Director - Mario Bava
Cast - Elke Sommer, Joseph Cotton, Antonio Cantafora
Country of Origin - Italy
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 1/23/13
The Film (3.5/5)
Baron Blood stars Antonio Cantafora as Peter Kleist a recently graduated college student, who for his post graduation vacation decides to visit Romania, and his family castle in order to delve his family history. He is most interested in a Vlad the Impaler-esque Baron, Otto von Kleist, who due to his violent reputation was bestowed the nickname Baron Blood. If research was his primary directive, of course, this film would have no plot. It turns out young Peter also has an interested in the occult, and wishes to resurrect the Baron which he manages to do with the assistance of tour guide Eva (Lisa and the Devil's Elke Sommer). The pair of them using ancient scrolls manage to resurrect the Baron which begins his rampage anew.
If there was a Patron Saint of EuroCultAV.com that would have to be Mario Bava. The work of Mario Bava can be almost single handedly attributed to kick starting the continental European horror film movement in the late 50's with his Riccardo Freda collaboration I, Vampiri, and later on with his proper feature film debut 1960's gothic horror masterpiece Black Sunday.
Bava throughout his directorial career worked in a variety of genres from crime to fantasy, but it was his horror films that he would be most famous for. However, after the early 60's triumvirate of Black Sunday, Whip and the Body, and Black Sabbath he would take a pause from horror (I am not, of course, counting his gialli as straight up horror) to experiment with other genres before returning to the genre in the late 60's, and early 70's. It is during this period where he made Baron Blood.
As far as Bava's horror films are concerned Baron Blood is often considered more of a minor entry in his filmography than a full blown classic. It certainly takes elements already established in his prior films, and themes common to the genre with no unique twist, but his own lush visual style. The films place in his filmography also happened to fall between two of his more iconic films the proto-slasher Twitch of the Death Nerve, and the near avant-garde supernatural terror of Lisa and the Devil.
It is interesting that Baron Blood happens to fall between those 2 films. Lisa and the Devil is Bava at his most dreamlike and non-linear as far as narrative construction. This is complete contrast to Twitch of the Death Nerve which certainly feels like a prototype for the slasher genre, and while the film certainly has it's twist (such as the murderers), it does not share that fluid dream like quality that Bava was able to channel in films like Lisa and the Devil and the earlier Kill Baby, Kill.
The primary reason I bring this up, is because Baron Blood seems to fall squarely between these 2 places. On one hand the story, setup, and location is very much in the gothic horror vein, the monster on a killing spree feels like a typical horror movie setup, and yet there are moments strewn throughout Baron Blood where Bava lets the visuals tell the story in a wonderful engaging manner, that regardless of plot always draws me into the experience. The film is not one of Mario Bava's long enduring classics, but the films visuals, coupled with an excellent monster, some interesting kills, and that trademark Bava atmosphere makes Baron Blood a film well worth watching, and revisiting.
Kino Lorber have presented Baron Blood in the films original 1:78:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. As with the recent line of European horror films coming from the Kino/Redemption collaboration not much has gone in the way of restoration to Baron Blood. That being said the Blu-ray of Baron Blood looks infinitely better than either prior Region 1/A release (Image and Anchor Bay).
The colors on the transfer pop beautifully from the screen, fine detail is vastly improved, and black levels are solid. There is a nice solid organic grain structure evident on the transfer. That being said there is some print damage in places, and the opening credit sequence appears to be highly damaged, and unnaturally grainy. It's a minor complaint really to have a Bava release that looks this good.
Kino Lorber have presented Mario Bava's Baron Blood with an LPCM 2.0 mono track in English. This track certainly suits the film for the most part, however, I did find myself adjusting the volume quite a bit at certain points as dialogue does become difficult to discern throughout. Although English audio is provided, subtitles would have been a nice inclusion with the track. Other than that I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Not the most substantial slate of extras ever created for a release, however, Kino Lorber have put some nice material on their release of Baron Blood. The primary extra, of course, is a commentary track by Mario Bava scholar (and author of the definitive autobiography of the man Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) Tim Lucas. This track was ported over from the prior Anchor Bay release, and is engaging and informative. Everything you ever wanted to know about Baron Blood but were afraid to ask. It's all here. We also get alternate opening and closing sequences for the film, trailers, TV and radio spots. Kino have also included trailers for other recent Bava releases.
Mario Bava's early 70's return to gothic horror is not one of his most classic films. However it is still an absolutely fun and entertaining watch that is drenched in the maestros trademark atmosphere and visuals. The Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber looks absolutely fantastic, and they have also include a decent slate of extras to accompany the film. Having Mario Bava in HD alone makes this release HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.