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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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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch