Some films are just born unlucky. Mario Bava's 'lost' 1974 film Rabid Dogs is a classic case in point. Shooting started as A Man and a Boy with Al Lettieri and an extremely low budget: Lettieri dropped out after a week due to 'illness' and the money barely materialised only for the film to never get through post-production when the producer died and the film was seized by creditors for a quarter of a century. When co-star Lea Lander pulled together a deal to get Bava's rough cut restored, the only US deal she could get with it was with producer Alfred Leone, who, in a throwback to the old days when no foreign film could be allowed on US shores untouched, promptly re-edited, rescored and redubbed the film with new dialogue and added stock footage and new scenes shot by the director's son Lamberto Bava 'to complete it the way my old friend wanted it to be seen.' Sure... An attempt to make a more contemporary shocker in a more naturalistic setting as the European horror genre was hitting the skids, it plays a bit like an automotive addition to the Last House On the Left genre as the surviving members of a payroll robbery kidnap a female hostage and, later, a driver rushing his unconscious son to hospital to help them in their getaway. Cue much humiliation, boorish behavior, relentless nihilism and fatal divisions coming to the fore as you wait for the tables to be turned Tall-T style by the 'little man' (Riccardo Cucciolla, literally miniscule whenever seen standing next to the towering George Eastman). That it doesn't always do so in the most obvious ways and offers a remarkably passive hero is all to the good and Bava's confident handling never makes the fact that most of the film takes place in a car seem uncinematic - harder than you might think.
Not that Bava Sr's cut is a lost masterpiece. Like most of his films, it isn't as shocking as his reputation implies: the violence is never especially convincing even if the film's mean spirit seems genuine enough. But the re-edited version, retitled Kidnapped, certainly makes it look like one. The new footage makes the final twist, already fairly heavily signposted if your suspicions are roused early even more obvious - and a lot less bleak than in Bava's version. And while the image and sound are clearer, the constant irrelevant cutaways to police control rooms or new characters presumably intended to open up the picture simply act as irritants that dilute the drama and waste screen time without adding anything to the show. Even the new title sequence looks like something from a cheap 80s porno video.
Anchor Bay's Region 1 NTSC DVD includes both versions of the film, with audio commentary by Tim Lucas, featurette End of the Road - Making Rabid Dogs and Kidnapped, and trailers for Bava films Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Kill, Baby... Kill! and Knives of the Avenger.