Italian horror maestro Mario Bava’s grindhouse thriller Rabid Dogs (1974) ironically wasn’t released until long after the grindhouse was sent to that great drive-in in the sky; it didn’t see daylight until 1998, when it finally appeared on VHS. That’s a shame, because Bava’s claustrophobic use of overripe, sweaty close-ups and confined location shooting (most of the action takes place inside a getaway car) are all the more overwhelming, borderline nauseating even, on a grand scale.
Rabid Dogs induces a different kind of anxiety than Bava’s horror work. Gone are the gothic nightmares of films like Black Sabbath and Blood and Black Lace, replaced with a Peckinpah-style nihilism of chance encounters with all-too-human sociopaths – in this case, three small-time gangsters who terrorise a group of hostages after a robbery has gone awry. Its stripped-down malevolence is certainly effective, and the maniacal performances provide the kitsch, but it’s hard not to miss the colour-drenched, grandiose stylistic flourishes of the filmmaker’s giallo, the “black lace,” if you will, that complements all the blood.