Saturday, October 07, 2006


I like Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and think it deserves its reputation as one of the most influential horror movies of the 1960's, but I'm not sure that Bava deserves his rep as a genius director. BARON BLOOD is the sixth Bava film I've seen and though each film does have some bright spots, usually in the area of visual style, acting and narrative are not his strong points and overall I haven't been terribly impressed with his output. In this one, handsome young Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) arrives in Austria to search out information on his ancestor, the infamous Baron Otto Von Kleist, a kind of Vlad the Impaler figure from the distant past who had a full-fledged torture chamber set up in the basement of his castle. As it happens, the castle is undergoing restoration for possible use as a luxury hotel and Peter strikes up a friendship with sexy architect Eva (Elke Sommer). They hear rumors of ghosts and curses, and together, in a half-prankish, half-serious way, they read out an ancient incantation designed to bring the Baron back to life. They don't realize that their magic works and the Baron returns as a slouching, gory-faced, Phantom of the Opera-type killer who stalks the castle grounds. He later manages to disguise himself as a distinguished older gentleman in a wheelchair (Joseph Cotton) and is determined to reclaim his land. Peter and Eva figure things out and contact a medium (Rada Rassimov) in an attempt to send him back to oblivion. There is blood and death and, of course, since there's a nice torture chamber around, some scenes of torture before the undead Baron is taken care of. Cotton looks and sounds quite frail, although he wasn't yet 70, and would in fact live another 22 years (and make around 30 more movie and TV appearances before his death). Cantafora and Sommer are both easy on the eyes and act as well as they need to. Well known Italian actor Massimo Girotti (OSSESSIONE, LAST TANGO IN PARIS) is wasted in the role of Peter's uncle. There's an odd scene, in which the Baron kills someone in front of a huge Coke machine, which feels like awkward product placement. The castle sets are impressive, and a nighttime chase through interestingly-lit fog comes off quite well, but overall a slow-moving, disappointing affair. [DVD]

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