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Baron Blood (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1972 / Director: Mario Bava / Actors: Antonio Cantafora, Allan Collins, Joseph Cotten, Massimo Girotti, Umberto Raho ... / DVD released 2005-10-25 at Cheezy Flicks / Features of the DVD: Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC

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      30.03.2009 09:20
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      An unexceptional 70s gothic

      A review of just the film. A region 1 DVD can be imported for about £3.50 from amazon.

      This is an Italian horror film from 1972, directed by Mario Bava, one of the genre's finest. Unfortunately it doesn't live up to his best work. Bava's films are often still surprisingly frightening, and usually look amazing. Baron Blood is a let down in both departments.

      Peter Kleist, an American, visits his Austrian uncle. Peter is the descendant of an evil nobleman, the owner of the local castle, nicknamed Baron Blood (he was a baron, his deeds were bloody; not an imaginative nickname, I grant you, but an accurate one). Peter reads a spell from an old parchment which is supposed to bring the Baron back to life, with amazingly predictable results.

      It's not a great plot, clearly, and treads familiar ground. There are two decent reasons why someone might want to read a spell that would summon a dead ancestor - either you want to revive him because you're evil, or you're larking about - but Peter does it seemingly on a whim. Couldn't the film be bothered to come up with even a perfunctory explanation?

      It's just as slipshod about everything else. Naturally the risen Baron goes on a killing spree with no discernible motive, unfazed by such modern things as cars and electric lights. He has his murderous sights set most firmly on Peter's girlfriend, Eva, but she proves predictably harder to kill than several far more strapping and capable looking characters. And of course there's a way to remove the summoned Baron, but the good characters don't find it out until very late in the day.

      It also builds up one character as sinister, knowing more than they could ever possibly know about things - but then seemingly loses interest in them. And the fate of one pivotal character is left unresolved. Bava's films often have excessively silly plots, and I guess this one just about stays on the right side of idiocy, as long as you can get into the spirit of it.

      The acting is mostly generic Eurohorror. The leads are good looking but bland (Eva is played by Elke Sommer, of Carry On Behind and A Shot In The Dark fame). Most of the cast are Italian; the film is set in Austria; and yet everyone speaks English. The lip-synching isn't too bad, but as ever, the dialogue doesn't sound terribly natural.

      The top-billed performer is Hollywood old-timer Joseph Cotten, playing a wealthy American who buys the Baron's castle. The star of Citizen Kane and Shadow Of A Doubt here does what can only be described as a Vincent Price impression, and a very creditable one at that. He's one of the few actors whose real voice is heard, and he obviously relishes every cheesy line he gets. Cotten's easily the best thing about the film.

      What this film lacks is Bava's usual amazing visual flair. He uses colour more brilliantly than almost any other horror director, and his camerawork is often amazing (he usually overdoes it a bit, probably to cover up for the threadbare plots of his films). Here there are a couple of glimpses of classic Bava - a spooky encounter with a dead witch, a decent chase through fog-shrouded streets - but mostly it's a bit drab. Perhaps the print I've seen isn't too great (the sound quality on my copy is pretty ropey), but the film seems muddy and a bit drab compared to his other movies. The castle is very impressive (and obviously real), but the way it's filmed is uninteresting.

      It's not frightening, sadly. The foggy chase goes on a bit too long to sustain any suspense, and nothing else really seems to try. There's hardly any visible gore, in spite of some fairly enjoyable killings. No nudity or sex either, so I'd guess this would be a comfortable 15 certificate. At 95 minutes it's a bit too long, especially since there's a lot of talking. The music is a bit too slushy to be classic, but I always like a bit of Italian slushy film music.

      This is a disappointing film - it feels like any old Italian gothic, rather than the work of Mario Bava - so not worth going out of your way for. If you stumble across it late one night on TV it might be worth a look, but it won't cause any sleepless nights.

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