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Kill, Baby... Kill!

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Review by DVD Savant | posted January 19, 2001 | E-mail the Author

Reviewed by
Glenn Erickson

Kill, Baby... Kill!
1966 / Color / 1:33 / aka Operazione paura
Starring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabianne Dali, Piero Lulli, Max Lawrence, Luciano Catenacci, Gianna Vivaldi
Cinematography Antonio Rinaldi
Set Decoration Alessandro Dell'Orco
Film Editor Romana Fortini
Original Music Carlo Rustichelli
Writing creditsMario Bava, Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale
Produced by Luciano Cantenacci and Nando Pisani

Directed by Mario Bava

Bava's Operazione Paura has eluded Savant up to now, and it was a pleasant revelation to see it for the first time on DVD. It's a gothic mystery that weaves a new pattern out of a ghost story with stock elements: the ignorant and superstitious village cowering in fear while showing only hostility to the rational hero; a curse emanating from a Miss Haversham-like crone, that manifests itself in a beautiful but malignant child-demon.

Doctor Paul (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) comes to a town paralyzed by fear, to perform an autopsy on a young woman who died a violent death. When he finds a coin embedded in the victim's heart, shameful local secrets are unearthed. The ghost of Melissa Graps, a child callously run over and left to die during a drunken festival twenty years before, is said to be causing the victims to destroy themselves. Local occult 'wikkan' Ruth (Fabienne Dali) seems to be encouraging the hysteria with her cruel folk remedies, while local officials who approach Villa Graps to investigate its mysterious Baroness (Gianni Vivaldi) also turn up dead with self-inflicted wounds. Together with a frightened Monica (Erika Blanc), Paul determines to penetrate the castle and put an end to the reign of terror.

Once again, the Bava spell creates an oppressive atmosphere that allows uncanny events to get a solid grip on the viewer. In this case the ghost of record is a young child, a longhaired blonde girl with a tiny pale face and staring eyes. Seen mostly at fogged windows and bouncing a ball on cobwebbed staircases, her effectiveness is derived almost entirely from the direction ... and she's plenty creepy. (She seems to be borrowed intact, concept and appearance, for Federico Fellini's Toby Dammit episode of Spirits of the Dead) Young women who simply catch sight of her, soon do themselves in violently. While not dodging shotgun-toting inkeepers, Monica and Paul must navigate confounding mental hallucinations. Monica's nightmare is a very impressive (and rather un-Bava-ish) montage full of dissolves and optical superimpositions that are so clean, they may have been done in the camera. Paul experiences some genuinely dislocating fractures of time and space in Villa Graps that are best experienced than described here. Suffice it to say that they recall both elements of classic macabre writing and art, especially Edgar Allan Poe. Paul's attempt to leave Villa Graps leaps into an exciting dimension of illusion and Escher-esgue imagery.

Finally, Operazione Paura (I hate the stupid English title) has a unique character in the local sorceress played by Fabienne Dali. Not only is she an effective black-cloaked female 'Van Helsing' in contrast to the stuffily incredulous hero, but her master of black arts, together with a level-headed maternal morality, provides the only real defense against the virginal, innocent evil of Melissa Graps and her vengeful mother. All the interesting characters in Operazione Paura are women ...

Kill, Baby... Kill was actually released by VCI over a year ago, and it is not as good looking as the other two discs in the set. The full-frame flat print source appears to be a 16mm print of better-than average quality. It also appears to be cropped on the sides, and in general looks nowhere near as good as the other two. It also only has its English-language track, which is another disappointment. However, the movie is so good that it was easily as enjoyable as the other two.

(General Box Set Comments:)

VCI's Boxed Bava set is a mix in terms of quality, and only devotees of the films are going to understand their value even in less-than-perfect editions. Savant knows a score of people who've bought these titles over and over again on VHS and laserdiscs, and these reasonably priced discs look far better than any of them. VCI is to be commended on this level, even if they have some distance to go to catch up with the production quality of the front-rank Image and Anchor Bay labels. A slight caveat: some users have reported difficulties in getting all of the discs to play on certain machines, a serious flaw that buyers should check out before ponying up their cash.

The extras on the discs range from trailers (one of the discs has a blurry but nice trailer for Erik the Conqueror) to text essays. The ones by Tim Lucas, a major contributor to all the Bava discs, are excellent, but some of the other credits lists are incomplete or incorrect. The oft-repeated flub about Bava producing a movie called Atom Age Vampire gets another workout here, and a '50s space movie Bava filmed is listed as two separate movies under French and Italian titles. It's the overall disc design that is somewhat disappointing, in Savant's judgment. Starting up one of these discs requires sitting through two logos and an annoying pair of 'special thanks to' cards that really put the cart before the horse. A more practical complaint are the distracting subtitles, which are written in a trendy font that is hard to read. VCI has the right spirit, it must be said.

Already considered a Must-Buy for horror fans, The Mario Bava Boxed Set delivers three of the best of Bava. What's remaining in the regista Italiana's filmography may be harder for fans to see. Word on the chances to see I Vampiri are vague. Nobody's snapped up Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, Savant's fave 'blob' movie by far. Terrore Nello Spazio is missing in action - MGM recently remastered the American version, Planet of the Vampires. Danger: Diabolik is from Paramount, so the likelihood of it coming out is extremely slim, unfortunately. While waiting for Tim Lucas' forthcoming Bava Book, you can read more about Diabolik in Savant's Article, The Guiltiest Pleasure of Them All.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Mario Bava Box Set: Kill, Baby Kill! rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Fair
Sound: Fair
Packaging: Amaray case in card sleeve
Reviewed: January 17, 2001

Black Sunday... Black Sunday Censorship... Black Sabbath... The Asphyx... Lisa and the Devil... Daughter of Dr. Jekyll... The Awful Dr. Orlof... The Girl Who Knew Too Much... Dementia / Daughter of Horror... Sisters... City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie... Basket Case... Nosferatu 1922 / Nosferatu 1979... Nudes and Gore Galore: The Vampire Lovers

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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 1997-2001 Glenn Erickson

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