by Jim Ridley
La Ronde with bloody axe murders — that's one way to describe the late Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve, perhaps the most influential movie of the 1970s you've probably never seen. Released under a variety of titles in the U.S. (including the one in the amazing trailer above, Carnage), it's regarded as a template for the slasher-movie craze that followed about eight years later: a parade of gory, baroque killings staged in Bava's impeccable high style, leaving a mortality rate of, oh, about 98 percent.
The plot involves a gaggle of ruthless competitors offing each other in grisly manner to snag a big inheritance, but you'd have an easier time trying to solve the whodunit snarled up in The Big Sleep that not even Raymond Chandler could unravel. Its wooded locations, ornate murders and body count — 13, count 'em, 13 — would be a direct inspiration for the Friday the 13th franchise, but don't blame Bava, whose startling use of decor and camera placement is the opposite of the slasher genre's rote, looped predictability.
It's screening Saturday in The Belcourt's Scene-sponsored 12 Hours of Terror horror-movie marathon. And to reproduce the grindhouse experience in full, the theater has supposedly scored a print complete with scratches, pops, and for a true stamp of grimy authenticity, one of the movie's many alternate titles: A Bay of Blood.