Mario Bava's 1972 ghost thriller returns him to his gothic horror roots: a magnificent castle, an ancient curse, a cruel killer from the past resurrected by his ancestor to continue his reign of terror. That description sounds like a Technicolor reworking of Bava's masterpiece, Black Sunday
, but Baron Blood
evokes a mood similar to Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films, notably Vincent Price's cruel manipulations in The Masque of the Red Death
. Baron von Kleist (a.k.a. the notorious Baron Blood) is resurrected in a bit of schoolboy theatrics gone terribly wrong. The bloody, disfigured corpse rises from the grave to murder hapless townspeople and stalk miniskirted Elke Sommer, finally transforming himself into the respectable but mysterious millionaire Joseph Cotten. "Sadist. Murderer. Merely matters of terminology," he says, smiling while restoring his beloved torture chamber to the sounds of tape-recorded screams. Bava spikes the often slack story with eerie images (the crook-necked dead stare of a hanging man, blood seeping under a heavy oak door, a tower adorned with corpses spiked on jutting pikes). Cotten makes a sinister von Kleist, with an ominous tremble in his voice that belies his seemingly frail, wheelchair-bound body. The uncut version restores bloody scenes cut from American prints and the original jazzy score, but the gorgeous color photography is muted by a slightly murky transfer. The accompanying essays by Tim Lucas are thoughtful, informative, and wonderfully detailed, especially considering their brevity. --Sean Axmaker
In Italian director Mario Bava's sumptuous Technicolor Gothic horror classic an American student Peter Kleist travels to Austria on summer holiday to learn more about his family roots. By reciting an incantation on a piece of ancient parchment, he succeeds in scaring up a genuine ancestor--Baron Otto von Kleist, a 16th century sadistic nobleman whose appetite for cruelty earned him the nickname "Baron Blood." Before Peter can reverse the incantation, the parchment burns...How many innocents will die before Peter learns how to send the evil Baron back to the hell from whence he came?