Mario Bava is probably my favorite of the classic Italian directors. His use of color and the different turns he took throughout his movie career enlightened my senses. From his black and white spooks such as Black Sunday and The Girl Who Knew Too Much, to the glorious bright stains of Black Sabbath, Bay of Blood, and Five Dolls for an August Moon ó Mario Bava is a mastermind of tint and atmosphere. For Baron Blood, however, there is a considerable amount of colors lacking than what would have been expected. Once again we have Elke Sommer, who appeared in his breathtakingLisa and the Devila year later. Still, even without an overexposure of these details, does Baron Blood present a worthy case to be noted as a 70s must have?
We start off with a tune similar to Bay of Bloodís ending theme, which seems to fit since that was the feature shot directly before Baron Blood. Perhaps this is Bavaís way of notifying that his directorial career is continued from there to here. A very clever nod. Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) is a descendant of the Baron, also known as Baron Blood, who lived years ago. Peter flies over to Austria where his ancestorís castle is placed; where the Baron used to torture his victims in the chambers. He meets his uncle, Dr. Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti) and Eva Arnold (Sommer). What he learns is shocking and most horrible. The Baron Blood was cursed to a hellish death by a witch, Elisabeth HŲlle, whom he burned at the stake. One night, Peter and Eva decide to have a little fun in the castle. They have parchments with incantations on them that supposedly are supposed to resurrect the dead: The Baron himself! What at first is harmless superstition and games becomes a nightmare when something evil, scarred and ancient is awakened from its eternal slumber.
The Baron Blood is brought back to life in the form from which he was killed, badly burned, and he immediately picks up where he left off hundreds of years before. Dr. Werner Hessler (Gustavo De Nardo) is stabbed to death, a land surveyor is dispatched, and Mayor Dortmundt (Dieter Tressler) is hanged. Fritz, a recently fired caretaker of the castle, is attacked and killed in the Baron's torture coffin. Nobody finds Fritzís body, so they suspect that he was the one who murdered Mr. Dortmundt. At an auction, a mysterious man by the name of Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotten) obtains the castle, but nobody knows anything about him. Eva is later chased by the Baron, convincing herself and Peter that their supernatural reading worked. They must find a way to send the evil ancestor back where he came from, before more people fall victim to his blood soaked fury, and the torture chamber of Baron Blood is reopened once again.
Itís seasoned with little twists, but thereís not much to shock the viewer. The violence is tame, and overall, Baron Blood owes more to the terror flicks of the 30s and 40s than the smutty 70s. Gretchen, Karlís young daughter, is a typical kid actress; sheís messy at speaking and sheís rarely believable. Somehow, her innocence and foolish character completely fits the film. She is in, what I believe, the best scene of the film. Riding home from school on her bicycle, Gretchen stares up at the Baronís castle and accidentally drops her apple. She goes searching for it in the woods, where glimpses of a burned hand can be seen. Baron Blood is watching her! Itís a chase scene thatís quite atmospheric and astray from the rest of the film.
The Baron is not ferociously creepy when his face is exposed. Even when he is hung in the shadows, thereís little terror to be sensed. Although, you know heís a brutal man from the tales of torture floating around. Becker is not silent about his character. You can tell by the way he acts that there is something not quite right about him. As is later revealed in the story, the odd feeling is confirmed. Alfred has a past with the Baron legend, and itís the biggest secret of them all. The first thirty minutes are not very good, as they are dull and sterile. Eva and Peterís conversations are irritating with interruption after interruption, crashing into each otherís words. Elke Sommer herself does not seem to be blessed with the same charismatic lady of Lisa and the Devil, and no one else in the film becomes a spotlighted favorite. The most interesting person is indeed, the villain of the show, although Christina Hoffmann (Rada Rassimov), a psychic who helps out our heroes, is a sweet and colorful addition to an otherwise simple cast.
The score is an eerie mixture of horns and faint drumming. It goes well with the chase scenes, such as the hour markís romp in the streets. Eva is chased by the Baron Blood, and itís lit up with foggy yellow and blue lights shining through the alleys and trees. The Baron travels with blood, leaving a trail behind of bright red paint. Youíve gotta love the 70s! Itís no Bay of Blood, but there are definitely some slasher points throughout. Within ten minutes, four individuals are murdered by the freshly raised Baron. And if youíre wondering, no, Elke does not expose her breasts at all like Lisa. But you can certainly enjoy a bit of product placement, courtesy of Coca Cola. Available in the Bava Box Set: Volume 2 collection, Baron Blood is released in its uncut state, though thatís not saying too much for gore hounds. A well-done semi-gothic horror with a trailer, radio spots, and an audio commentary, donít pass up the chance to own this champion piece. Itís not even close to flawless, nor is it perfected in cinematography, but itís here and Iím loving it. Buy it!