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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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Wilmington

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas