Baron Blood (1972)
I had never seen this Mario Bava entry before, so the recent arrow video release was very welcome indeed. All you need to know about the plot is that involves resurrecting a long-dead Baron who has a penchant for torture devices. That’s really about it. Whilst the simplistic plot and one-dimensional characters mean this isn’t one of Bava’s best movies, it remains a gorgeous film to look at.
Having trained as a cinematographer Bava’s visuals are the jewel in his cinematic crown. It’s this visual style that strikes you from the off in BARON BLOOD. The product of that visual style and the on-location shoot make this a feast for the eyes. Bava utilises many ‘dutch angle’ shots (think of the titled angle scenes from the 1960s Batman TV series) in this film to emphasise the distorted nature of reality within and around the castle and frames his characters beautifully in both shadow and light. Bava also includes many close-up shots of characters’ eyes throughout the picture, something which doesn’t always work in this picture but Lucio Fulci would later put similar shots to better effect in his 70s/80s horror pictures.
The gothic atmopshere is slowly ramped up to reach a brilliant set-piece in which Elke Sommer is chased through fog-drenched sidestreets by the disfigured baron and this is probably the most famous scene in the film. What surprised me when watching this was that the first 30 mins are still quite frightening even today, over 40 years later. There aren’t many horror films of that era which can truly lay claim to that and it shows what you can do with some elegant photography and scene-setting.
NB:Watch the version with the alternative score by Les Baxter – it’s far creepier than the elevator music provided within the original cut.