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The Whip and the Body

Daliah Lavi , Christopher Lee , Mario Bava    Unrated   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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The hungry, haunted eyes of the voluptuous Daliah Lavi dominate Mario Bava's kinky little ghost story. Set in a cavernous castle on a lonely coast, it looks like something out of Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe thrillers, at least at first. Christopher Lee is the bad sheep prodigal son who returns to the family manor. A sexual sadist whose proclivities brought about the death of a young girl and sent him into exile, he immediately lures his brother's wife (Lavi) into his sadistic games upon his return. There's no shortage of suspects when he's found dead, a dagger plunged into his neck (the same one his former lover killed herself with), but when he returns as a gray-faced ghost Bava pushes the gothic conventions and repressed sexual desires into delirious territory. It's one of the most psychologically compelling scripts in Bava's filmography, wracked with mad passions and haunted with guilt, and he pushes the emotional hysteria to the limits with lush style, surreal color, and gorgeous, often perverse imagery. The film was drastically cut and renamed What! for its U.S. release. VCI's edition is not only completely uncut but mastered from a gorgeous, color drenched print, restoring Bava's rich play of crimson red and cerulean blue.

The DVD features both English and Italian language soundtracks (neither of which feature Lee's voice, though the English track better matches the images) with optional subtitles, a sharp, informative commentary track by Bava historian Tim Lucas, and two cut scenes hidden as "Easter Eggs." To access these, go to the Special Features menu, move the cursor to "Play American Titles," and push the left arrow button. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

Audio commentary by film and Mario Bava historian Tim Lucas, Original Theatrical Trailer

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5.0 out of 5 stars Bava at his best Feb. 10 2004
They certainly don't make pictures like this anymore. This is an unique combination of ghost story and SM-romance, capturing the sensibility of the gothic novel, unmatched by any other cinematic attempt that I'm aware of. Christopher Lee is the mystical brother who returns to the family mansion, where everybody despices him, making him responsible for the suicide of a servant girl - the knife is kept in a showcase as a holy relic. Only Nevenka (Daliah Lavi), once his fiancé, now his sister-in-law seems confused about her feelings towards him. He is soon found murdered and the movie becomes a kind of whodunit, since everybody would have perfectly adequate reasons to get rid of him (the lumbering servant even looks like Peter Lorre). Soon he comes back from the grave to haunt Nevenkas bedchamber. Daliah Lavi has the same kind of fragile, pale beauty as Barbara Steele (who was initially offered the part), which makes her well suited for this kind of aesthetic. This is how one could imagine what Poe's Ligeia would look like.
This is really not to be missed by any lover of the gothic genre and the restored DVD looks quite good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BAVA AT HIS BEST.... Oct. 10 2002
A beautiful woman's dead lover who enjoyed whipping her with a riding crop comes back to haunt her in a lonely castle by the sea. To reveal more would be to say too much. A stylish, elegant horror film and a must for Bava afficianados, this movie is fairly drenched in vivid color and haunting atmosphere. Of course, the lovely Dahlia Lavi (whatever happened to her?) graces the proceedings with a performance worthy of Barbara Steele and Christopher Lee is her match as the sadistic lover. To compare Lavi to Steele really isn't fair but these are the only two actresses who could have put this role over. Lavi is excellent in delivering the agony and delirium that Steele was so good at. This is most unusual fare for horror fans and not the least bit sensationalistic as it sounds. It's a mood piece in the Grand Guignol tradition that is a worthy addition to anyone's serious collection of "horror as art".
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5.0 out of 5 stars An unknown masterpiece Sept. 12 2003
A true gem that gets better and better with every viewing, Whip And The Body is an extremely sophisticated piece of work. Visually mesmerizing, totaly ahead of it's time as far as the plot goes, this is Bava at it's very best. Whip And The Body is recommended to all serious movie lovers so don't get frightened by the italian gothic horror label the movie carries, this is grand cinema, the work of a genius that needs way more recognition.
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The writing in this film establishes an excellent mood and atmosphere that's well sustained throughout despite other potential literary shortcomings depending on the individual tastes of the viewer. Lee as usual is delighfully eerie and menacing. The sound, color and clarity are excellent. The ending was disappointing for some reason that I cannot quite articulate, but overall a worthy addition to my growing dvd gothic collection.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Whipping the body Feb. 22 2007
One of Christopher Lee's darker films -- and Mario Bava's more gothic ones -- is "The Whip and the Body," a sort of ghostly-mystery with a perverse twist. It suffers from a slack midsection, but it's still loaded with wonderful direction and tons of atmosphere.

Kurt (Christopher Lee) has just returned after years in disgraced exile, and immediately grates on his sickly father and mild brother Christian (Tony Kendall). Also it turns out that Kurt's ex-girlfriend Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) has married Kurt, but she can't deny her feelings after a Kurt whips and seduces her.

Then Kurt is found dead. Everyone -- from Christian to the servants -- has a reason to want Kurt dead, but no one knows who did it. And Nevenka is acting strangely, as she is visited and whipped by Kurt when no one is around. Is she the victim of a ghost, or something far more terrible?

Mario Bava knew how to make creepy gothic movies (a la "Kill Baby Kill"), but he gives it a perverse twist here. "Thhe Whip and the Body" is gleefully split between ghost story, murder mystery, and dark erotic story of S&M and personal obsession. This is not cheerful, family-oriented fare.

As with his other gothic movies, this one is set in a creepy, crumbling estate, full of dark corners, grimy walls, torches and weird coloured lights. It does suffer from an uninspired middle section, between Kurt's death and the coffin's unearthing, which is mostly Nevenka wandering around hallucinatng.

And the direction is very solid -- disturbed, stormy, slightly off-kilter, and peppered with perversely erotic love scenes. The sight of Lee whipping the clothes off a moaning Lavi borders on campy, but it just stays on this side, and remains darkly intense right to the creepy finale.
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