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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

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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“There was somebody from Creative Screenwriting Magazine who was here earlier, and she said ‘Have you got any advice for writers?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, write standing up’. Because this time around, I bought a cheap little stand off Amazon, and I wrote standing up, because it’s slightly uncomfortable – it’s not so uncomfortable that you can’t do it, it’s slightly uncomfortable. And it means you don’t end up going on the internet, basically, because you’re there to do a fucking job. So I’ll write for 25 minutes… then I’ll go and play on the PlayStation for a bit. And I do this all night. I go nocturnal. And then I go back and I’ll write a bit more, and then I go back to the PlayStation, and then I go back… And hopefully by then, I’ll lose track of time and then I’ll be writing for fucking ages, and then there’s a point where you get excited about it. So my advice for writers is always: write standing up, and get Scrivener, and write in 25 minute bursts, and get a PlayStation.”
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“People used to love to call me a maverick, because I had a big mouth, and I’d say, ‘That bum!’ or something like that when I was young. Mainly, because I believed it, and I didn’t know there was anybody’s pain connected to the business. I was so young, I didn’t feel any pain. I just thought, ‘Why don’t they do some exciting, venturesome things? Why are they just sitting there, doing these dull pictures that have already been done many, many times, and calling them exciting? That’s a lie — they’re not exciting. Exciting is an experiment… That reputation keeps with you, through the years. Once the press calls you a maverick, it stays in their files. I’ll be dead five years, and they’ll still be saying, ‘That maverick son-of-a-bitch, he’s off in Colorado, making a movie.’ As if they really cared. You know, in this business, it’s all jealousy. I mean, this is the dumbest business I’ve ever seen in my life. If somebody gets married, they say, ‘It’ll never work.’ If somebody gets divorced, they say, ‘Good. I’ll give you my lawyer.’ If somebody loses a job, everyone will call him — to gloat. They’ll discuss it, they’ll be happy, they’ll have parties. I don’t understand how people that can see each other all the time, and be friends, can be so happy about each other’s demise.”
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