AUGUST 31, 2010
Due to my lack of remembering the “30 Days” rhyme correctly, I booked my return to the US a day "late", and thus I was still in London today, August 31st (I switched April and August), despite Frightfest finishing the night before. But I was sort of happy, as it allowed me to accomplish two things (well, hopefully, in one case) – 1. See some of London beyond the path from my hotel to the Empire cinema, since it’s no guarantee I’ll be able to go again next year, and 2. Prove that I don’t “bank” reviews for Horror Movie A Day, as I watched Baron Blood despite having watched enough films for about 3 weeks in the previous 5 days.
(Of course, if I was able to get all my reviews up in a timelier manner, this would be even more concrete proof, but oh well. Beyond actually sitting there with me watching them all, I can probably never really prove that I’m watching one every day. *Sigh*)
Anyway, Baron Blood had somehow escaped me while I was going through the Mario Bava box set a couple years back. Some of the films weren’t horror, so I skipped those (I sadly admit I’m not a huge Bava fan, so that plus my limited time meant those others posed little interest to me), but I thought I had gotten the HMAD-ready ones. Ironically, it’s actually one of my favorites of his. Elke Sommer is oddly "off" in her performance (not that I'm an expert on the lass, but I don't recall her being particularly bad in anything else I've seen), and as always there are too many goddamn zooms, but otherwise it’s a solid, well made film with some effective scare sequences, an awesome looking bad guy, and a creepy little ginger kid.
There are also long stretches with no one talking, which is always a plus in these things, especially when you have “sadist” being pronounced “saddest” and other odd little translation/accent “glitches”. And again, Sommer isn’t about to win any awards, so keeping her quiet only helps. The story is also rather thin – it’s basically about some folks resurrecting a guy accidentally and then trying to kill him again. But this allows Bava’s visual style to shine through more than some of his others, and it’s easily one of his best looking films – the primary colors are as gorgeous as ever, and even with the zooms, the camerawork is more interesting than some of his earlier films, as he was getting more creative as time went on.
(This reminds me, I must give Bay of Blood another look now that I have a good DVD of it.)
The pacing is a little off, however. About 2/3 through the film, we meet a medium, and are treated to a lengthy séance scene, which slows things down. Plus she dies right at the end of it and they never really mention her again, so the whole thing could have been excised with little problem. There are also two scenes in a row of Eva being chased around by the Baron, which is one too many. I also get slightly eye-roll-y when plot points can be easily explained by mere technical errors; when they resurrect the Baron, the clock strikes two (the time of his death – nice of his killers to do things right on the hour) even though it’s midnight, which is supposed to be scary. But I was just thinking “maybe the clock is broken?”. It would have been scarier, or at least slightly less goofy, if it was two and it struck 12 times for midnight (in other words, striking more than it should have, instead of less). It’s like Phantom Menace – “a communications disruption can only mean one thing – invasion!” Yeah, or some fucktard Gungan drove his cart into the transformer.
The kills are pretty awesome though, and there are several of them. I particularly liked the poor sod who got put in the spiked coffin, and the first kill, of a doctor, was a nice surprise – I thought the doctor would help him out throughout the picture, sort of like Christopher Lee in The Oblong Box. And the ending is awesome, with the secret to killing the Baron becoming clear. Not only is it interesting visually, sort of turning the movie into a zombie film for a bit, but it’s also far more satisfying on a storytelling level than the usual “let’s just fight him for 30 seconds and knock him off a roof or set him on fire” type deal.
Beyond the trailer, the only extra is a Tim Lucas commentary. As usual, the track comes off as an audition for an all voice-equipped version of the IMDb, as he just rattles off the bios of everyone on-screen (and some who are not even involved with the film), but he does point out some interesting stuff, such as the fact that the edited US version (this is the uncut one) removed the romance between the two leads (a good choice, actually), and had a slightly different ending. He’s also quieter than usual, there are quite a few sections where he doesn’t speak at all or offers just a quick little anecdote. It’s been a while, but I remember him being pretty chatty on the others. However, at the end of the track, he says that he’ll continue a story in Lisa and the Devil’s track, so maybe he recorded all of these at once and was getting sick of talking? Either way, it’s not a bad track per se, but since some of these folks are still alive, I’d rather hear this stuff straight from the source, with him as a moderator. He’s undeniably well informed on the subject, but the lack of personal attachment (or deep critical analysis that someone like Ebert can bring to a track of this nature) makes them a bit hard to focus on after a while.
What say you?