Knives of the Avenger

Italian director Mario Bava is best known for his stylish low-budget horror pictures, but he excelled at many genres—mystery, comedy, western, sci-fi, action—and this excellent 1966 feature, which he took over from another director and scripted under the name John Hold, reimagines Shane as a Viking adventure. A fearsome knife-throwing warrior (Cameron Mitchell in a fine performance) rides into a village and rescues a beautiful woman (Elisa Pichelli) and her preteen son (Luciano Pollentin) from attackers; later he realizes that he raped her many years earlier, while avenging himself against the village for the murder of his wife and child, and begins to form an attachment to the woman's son, who bears a striking resemblance to him. Bava started out as a cameraman, and his dramatic Techniscope framing of the majestic beach at Tor Caldara near Anzio and the village of Monciana near Rome might well have influenced the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. 85 min.

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