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December 11, 2013

Movie Review: The Whip and the Body (Blu-ray,1963)

During the heyday of Britain's glorious Hammer Studios productions and Italy's grand gothic horror cycle, two men were huge contributors to the very best genre films had to offer - Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince Of Darkness) and Italy's Master of Horror, Mario Bava (Black Sunday and Black Sabbath). On the heels of the success of Black Sabbath, to many a horror fan's delight, director Mario Bava joined forces with the popular English actor to make The Whip and the Body. Kino-Lorber has now given the film its Blu-ray debut which should indeed please Bava admirers.

The Whip and the Body is a tale about love, lashes and murder at the massive Menliff Manor. Kurt (Christopher Lee) rides a horse galloping furiously towards his old home, much to the dismay of his family. The family rightfully has a beef with Kurt as he's abusive whip-wielding murderer; but they are far from perfect. Kurt's brother, Christian (Tony Kendall) is married to their cousin, Nevenka (Daliah Lavi). To make matters even crazier, Kurt has a heavily sadomasochistic relationship with their stunning relative. Naturally, Nevenka and Kurt hook up for a bit of fun -- but unfortunately for Kurt not too long after he is found dead with a neat slit in his throat from ear to ear.

After the discovery of Kurt plenty of paranoia ensues for the family. Nevenka experiences visions of Kurt walking the halls, popping up in her window and other spots around the manor. What's great about The Whip and the Body - next to the stunning cinematography - is that at this point the movie takes a twist as everyone wonders who the killer is, and if this ghost is even real. 

The mood of Whip and the Body is vintage Bava - plenty of color is on display and the darkness is married together so effectively that you have an almost constant feeling of dread throughout the picture. As beautiful as lead actress Daliah Lavi is, the cinematography is just easy on the eyeballs.

The extras include some trailers for other Bava films released by Kino-Lorber (Bay of Blood, Black SundayBlack Sabbath and others.), the original theatrical trailer for Whip and the Body, English dubbed and Italian soundtracks and an excellent commentary by Bava historian and editor of Video Watchdog Magazine, Tim Lucas. Lucas does a fine job solo on the commentary by pointing out production specifics and telling some stories about the actors and crew. At certain points he even walks with you through scenes, which makes it helpful if you’re not as familiar with Bava and his style. A must listen once you've finished the feature.

I can definitely put The Whip and the Body in my top five best of Bava list. It really is that good and Kino-Lorber without a doubt has done a fine job bringing this gothic classic to the Blu-ray format. Highly Recommended

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