simply call "32" (George Eastman), is the most impulsive and volatile, but Riccardo behaves very suspiciously and edgy, like there's something else preoccupying his attention aside from being kidnapped.
The whole thing builds to a surprising climax of incredibly dark cosmic irony, and Mario Bava delivered a superb piece of entertainment. 'Kidnapped' has its morbid moments of cruelty, but it's all part of the game of cheap thrills. And there's also something wickedly satisfying about the pessimistic finish, which creates an even larger unforeseen dilemma, making this nearly-forgotten crime thriller a true Bava classic.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber brings 'Kidnapped' to Blu-ray as part of the distributor's "The Mario Bava Collection" line. Housed inside a blue, eco-cutout keepcase, the Region A locked, BD25 disc goes straight to a static main menu with music playing in the background.
For a nearly-forgotten crime thriller that was notoriously unavailable for over two decades, 'Kidnapped' arrives to Blu-ray with a shockingly good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. I'm not sure if it went through any restoration process, but the 35mm camera negative used for this releases appears to be in excellent condition, showing a great deal of definition in the sweaty faces of actors, foliage and the interior of the car. Of course, a couple sequences suffer some mild discoloration, poor resolution and a few other very minor age-related issues, but overall, the picture is nicely detailed with great clarity and visibility of the smallest background info.
Presented in a 1.85:1 window frame (OAR possibly 1.66:1), the video also displays good contrast, giving viewers an attractive and bright image with clean, crisp whites. Strong, deep blacks are abundant, especially in the few moments with shadows, providing a bit of depth, while a very thin layer of grain creates an appreciable cinematic appeal. Primaries are bold and vibrant in several sequences, and secondary pastel hues come with warmth and accuracy. All things considered, the high-def presentation is a very welcomed surprise and looks excellent on Blu-ray.
Kino surprises yet again with a superbly clean and engaging uncompressed PCM stereo soundtrack. The moment the music starts during the opening credits sequence, the soundstage comes alive with exceptional fidelity and warmth. The swinging 70s music fills all three main channels with a groovy beat that carries a somewhat chilling, anxious undertone. With distinct detailing in the mid-range, background activity, like the chatter of a busy crowd or the noise of local wildlife, also spreads into the speakers, making the imaging feel broad and expansive. Low bass is pretty sturdy for a movie of this vintage, but it's appropriate and solid, providing the lossless mix with a weighty presence. Ignoring the bad ADR work, dialogue is clear and well-prioritized in the center, making a great high-rez track for a good, largely-forgotten Bava film.
Sadly, this is a bare-bones release.
Thought forever lost because of serious financial issues and the death of its director, Mario Bava, 'Kidnapped' (aka, 'Rabid Dogs') was luckily resurrected by producer Alfredo Leone and Lamberto Bava, the filmmaker's son. A dark tale of psychological terror and tension-filled thrills, the film is splendidly suspenseful with a pessimistic twist that's wickedly satisfying, making this a definite and hopefully well-remembered Bava classic. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will surely please fans everywhere. Sadly, the lack of supplemental material is very unfortunate, but the overall package is well worth a look.