Baron Blood Review
The FilmIn the commentary accompanying the film on review, Tim Lucas informs us that producer Alfred Leone found the project for Bava due to his fine work on Four Times That Night. The director's frugal and resourceful way with effects impressed Leone and, watching their second collaboration, it's easy to appreciate how he must have hoped that the director would take advantage of the impressive locations and schlocky horror script. A kind of modern Gothic on the cheap where the cheap is not so obvious.His obvious merits apart, I am not so sure that Bava's genius extends to location shooting as the most interesting and powerful shots in this film are still the interior or studio based ones. A couple of chase sequences involve the director's old trick of running around the camera with foliage offered as props to differentiate the scene, and the sequences within the castle have much more bang for Leone's buck than those using its exterior.
The story features Peter Kleist (Massimo Girotti) flying in to his ancestral home as work is ongoing to exploit the legend of his evil ancestor, a torturer and tyrant. Larking around, with top restoration expert Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) he manages to raise the evil from the grave just as Kleist castle is sold to mysterious Alfred Becker. Only the help of a modern day witch will stop Baron Blood from employing his torture chamber on the general public.Frankly, there ain't a great deal of sense in this plot, with characters leaping logic in order to link set-pieces and the principal purpose of the action being to present the decaying monster and exploit some excellent torture props. Artifice is ripe, the drama makes little impact and the romance is perfunctory, yet the set-pieces and some vicious, if elegantly delivered, murders offer some recompense for a rather ramshackle vehicle.
As he was to show with Lisa and the Devil, Bava knows how to exploit Elke Sommer's image and she looks magnificent throughout as health and safety botherer or damsel in distress. The contrast between either her beauty, or young Nicoletta Elmi's innocence, and the torture, carnage and bodily corruption works well, and there is one stand-out scene with Rada Rassimov as a medium which is as good as any in the director's career.Bava often worked from weak stories and poor scripts, and Baron Blood is an example. The compensations for this are lovely cinematography, Sommer looking a million bucks and some limited moustache twirling from a clearly unwell Cotten. Baron Blood is a minor Bava film, although it is never less than committed to being entertaining.
The DiscsWe were sent the blu-ray for review and consequently the comments below relate only to that, the actual release carries both options. Arrow give the film a region free release on a BD50 carrying two separate versions of the film with branching creating the different opening and closing titles for the Export and Italian versions. These two cuts are longer than the AIP version and they carry both Italian and English lossless sound whilst the AIP version carries a single English option.
In terms of transfers, the AIP cut does look quite different to the other two films with less evidence of contrast boosting and a little more natural looking detail. The grain structure on the longer version does seem to show a lot of tinkering and detail isn't always everything you would want. I preferred the look of the AIP cut as more naturalistic and film-like, although this is probably a question of taste - do you want brighter or more detailed?Audio wise, the Italian tracks on the longer cuts are clearer and easier to listen to than the English options which seem quieter and less dynamic with dialogue not always as easy to discern as I would like. More preferable still is the English track on the AIP cut which is much more tolerable to my ears. The recent slew of Bava releases have suffered from weak audio, I'm afraid.
Extras wise, Alan Jones extends his sphere of influence to a Bava introduction, Ruggero Deodato discusses the couple of times he met Bava and his appreciation of the great man's skills and the great Tim Lucas' commentary on the film is thankfully included here. Trailers in HD, radio spots and a gallery of Bava larking about on his sets.
The booklet by James Oliver and reversible art included in the retail release was not available for this review.
SummaryAn entertaining entry into the director's career that isn't up with his best films is given a decent presentation by Arrow with three versions on this disc. This is a solid purchase for Bava fans.
For a quick spin through the release watch below:
7 out of 10
6 out of 10
6 out of 10
5 out of 10