Mario Bava had spilled plenty of blood by the time he reached his 1974 swan song, Kidnapped. But the film, originally titled Rabid Dogs, remains his leanest and meanest trip through hell’s outer rim. A group of ruthless robbers has just jacked 500 million lira, leaving a string of dead bodies in their wake, concluding their daring escape by kidnapping a father, his deathly ill child, and a young woman. From this point on, Bava sticks us right in the backseat of a sky-blue Opel Rekord with these lunatics and barely shows the decency to crack the window. Nor for that matter does he allow us much time outside the caravan once we’re there, but from these confined environs, the filmmaker provides a master study in crime-world nihilism, slathered in sweat, blood, and stink.
Consider if the hippies from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hadn’t kicked the hitchhiker out of the van and went roadtripping instead and you’re in the vicinity of what Bava has in mind here. Like Tobe Hooper’s classic, also produced in 1974, Bava strips the film of stylistic excesses, making the instinctual savagery of the murderous trio—Blade (Don Backy), Doc (Maurice Poli), and 32 (George Eastman)—all the more direct and frightening. Of course, Doc, the mastermind for all intents and purposes, serves as more of a moderator between the yawping hyenas that are Blade and 32, and their traumatized captives. Though compliant, Riccardo (Riccardo Cucciolla), the father, constantly and subtly prods at the control exerted over him, whereas the young woman, Maria (Lea Lander), is gripped by hysterical fear that only grows with intensity as the film progresses.