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April 9, 2012

Movie Review: Baba Yaga (1973, Blu-ray)

Blue Underground has been pretty consistent with putting their attention towards the films currently in their library with their Blu-ray releases over the past few years. This isn't a bad thing; especially when previous to this release they had several Fulci pictures (Zombie, House by the Cemetery, and City of the Living Dead) just ripe for some 1080p love. Corrado Farina's Baba Yaga is possibly one of Blue Underground's lesser known titles to some Euro-cult enthusiasts but for an obscure Italian horror flick it has quite a bit of charm.

After cutting a date short with her director boyfriend, Arno (George Eastman - Anthropophagous, Absurd), Valentina (Isabelle De Funes) takes a stroll down a dark street when all of a sudden a car comes out of nowhere nearly hitting a puppy in the road. Valentina swiftly takes action by getting the mutt to safety. In the process she nearly gets herself killed. The car comes to a stop and a mysterious woman named Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker - Baby Doll) exits the vehicle, with almost a ghost-like appearance. She's a witch, and she has her black heart set on making Valentina her vessel for evil-doing by cursing her camera.

Baba Yaga's story is based on the popular comics of artist Guido Crepax - it even shows illustrated panels in the film. In several scenes there's almost the feel you'd get from watching a Jodorowsky film with its barrage of odd imagery. The movie itself isn't really a horror film, it's certainly creepy though. There's a scene where Valentina is perusing through Baba Yaga's wall of witchcraft knick knacks and discovers a doll clad in S&M gear. If you’re expecting gore or a high body count, Baba Yaga won't appeal to you, but the imagery alone makes up for that.

Blue Underground as usual has stepped to the plate with some informative and fun extras. Director Corrado Farina contributes a very colorful interview in which he talks about the film and the other comic to film adaptations. He doesn't speak to highly of Barbarella nor is he too impressed with how Modesty Blasé turned out. Some deleted scenes are included surrounding a cemetery, more nudity from Carroll Baker is shown and there’s also an extended scene with Valentina when she’s in the clutches of the Nazis during an early dream sequence.

Possibly the coolest extra, Freud in Color, not only covers Crepax and the popularity of Baba Yaga but does a nice decade by decade evolution of the Italian "funny papers". I had no idea Peanuts was so popular in Italy. All of this is Italian with English Subtitles. Also included is a comic to film comparison and a trailer for the film.

While not a top tier title, Baba Yaga certainly surprises. I really didn't expect much from Baba Yaga initially but in the end it resulted in a visually pleasing slice of Italian cult cinema that looks lovely on Blu-ray. Recommended.

                              Screencaps courtesy of Rock! Shock! Pop!

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