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June 19, 2013

Movie Review: Baron Blood (1972, Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

Review By Rob Sibley

Baron Blood may not be Mario Bava's most highly regarded film, but to me it's certainly a blast to watch. I'm a huge Bava junkie and often find myself revisiting his films often and Baron Blood is always a delight for repeat watches. This might have to do with the fact that the film is much faster paced then your typical Bava flick. Don't get me wrong I adore Black Sunday and the Giallo that started it all “The Girl Who Knew Too Much” and “Kill, Baby Kill...” but those films were definitely methodically paced and just a tad slow now and then. Those films are masterpieces of Italian cinema don't get me wrong, but I think younger audiences sadly would find those films painfully slow. Baron Blood on the other hand builds atmosphere quickly and expertly and moves along like a fine tuned freight train.

Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora ) an American student travels on holiday to Austria to find out more about his roots. Or as he puts it “Scare up some old family ghosts”. He's mainly interested in his ancestor Baron Otto von Kleist. The Baron was not a kind man by any stretch of the imagination. He was pretty much a Vlad the impaler sort of character. Who took pleasure in torturing people just to quench his blood lust. Peter hooks up with a sexy young gal Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) and they come across a piece of parchment. On that paper is an incantation to resurrect the Baron. So what does Mr. Kleist decide to do? He heads to the castle with Eva with the hopes of making a move on her and in the process read out the incantation... bad move. Eva get's frightened on the first try as Peter begins to read the incantation so he stops. Believe it or not Peter tries again to raise the Baron and successfully does so. No worries though, the paper does have a second incantation to reverse the spell... only problem is dear old Pete decides to burn the paper... bad move dude. So the Baron is back and he's out for blood and he wants his castle back.

Lucky for the Baron that the castle is up for sale at an auction. The grotesque Baron shows up wheelchair bound and looking quite human in the form of class act Joseph Cotton. He wins the auction and soon reclaims his castle and the torture chamber in the basement. After brutally killing a doctor and bum, the Baron sets his sights on Eva. So it's up to Peter and Eva to stop the Baron before he can kill again.

For some reason people seem to love to trash this movie. Yes it's not Bava's best picture but it's certainly a lot of fun. Of all his films it certainly shows some of the highest production values of any of the man's films. This in large part had to do with the fact that Bava's producer was Alfredo Leone. Who went on to work with Bava again on “Lisa And The Devil”. The film is rich in it's Gothic atmosphere and doesn't skimp on the red stuff either. Performances for the most part are all around solid. Antonio Cantafora as Peter brings a lot of charm and an instant likability to his character. Which is a nice change of pace considering how a lot of Italian leading men in Italian horror films are often wooden.

International sex symbol Elke Sommer's brings the films sex appeal. Joseph Cotton shows up about halfway through the picture and classes things up nicely. Interestingly enough the producers originally wanted Vincent Price for the picture but he declined do to a bad experience with Bava on a prior picture.

Also be on the look out for an uncredited appearance by child actor Nicoletta Elmi. You'll remember her as the red headed kid who took a sick enjoyment in pinning lizards to the wall in Argento's Deep Red. She also had a quick cameo in Bava's earlier masterpiece the proto-slasher “A Bay of Blood”.

Overall, you can't go wrong with this movie. It's one of Bava's finest films from the 1970's. Maybe audiences weren't ready for the film at the time or maybe people were put off that this wasn't another Bava Giallo but something different. Bava and Leone both wanted to make a film that appealed to a more “youthful” audience and I think they succeeded greatly. To me this would be a great starter for people who want to get into the wonderful candy colored cinema of Mario Bava.

Arrow Video really rolled out the read carpet for Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The disk boasts multiple versions of the film. We get the complete uncut Italian version of the film and for the first time on home video we get the AIP cut of the film! Let me change that it's not the original AIP cut, it's not the PG version with the missing throat slashing and an additional 8 minutes that was released in the states. But it does feature the amazing Les Baxter score. Les re-scored multiple Bava films for their American releases and oddly enough his score trumps the original Stelvio Cipriani score.

This brand new HD transfer is very handsome indeed. The colors look marvelous, especially the reds. I wasn't able to detect any or much DNR and you still get a nice comfortable amount of natural film grain. Between this release and the Kino Blu-ray I'd say they are very close to each other. This transfer seems to be a bit warmer with the colors though.

For all three versions of the film your offered some very pleasing DTS-HD mixed mono tracks. The choice is up to you if you want to watch the film in Italian or the dubbed version. I must admit though, this is one of the few times that I actually prefer the American dubbing.

For extras we start out with a very informative 3 minute introduction by film critic and author Alan Jones. We then move onto a staple of all Bava releases, a commentary from the video watch dog himself Tim Lucas. Author of Mario Bava: all the colors of the dark, Tim as per usual provides a track that tells you everything you'd want to know about the picture and more.

You also get a nice little 11 minute interview with director Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust). He discusses everything from his first meeting with Bava, he talks about Bava's son (and talented director in his own right) Lamberto and even discusses the great Italian exploitation filmmaker Antonio Margheriti.

Rounding out the set are some radio spots and an image gallery. With the set you get a very attractive reversible cover art and a 24 page booklet.

Arrow Video has once again done Bava fans proud with their release of Baron Blood. This release and the film come HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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