Monday, November 5, 2007

Baron Blood (1972):or, Better Not Burn That Parchment, Baby!

On one of my more recent sojourns into the misty regions of the world, I happened upon two rather ominous-looking chests. Each chest was wrought from a hard wood I could not identify and carved with glyphs that any attempt to decipher would cause the reader’s head to be filled with monstrous visions of a world gone mad. Upon examining the latch mechanisms, I knew instantly what would be required to open them: A thin bone carved into the shape of an intricate key and made from the elongated femur of a blind Hesychastic monk, which I had happened to acquire on a previous visit to the region. Using this with a combination of pressure and Kabalistic chants, the locks sprang open, revealing their contents.

I speak, of course, of the twin Mario Bava DVD sets that our benefactors at Anchor Bay have chosen to release upon the world. Bava needs no introduction to my audience. We all know this most salacious of pioneers, his artistry speaking for itself. Spawned in 1972, “Baron Blood” represents Bava at the height of his powers, using the knowledge he’d gleaned over the years to create something designed to frighten as well as entertain.

BB opens with some killer 70’s groove music as we witness that mighty corporation Pan Am whisk our would-be hero Peter to Austria, ostensibly to visit his kin. Deplaning at Flugen Wein airport, we see that his pilot was none other than Capt. Stubbing (or a reasonable facsimile there of). Peter meets his uncle Karl in the terminal, and is carried away into the Austrian countryside. Along the way, his uncle informs him that the family castle is being renovated to become a hotel. Apparently the locals won’t go near it, due in no small part to the name of the castle, that being “Castle of the DEVIL”!, but they figure tourists won’t have these same hang-ups.

Upon swinging by the castle to give Peter a quick look-see, they run into the beautiful Eva, played by the sultry Elke Sommer, and of course Peter is smitten instantly, due no doubt to her insanely short skirt. We are also introduced to Fritz, the bumbling half-wit oaf who loiters around the castle grounds, indulging himself in buffoonery and general hijinks at every given moment. Over supper with Uncle Karl and Eva, Peter learns more of his family’s heritage, including that of the infamous Baron Blooooooooooodddddd, who apparently burned a witch, who in turn cursed him to a never-ending cycle of resurrecting and blood-letting. Intrigued by Eva’s gams, and her possession of a certain parchment containing the very incantation that is supposed to raise the Baron from his slumber, Peter suggests that they go to the castle that very night, and read aloud the incantation in the very room the Baron was burned alive in! Hey, that sounds like a lark!

So off they go, these two crazy kids, and somehow they manage to make it into the bedroom during the night without filling their pantaloons first (a feat I would have serious doubts in completing myself, I do admit!). Read the incantation they do, and no sooner has the last word been spoken when heavy footsteps begin to thump over their heads. The Baron lives! Fortunately, Eva is armed with the anti-summoning spell, and so the Baron is sent back, unseen by our two youngsters. Convincing themselves that it was all in their heads, they resolve the next day to try again.

They return the next night, and summon the Baron again. This time his footsteps echo and he approaches the very door to the room they are in. Blood begins running underneath the door, and they realize they’ve gone too far this time. This night, though, the gods looked upon their folly with disdain, sending a fell wind through the castle that whisks the anti-spell parchment from their table and into a roaring fire!! Luckily for them the Baron makes a hasty exit and they are spared gruesome deaths.

However, Baron Blood roams free! Here we get some good looks at the Baron’s ravaged visage, constantly seeping blood it is. His costume is even more scary, resembling that of a Pilgrim gone horribly wrong. The Baron’s first visit is to a nearby doctor, who, taking the Baron for a victim of an accident, fixes up the Baron’s face before becoming a victim himself. Very quickly the bodies start piling up around the Castle of the Devil, for the Baron likes to decorate his castle walls (and interiors) with bodies. A great anguish is inflicted upon the viewer as the lovable, bumbling Fritz gets thrown into an iron maiden, the results of which show Bava’s command of gore effects.

Without spoiling too much of the ending, I’ll give a quick rundown: Enlisting witch help is never good, Zombie Fritz!!, resurrected Barons are bulletproof, and death by angry zombie mob. I was grinning like a loon the whole length of this movie. Start to finish, it never lets up and gives us great incite into the height of Italian horror. The castle set is put to good use, and the use of lighting is simply awe-inspiring. Everyone does a great job acting, and the original Italian score is to die for.

Any fan of horror should immediately seek out this movie and watch it. Bava is called Il Maestro for a reason, and Baron Blood demonstrates this like no other.

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