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Movies Nick Kauffman Review by
Nick Kauffman
Kill Baby... Kill
KILL, BABY...KILL! aka OPERAZIONE PAURA (1966)
MGM
Rated: USA: GP

How much do I love Mario Bava? The Italian auteur practically invented the "giallo" genre with BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (SEI DONNE PER L'ASSASSINO) in 1964 - a full six years before Dario Argento popularized it with BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (L'UCCELLO DALLE PIUM E DI CRISTALLO) - yet he's also just as well known for his influential Gothic horrors, most notably 1960's BLACK SUNDAY (LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO), the film that introduced thousands of American moviegoers to the incomparable Barbara Steele. Bava, who died in 1980, was truly a maestro of the horror film, a master of atmosphere, able to create a Gothic look and mood on par with Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe films and early Hammer: cobwebbed castles, misty cemeteries, the works. And unlike his fellow countryman Lucio Fulci, whose work I also adore, Bava rarely relied on gore or titillation to set the tone.

VCI Home Video (Update: Now Anchor Bay Entertainment -Feo) has now released Bava's 1966 film KILL, BABY...KILL! on DVD. Despite the lurid, Russ Meyer-eque title, KILL, BABY...KILL! is actually a quiet ghost story, set in turn-of-the-last-century Germany (the box copy says Transylvania, but there's no doubt it's actually Germany, what with the presence of a burgomeister and everyone being referred to as Herr So-and-so).

Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) is summoned to a small German town by Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli). It seems there's been a rash of mysterious, seemingly accidental deaths, and the inspector wants Paul, a coroner, to perform an autopsy on the latest victim. Local nurse and love-interest Monica Schuftan (Erika Blanc, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE, THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE) is assigned to give him a hand. When Paul discovers a silver coin buried in the corpse's heart, he realizes things are far from kosher.

Unsurprisingly, the townspeople are small-minded, superstitious folk. They believe all the victims were killed by the ghost of Melissa Graps, a six-year-old girl who bled to death in the town square while the villagers did nothing to help her, and now they fear she's back for revenge. Also unsurprisingly, the villagers are correct. In fact, the curse is so strong that it seems if anyone even mentions the name Graps, they're marked for death. When Paul's investigation takes him to the Villa Graps on the outskirts of town, it's a race against time to save Monica from the vengeful spirit. Luckily, he's got help in the form of Ruth, the town sorceress (Fabienne Dali).

The film is presented in standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio (i.e., full frame). Since I don't know what aspect ratio it was originally shot in, it's hard to say how much of the picture we're missing, if any at all. It's also not a digital transfer. The picture is scratchy in places, and there are noticeable audio pops in a number of scenes. It's a real pity, since this quality Gothic horror - hailed by none other than Leonard "I Love Mainstream Hollywood" Maltin as one of Bava's best - deserves a much better presentation.

Still, KILL, BABY...KILL! is a must-see for any fans of Mario Bava and the Gothic ghost story genre.

FOUR SHRIEK GIRLS

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Return to Movies

DVD


The DVD extras here are sparse, depending on the copy. We're given chapter selections, a Mario Bava biography /filmography, and some amusing theatrical trailers: Argento's
BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, Bava's
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE,
and Laszlo Benedek's bizarre-looking Swedish thriller
THE NIGHT VISITOR (starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman, no less!).


TRIVIA
The English translation of the original title OPERAZIONE PAURA is
OPERATION FEAR.


The assistant director on KILL, BABY...KILL! was Mario's son
Lamberto Bava, who later went on to become a filmmaker in his own right, with
A BLADE IN THE DARK, DEMONS
and numerous other horror movies.


Mario Bava not only handled the visual effects of Dario Argento's 1980 film
INFERNO,
he was also the uncredited director of that film's dazzling underwater sequence.


AMERICAN CINEMATHIQUE
says:
Bava's films, as with many Italian productions of the 1960’s, were generally shot MOS, (Mit Out Sound), and later dubbed for whatever country they were released in. So the dubbed English versions are just as "authentic" and original as any other versions of the films


RESOURCES
Some great Mario Bava fan sites to visit:

MARIO BAVA:
Maestro Of The Macabre

(Italian)

MARIO BAVA:
Il Piu Grande

(French)

THE MARIO BAVA WEBPAGE

imdb.com

Feo Amante's Horror Home Page and feoamante.com are owned and copyright 1997 - 2008 by E.C.McMullen Jr.
All images and text belong to E.C.McMullen Jr. unless otherwise noted.
All fiction stories belong to their individual authors.
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