Wednesday, 25 April 2007

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962)

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus is an early Jess Franco film, from 1962. As such it’s relatively conventional in structure compared to his later films. The plot is one of the staples of gothic horror – the evil Baron von Klaus had been responsible for murdering and torturing a number of young women, so when bodies start piling up several generations later the descendants of the wicked baron are suspected of carrying on the family tradition. Franco takes this venerable plot and turns it into a classic of erotic horror. And by the standards of 1962, even 1962 European films, it is very erotic. It’s also very stylish. Filmed in black-and-white, it has the requisite gothic atmosphere, and it has some moments of great visual beauty, moments that are almost lyrical. It has an interesting jazz-influenced soundtrack, as you’d expect in a Franco film. It also has some features that were to become trademarks of the Italian giallo movie – even the black gloves! Franco doesn’t just make movies that combine elements of horror and sex, the way so many American film-makers have dome over the past few decades. The horror and the sex are inextricably linked, and he explores those links with an honesty than can be uncomfortable, but the results are considerably less sleazy and exploitative than the average American slasher film.

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