Watched a bit of the new Midnight Choir DVD release of Mario Bava’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY coupled with Fulci’s CONSPIRACY OF TORTURE. Ordered it off Amazon after reading a little controversy surrounding the disc’s legal status. If you know me, you know I’m a huge Bava fan — I own Tim Lucas’ 1000+ bio ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. You gotta be a fan if you own that! The older VCI disc, which — I guess — most fans regard as “official,” is a bit out of date. The picture is non-anamorphic for 16:9 screens and non-progressive. I was a little hesitant to buy this latest version, but I’m glad I did. The picture is the same but optimized for widescreen TV which makes a big difference. I haven’t gotten around to watching the Fulci part, but watching THE WHIP got me musing about dubbing versus subtitles (THE WHIP is only available in English dubbed here in Region 1). I used to detest dubbed films. I thought they were dumbed down for folks who “couldn’t take” the real thing. I watched all my Fellini, Bergman and Truffauts with subtitles…and I liked it! But lately I’ve been enjoying dubbed films. Especially films by Bava — or Japanese kaiju films. One of the problems with modern film viewers is their inability to get over their expectations regarding narrative and acting. One could point to numerous reasons for this, but it all leads up to the fact that modern viewers have a hard time taking a film in as a whole piece of art. Cinema is not just about acting — far from it. And cinema is not just about dramatic narrative, although that too is very interesting in my opinion. I believe that a particular film’s aesthetics consist in equal part of photography, mood, music, costume and sets. Sometimes all these elements combine with theater and drama to create something special. Sometimes one or more of these elements are weaker than the others…but this doesn’t necessarily mean that any flaw in any one ingredient means that a film is a “bad film.” For many years, Mario Bava’s work was considered “bad.” Like John Huston says in CHINATOWN, and I paraphrase, ‘Whores and politicians get respectable with old age.’ Well I add “bad filmakers” to that shortlist. And even a certain respectability doesn’t really take away a film or filmaker’s flaws. I believe when a film is viewed as a whole — especially a foreign film with the subtitles stripped away in favor of a dubbed soundtrack — one can begin to assess that “whole.” When a viewer is forced to parse their way through actual words on a screen, that viewer loses a part of the essence of cinema. Just a thought.