Saturday, 11 August 2007

Baron Blood (1972)

After reading Andy Black’s essay on Mario Bava’s two early 70s films Baron Blood and Lisa and the Devil (A Modern World with Ancient Evil, in Necronomicon Book Three, edited by Andy Black) I felt I simply had to see these two movies again. I’m finding myself much more impressed by Baron Blood the second time around. Glorious cinematography, typical Bava bold use of colour, magnificent locations and sets. Aided by Eva, a young student (Elke Sommer), a descendant of the notorious Baron von Kleist, a murderous madman whose reign of terror is still remembered several centuries after his death, uses an ancient scroll and an incantation to bring the baron back to life. Not surprisingly, the baron decides to resume his reign of terror, and his descendant has to find a way to reverse the incantation. That’s all there really is to the plot, but Mario Bava movies are all about the visuals, and the visuals are gorgeous. Lots of fog. Lots and lots of fog. I don’t think anyone ever used colour gels more lavishly than Bava, or to better effect. Whole scenes are bathed in weird blue or yellow light. Combined with the wonderful medieval castle setting the result is a gothic atmosphere that has rarely been so overwhelming and so effective, and so oppressive with menace. As Andy Black points out in his article, the film is very much about the survival of ancient occult beliefs and practices in a modern world of science and technology. I liked Joseph Cotton in this movie a lot more this time. Elke Sommer’s performance is perfectly competent. The rest of the cast are pretty terrible. What matters in a Bava movie are the images, and there are some great images. The sequence in which the baron pursues Eva through a series of corridors and passageways is simply stunning. Baron Blood was a welcome return to gothic horror for Bava after the tedious and pointless gore of Twitch of the Death Nerve. Baron Blood isn’t quite top-flight Bava but it’s still extremely good, and for fans of the gothic it’s an absolute must.

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