Friday, May 4, 2012

Mario Bava Box Set: Kill, Baby...Kill! (1966): Vintage DVD Review

Movie rating: 8/10
DVD rating: 6/10
Release Date: 1966
Running Time: 1 hours 24 minutes
Rating: PG
Distributor: VCI Home Video
List Price: $24.99 individually of $59.99 as part of a box set which includes "The Whip and the Body" and "Blood and Black Lace"

Disc Details
Special Features:
Interactive menus.
Chapter selection.
3 screen Mario Bava biography and filmography.
Previews for "Blood and Black Lace", "The Night Visitor" and "The Bird With the Crystal Plummage."
Video Format: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Captions: None.
Sides: 1-Disc Keep Case


Mario Bava's 1966 film "Kill, Baby...Kill!" is a neat little chiller set in a remote superstition filled European village at the turn of the last century. A demonic little girl is driving the town's folk to commit some very bloody suicides. Each victim it turns out also has a silver coin embedded in their hearts. All of his information is established in the films first ten minutes. It's the whys and wherefore's behind these strange occurrences that makes for a spooky evening with the lights out. This was Bava's last gothic film. Some say it is among his best, I can't say that I disagree.

The film opens with a bloody suicide and the laughter of a child. Following the credits, Dr. Eswe (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) arrives via a reluctantly driven horse and carriage. This seems to be a staple of gothic horror movies. No matter how hard you try, the coach driver is going to make you walk the last mile so he can get out of Dodge before sundown. Chances are, when you reach the town, you will find it inhabited by terrified rubes who are tightlipped except to say "you're now welcome here." Of course, the visitor never heeds their advice and usually pays dearly for it. Bava spins a unique yarn which breaks free of this standard launching pad to become something special. Dr. Eswe is a coroner who has been called in by an Inspector (Piero Lulli) to examine the body of the impaled woman from the opening scene. The Inspector is also an outsider called in by the town mayor, Karl (Max Lawrence). No one wants to answer the questions of the Doctor or the Inspector. It turns out that the body he was supposed to examine has already been moved to the graveyard. The two interlopers arrive just in time to prevent the burial. The good Doctor begins his autopsy, aided by the mysterious Monica (Erica Blanc). Monica has also just arrived in town due to the recent death of her parents. It is during the autopsy that Doc discovers a silver coin in the heart of the dead woman. Monica has a superstitious explanation for why it is there, but no one can explain how it got there.

And I'm not gonna tell ya! You'll just have to get the movie and find out for yourself. I will tell you that there is a sorceress, Ruth (Fabienne Dali), a demonic ghost of a little girl who has a habit of popping up to ruin the day for many a townie, a sinister villa which may be the key to all of the carnage. This is a spooky little movie. Don't rent it is your looking for splatter. If you enjoy films such as Hammer's "The Horror of Dracula" and the like, then by all means get this one.

As in "The Whip and the Body" Bava uses light and shadows to paint a creepy mosaic of suspense. Bava's pacing is impeccable. He has created some very creepy images which will stay with you, as he did in the final portion of "Black Sabbath." The little girl creeped me out. Maybe it is because I have two daughters and saw a little of them in her! (They are little heathens!) Seriously, the girl appears at the window of one of her intended victims at night. It is a shock. One particular death scene stands out in its twisted beauty. A young girl awakens to see the imp from hell at her window. She is drawn toward a lamp decorated with a sword. The victim's face vacillates between horror and ecstasy. She knows that she will soon be dead, but she also looks longingly at the metal that will soon penetrate her. As if shaking off the demonic seduction of her mind and will, the victim's face is overcome by the realization that she is not going to enjoy this, but will be powerless to stop it. It is a haunting scene which is not easily forgotten. The interplay between the two actresses is excellent. The imp shoots a look at the weapon the victim will use on herself. The victim looks to the weapon. The small nuances that Bava elicited from the two girls are great.

There is also an interesting chemistry between Dr. Eswe and Ruth, the sorceress. The Doctor is the product of the age of reason. If it cannot be empirically proven he does not believe in it. He soon realizes that there is more to be found under the sun than he imagined. Instead of ridiculing the witch, he seeks knowledge from her. He believes that there is a logical explanation (rather than a supernatural one) for the events in the town. It is interesting to see these characters interact in such a way. It goes against the mold for this type of film, and it was very refreshing.

The only distraction in the film is Bava's overuse of the zoom lens. The zoom can be a great tool if use sparingly ala the great ending of "Count Yorga Vampire." However, Bava's use of the zoom becomes extreme at times, and ends up taking away from the suspense. This little bitch aside, "Kill, Baby...Kill!" is an eerie little gem. The title makes it sound more like an exploitive slasher film, but it isn't. It is a well paced, suspenseful little ghost story. If you go into the experience knowing that you will be better prepared to enjoy it. Carlo Rustichelli returns to provide a great score. Many an otherwise good movie had been ruined by a lame score. Bava chose well in Rustichelli as a frequent collaborator.

The movie is dubbed. They didn't do a bad job, but for some reason, I have to watch a movie twice to get past the dubbing. The first time around, I sit there wondering what the actors really sound like. Fortunately for me this movie is worth seeing twice. I think I'll put it away for sometime until the shocks and twists fade into memory, and then take it out for a fresh scare.

The Disc

What could have been! This is a really good movie. If there had been just a couple of extras such as letterboxing and a commentary as great as the one found on "The Whip and the Body" this would be a great disc. As it is, I am glad I have it. It would be a welcome addition to any Horror movie fan's collection.

Picture Quality: 7/10

The opening scenes which take place in broad daylight are a bit faded. Once the action shifts to night time, the brilliance of Bava's use of colors and shadows comes to life. It would give the picture quality a 10 were in not for several bland moments at the beginning. This seems to be Bava's fault and not VCIs as the remaining scenes are rich on their depth and color.

Sound Quality: 10/10

Very good, except I hate dubbing! I guess I need to learn Italian.

Menu: 7/10

Easy to navigate, but like the other special features, there's not much to it.

Extra Features: 2/10

This disc really could have used a commentary by Tim Lucas and letterboxing.

The Final Word:

Despite the lack of letterboxing and special features, "Kill, Baby...Kill!" is more than worth the purchase price. The movie is good enough to move the product so to speak. Thanks again to VCI Home Video Inc. for making "Kill, Baby...Kill!" available to the public this horror classic. "Kill, Baby...Kill!" is available individually and as part of a boxed set of three Mario Bava films. I got the boxed set, and am very pleased with all three films. One of my favorite reference books is Phil Hardy's "Encyclopedia of Horror Movies." My appetite for European horror movies was whetted by Mr. Hardy's book. My thanks to VCI for making the original European versions of some of these films available.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Melissa Graps was played by a boy in a wig, not a girl.