Stars: Joseph Cotten, Elke Sommer, Massimo Girotti, Rada Rassimov, Antonio Cantafora, Umberto Raho, Luciano Pigozzi | Written by Vincent Fotre | Directed by Mario Bava
Italian director Mario Bava was responsible for some truly great horror movies of the 60s and 70s, including The Mask of Satan, Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace, Lisa and the Devil and proto-slasher A Bay of Blood. However some, whilst a success at the time, haven’t aged quite so well… like Baron Blood.
The film is yet another gothic horror from Bava that, like Black Sunday before it, features a witch’s curse – this time placed on Baron Otto von Kleist, Austria’s legendarily murderous ‘Baron Blood’, whose corpse is inadvertently revived when an ancient incantation is read out as a joke by a descendant and his girlfriend. Naturally, the Baron decides to carry on where he originally left off, with the help of an entire vault of elaborate torture devices.
Lensed in 1972, two years before the more popular Lisa and the Devil, but looking and feeling much like a product of the 1960s, Baron Blood stars Elke Sommer, who would go on to star in Bava’s Lisa and the Devil, provides the eye-candy as she’s chased, mini-skirt and all, through fog-shrouded alleyways by Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, The Third Man), who in turn chews up the screen as the deceptively charming Baron of the title.
Whilst the film is incredibly dated, Bava does at least manage to add his usual flair to proceedings – a foggy chase through the castle grounds and a séance sequence are real standouts – Bava even manages to throw in some early gore effects but nothing can save the film from an inherent cheesiness, which is not helped by the ridiculous dialogue and over-exposition from Sommer and her woefully wooden on-screen boyfriend Antonio Cantafora.
Despite being one of Bava’s lesser works, Arrow have done a sterling job on this new edition of Baron Blood. Not only does the film look superb but this release features three versions of the film: Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga with Italian opening and closing titles (and incredibly cheesy, 60s travelogue style music) and Baron Blood with English opening and closing titles and the European English export version audio, and, for the first time on home video, the AIP version with alternate score by Les Baxter.
The Arrow Video Double Play (Blu-ray and DVD) edition of Baron Blood is, like all of Arrow’s releases, packed with special features including an audio commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas; introduction to Baron Blood by author and critic Alan Jones; “Delirium Italian-style” – Ruggero Deodato on Mario Bava and the golden age of Italian genre films; “Mario Bava at work” – a photo gallery of Bava behind the scenes on his films; as well as trailers and radio spots.
A not-so-great film presented in a more-than-great Double Play (Blu-ray and DVD) package, Baron Blood is out now from Arrow Video.
Film: ** 2/5
Blu-ray: **** 5/5