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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: Baron Blood

BARON BLOOD (Remastered Blu-ray edition) (Two and a Half Stars)
Italy: Mario Bava, 1972 (Kino Classics)

The Baron Blood of the title is played by Joseph Cotten: grinning, chuckling and looking as evil as possible, after his playboy American descendant Peter (Antonio Cantafora) shows up to visit the family castle in Austria. Blood’s kin, despite wise counsel from local Professor Hummel (played by Massimo Girotti, the lover’killer of Visconti‘s Ossessione) becomes besotted with comely, mini-skirted  restoration expeort Eva (Elke Sommer), and, while trying to impress her, unwisely brings the Baron back to life, unleashing a string of bloody murders, fiendish tortures, chases down corridors, bursts of bouncy Euro-pop music and  lots of bad English language dialogue, delivered as a not always-comfortable second or third  language by most of the cast — except, of course, for the eloquent Cotten as Baron Otto von Kleist a.k.a. Alfred Beckel a.k.a. Baron Blood. (The first choice for this role, by the way, was Vincent Price.)

Fortunately, the director here is the legendary Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath), a visual movie-making genius who gives us something fascinating or interesting to look at in almost every shot, including a long  homage to the  Price/Andre de Toth  3D horror classic House of Wax , and more twisting staircases, somber towers, shadowy torture chambers,, gargoyles, well-used Iron Maidens and impaled victims than you could imagine outside of Transylvania on a dark and windy night.

Bava has as his location here a centuries-old Austrian castle-museum, Berg Kreuzenstein,  that’s a masterpiece of architecture, if not (at least here) of drama, and he exploits it visually to the hilt. Just accept the fact that the script (by Vincent G. Fotre, who wrote the anti-Commie short, Red Nightmare)  is no good, and you’ll probably have a good time — as did Bava’s friends and colleagues Federico Fellini and the fidgety Michelangelo Antonioni at Bava’s pre-release invitational screenings, according to Tim Lucas‘ very informative and entertaining commentary. (But Tim, Roberto Rossellini didn’t direct Ossessione.) The classy cast also includes that semi-legendary Peter Lorre look-alike Luciano Pigozzi (a.k.a. Alan Collins) and, as a lady of darkness, the stunning Rada Rassimov. If she’d played the restoration expert, and Elke had played another sexy maid a la Shot in the Dark, it would have been a better movie, (In English language. This is, however, producer Alfred Leone’s preferred European version.)

Extras: Commentary by Tim Lucas; Radio spots; Trailers.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

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~ Joe Dante

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