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Baron Blood (Arrow Video)

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1972
Studio: 
Arrow Video
Genre: 
Horror
Format: 
Dual Format BD/DVD
Region: 
B
Aspect Ratio: 
1.85:1
Directed by: 
Mario Bava
Cast: 
Joseph Cotton
Elke Sommer
Massimo Girotti
Rada Rassimov
Antonio Cantafora
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
4
Video: 
Click to Play

After the stark modernity displayed by his dark and extremely violent proto-slasher “Bay of Blood” of the previous year -- a film which inadvertently provided the template for the ‘body count’ slasher genre of the late-seventies -- Mario Bava’s next project made it appear as though the great Italian maestro was taking a retrograde step back in time in a futile attempt to relive the now outmoded stylistic glories of the grand Gothic fairy tales which the horror cinema of the late-fifties and early-sixties had once thrived on to great effect, but which were starting to look positively creaky by 1972. In fact, “Baron Blood” is a sophisticated film as well as an outdated one, that uses jarring juxtapositions between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, to demonstrate, via an decidedly old -fashioned Gothic potboiler of a storyline set in a deliberately hyper-garish 1970s milieu, the inextricable and inescapable linkage of the past and the present, and how history can be repackaged and exploited but its influence never negated, only temporarily suppressed.

Thus a traditional, psychologically embedded theme, inherent to the Gothic formula -- ‘the return of the repressed’ -- emerges once more here, in a form which specifically aligns such an idea with the visual motifs and stylings of the Gothic genre as they have always been depicted in horror cinema itself. The movie was, in fact, very much a product of a very specific and short-lived period, but his treatment of the material allows Bava the luxury of having his cake and eating it too thanks to the material’s awkward mixture of modernity and tradition, in which both the visual content of the film and its execution play nicely into the themes elaborated on by the narrative itself. Bava is able to pay tribute here to the vanishing horror tradition from which his own work had once emerged, with elaborate tributes  and bold references to several instances of classic Gothic cinema as well as many shot-for-shot restagings of past sequences from his own greatest films -- but this time they play out against a modern backdrop, just as the Baron’s restored castle, about to be re-opened as a historical themed hotel for tourists, allows the trappings of the modern (symbolised here by a huge Coca Cola vending machine) to be surrounded by medieval implements of torture and 17th century furnishings.

In contextualising it, we can see that the movie was shot and released during a period of tumultuous upheaval for the horror genre in general -- one which would eventually have an impact directly on Mario Bava’s own art when his next movie, “Lisa and the Devil”, an elegant celluloid surrealist dream-fugue conveyed in the stateliest of Gothic stylings, met with total indifference from distributors and buyers and had to be re-moulded as a tacky Exorcist cash-in titled “House of Exorcism” by its own producer Alfredo Leone, in order to help him recoup his investment -- after which it met (depressingly) with considerable success. By 1972,  a new breed of director, such as Michael Reeves, George A. Romero and Roman Polanski had set about overhauling and modernising the horror film in the last few years, treating their subjects more seriously and injecting contemporary fears into a genre whose product was more often being treated by the end of the sixties, as throwaway drive-in fodder -- so hoary had many of its cliches become to cinema-going audiences. “Baron Blood” feeds right into, and practically comments on, a trend which had recently emerged among desperate producers from North America and Europe alike, who were still valiantly trying to make the old horror standbys more relevant to a hip young audience, simply by shoehorning the classic monsters into present day settings: thus Bob Kelljan’s “Count Yorga – Vampire!”, León Klimovsky’s Paul Naschy vehicle  “The Werewolf versus the Vampire Woman” and Hammer’s gloriously camp “Dracula A.D. 1972”, directed by Alan Gibson, all emerged at around the same time as “Baron Blood”, mixing frightful fashions and modish music with the traditions of Gothic melodrama, and more often than not, simply highlighting all the more their incompatibility by the faltering nature of the attempt to do so. But this cinematic mini trend also coincided with the publication in 1972 of Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu’s “In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends” which sought to trace Bram Stoker’s Victorian literary creation back to his 15th century Romanian namesake: the historical warrior figure and tyrant often said to have inspired many elements of Stoker’s vampire Count. In telling its story of a young playboy emigre who returns to the Austrian locale of his ancestors to ‘get back to the earth – back to my roots’ through conducting holiday research into some family history relating to the activities of a sadistic Baron Von Kleist -- the puritan overlord who once terrorised the surrounding valley from his hilltop castle, the film “Baron Blood” manages to embrace a moment in 1970s culture and revel in its own cinematically outmoded historical inappropriateness, all at the same time!

