Reviewed byPearce DuncanVote: 9/10/10
Baron Blood is one of my favourite Mario Bava films. As usual, Bava seemsdismissive of things like story, character and acting, and concentrates oncreating a memorable mise-en-scene, which makes a lot of the juxtapositionof the old and the contemporary: an ancient castle with a Coke machine, ElkeSommer in a miniskirt running through old fog-shrouded streets,etc.
Immediately after Baron Blood, Bava filmed what I consider his masterpiece,Lisa and the Devil (also with Sommer) which was sacrificed by its producersto splice with new footage for an Exorcist ripoff called House of Exorcism.Baron Blood fared much better, suffering only from being rescored and cut byeight minutes. If you want to know where Dario Argento learned his tricks,look at Bava.
Reviewed byk_t_t2001Vote: 8/10/10
Mario Bava's BARON BLOOD is a fine a tribute to the monster movies ofHollywood's golden age. So evocative of that period is this film thatit takes not even a moment's thought to mentally recast Boris Karloffas the Baron, Nan Grey as his intended victim and to tune away thevivid Technicolor into haunting black and white.
As in FRANKENSTIEN or THE MUMMY, the evil in the film is unwittinglyunleashed upon the world by the film's hero. In this case it isAmerican Peter Kleist, who returns to the German castle of his ancestorBaron Otto Von Kleist. Even though he is aware that his ancestor,nicknamed "Baron Blood" was a sadistic monster who butchered andtortured the people of the countryside, Peter foolishly recites anancient spell capable of resurrecting the Baron. The restored VonKleist immediately resumes his homicidal ways, and now Peter, assistedby the beautiful Elke Sommer as a local historian, must find a way toundo what he has thoughtlessly wrought.
In the classic horror films of the 1930's the monsters were iconic andunforgettable, while the heroes were bland and almost entirelyirrelevant. After all, who remembers who played the "hero" oppositeLugosi in Dracula or Karloff in THE MUMMY? (For trivia's sake it wasDavid Manners in both films.) No, the villain/monster may have spentmuch of the picture lurking about off screen, or skulking in theshadows, but nevertheless he was always indisputably the star of theshow.
BARON BLOOD maintains this link to its cinematic forbearers. AntonioCantafora's Peter Kleist is satisfactory, but eminently forgettable,while Joseph Cotton, obviously having a ball, is terrific in hisvillainous role. Cotton's performance as the resurrected Von Kleist isspot on perfect, filled with evil charm and malevolent glee. Hedominates the screen in the best tradition of the movie monsters ofold.
In fact, there is only one significant departure from the classicmonster films. Even in the days before the Hayes Commission, blood andgore were rarely seen and usually only suggested in Hollywood motionpictures. BARON BLOOD was produced without such restrictions and,though mild when compared to more recent horror films, it does containsome explicit moments that would have been completely unacceptable inthe 1930's. Even as a tribute to the grand old days, it must rememberedthat BARON BLOOD was produced to appeal to a contemporary 1970'saudience. Bava however realized that things modern will inevitablyintrude upon the classic, and made light of this by placing soda popmachines in the halls of the Gothic Von Kleist castle and havingprerecorded screams available in the Baron's torture chamber at theflip of a switch.
Not as arty as LISA AND THE DEVIL, not as graphic as BAY OF BLOOD,BARON BLOOD is often unjustly overlooked, or simply dismissed as aminor effort of Mario Bava's later period. Such hasty judgments do thefilm a great disservice. If BARON BLOOD has less of the strikingcinematography of Bava's best films, it must be argued that suchinnovation would be out of place in a film striving to recapture thelook and atmosphere of the original Hollywood horror movies. If oneaccepts the movie for what it is, a fine tribute to the genre's past,then BARON BLOOD is a great success, both as a homage and as work untoitself.
BARON BLOOD has been released in numerous VHS and laserdisc editions.The DVD release from Image Entertainment is probably the best exampleof the film currently available, featuring an uncut 1.85:1 widescreenpresentation of the film, complete with the original European musicalscore, which was replaced when the film was released theatrically inNorth America.
Reviewed byMuldwychVote: 6/10/10
Imagine you knew the incantation that would bring Dracula back to life.Sure, he had a habit of murdering people from time to time, butwouldn't it be really amazing to see him in the flesh? This isessentially the premise of 'Baron Blood', although the dreaded Otto VonKleist of the tale is far more Vlad than Dracula - a man who wouldhappily spend the afternoon strapping someone to a rack and cuttingtheir fingers off as we would spend it renting a DVD. Flash forward tothe 20th century, where his great great great etc grandson Peter, whodecides to pay a visit to his homeland of Austria during a gap year toget in touch with his roots, stumbles across just such an incantation.The chance to meet his infamous ancestor: who could resist?
Director Mario Bava shows what competent continental rivals to Hammerstudios could do with the same formula. Classic horror aficionados willfind much to compare, with the same ancient evils resurrected plotwise, the same helpless busty heroines, and the same near blacknessfilms of the 70s often had, forcing the viewer to reach for thebrightness control. There is even the obligatory witch to pull thestory several notches away from horror in the direction of the occult,evoking "Cry Of The Banshee" to name one British contemporary. Yetdespite being typical of the genre, 'Baron Blood' stands out in a fewareas. Bava takes us to a real Austrian castle, the magnificent BergKreuzenstein, which oozes character all its own. It's also set inthen-present day Austria. Hammer would often take us back a century forthe action, although to be fair, this was already the era of Dr Phibes,which showed a monster in the 20th Century would probably scare theviewer more. Then, if you've got the US version, there's Les Baxter'ssoundtrack, which strongly suggests he didn't know it was a horrorfilm. Why, was Stelvio Cipriani's original score deemed to scary forAmericans, i.e - doing what it was supposed to do?
On the acting side of things, the cast do a fair job. Nothingaward-winning, but they have just enough conviction to make you believethem. Rising above this however is the exceptional Joseph Cotton, asthe mysterious Alfred Becker, a millionaire who suddenly appears out ofthe ether to buy the baron's castle. Given that the script is not oneto hide its twists very well, Cotton is a welcome compensation. Youcan't help but look at him whenever he appears, wondering what he'll donext.
Overall, 'Baron Blood' breaks no new ground, but gives the genre fanmost of the things they would expect, with some excellent location workand a memorable villain into the bargain. English-language viewers mayscratch their heads at the mystifying score, but don't let it put youoff - this is just the ticket for late-evening viewing.
A young man, Peter, returns to Austria in search of his heritage. There he visits the castle of an ancestor, a sadistic Baron who was cursed to a violent death by a witch whom the Baron had burned at the stake. Peter reads aloud the incantation that causes Baron Blood to return and continue his murderous tortures.