The film came about at the behest of producer Alfredo Leone, who acquired the screenplay from Los Angeles-based screenwriter Vincent Fotre after the original co-production deal with Sam Z. Arkoff that it was originally a part of fell through. This little-known writer’s filmography includes an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” from 1956 and numerous episodes of “Lassie” from the same period, but it’s fair to say that “Baron Blood” is the only one of his works which really still merits attention. It became the second of Leone’s and Bava’s three collaborations, following on from their offbeat sex comedy “Four Times That Night” in 1969; but “Baron Blood” almost missed out on its Bava association, even though the former cinematographer was Leone’s first choice director thanks to the great artistry and skill Bava had become renowned for bringing to the business of making his severely limited budgets somehow disappear on the screen through the artful use of camera trickery and décor.

But when offered the chance to direct this film by Leone, Bava initially turned it down, mainly because of his infamous unwillingness to leave his beloved home and country; he much preferred to make all his movies in Rome, surrounded by colleagues he already knew, and had spurned many an offer in the past to, for example, travel to the states to take advantage of other directorial opportunities. Since one of the contractual stipulations insisted upon by Leone’s financial partners at the Austrian production company, Wein Films (who provided the producer with a major part of his funding for the project), was that the film be shot entirely on location in one of the many scenic castles dotting the picturesque mountain-capped landscapes of Vienna, Bava initially felt unable to oblige his friend’s offer of work, since it would mean six weeks living away from home in an unfamiliar environment. According to Time Lucas, Bava’s American biographer and the editor of Video Watchdog, it was Mario’s son and assistant director Lamberto Bava who eventually persuaded his father to accompany Leone on a trip to Austria in order to help the producer scout for locations, during which time the two of them looked at many possible castles that might be used as the site of the evil Baron Von Kleist’s resurrection. When Leone told Bava that he had secured a deal to shoot the film at the towering, turreted and fully furnished Burg Kreuzenstein, an impressive fairy tale-like medieval fortress situated 20 kilometres outside Vienna,  its imposing towers grandly decorated with ornate architectural carvings and its interiors replete with sculpted iron work and Romanesque arches  that were also home to an authentic medieval armoury, an imposing balconied stained-glass chapel and rooms stuffed from top to bottom with priceless antiques -- Bava’s misgivings vanished in an instant! According to Leone, ‘he [Bava] threw his arms around me and kissed me! He was beside himself, imagining all the ways he could shoot that castle and everything in it.’

Indeed, “Baron Blood” is one of the most visually baroque out of all of Mario Bava’s many arresting movies. Given the opportunity to shoot real castle exteriors and interiors for a change, instead of the matte painting backdrops and small studio sets his films were more usually reliant on for visual texture, Bava takes every opportunity of luxuriating in high and low angled compositions which show off all aspects of the grand architecture of the place, from both the outside and its richly adorned inside, the director cramming in as many opulent details and on-site props as possible into his set-ups, while emphasising the Gothic splendour of these surroundings through plentiful use of wide angle lenses and lighting which combines shadowy floodlit atmosphere with artful and judicious use of blue and amber spot gels, displayed often during some of the most emotionally heighted moments of the narrative.

Bava also seems to delight in the eccentric use of rotating cameras and what some consider an over-use of the zoom lens in this movie. But the Berg Kreuzenstein’s history turns out to be the ideal symbol of the film’s tradition-versus-modernity theme: it was actually built by a Count Wilczek in the 19th Century, rather than the middle ages, but was constructed from a number of medieval structures that were obtained by the Wilczek family from all across Europe to be combined in the Austrian high lands to create an authentic-looking 11th century castle. Just as the 1970s redevelopers and entrepreneurs in the film are intent on augmenting their sanitised commodification of history with modern-day conveniences, so the original owners of the site used in the film constructed their version of the Gothic in order to embody their personalised notions of the past and exercise their ownership over it; and in that vein we might imagine the 17th century Baron Otto Von Kleist surrounding himself with the appurtenances of another age as a means of cementing his control of the castle occupants and of the valleys below, dreaming up from a hand-picked patchwork of medieval bric-a-brac a dungeon-like environment of torture instruments that fully suits his sadistic personality.

Alfredo Leone seems to have been inordinately fond of including TWA 747 jet airliners in his films whenever possible. One pops up, rather incongruously it has to be said, at the end of “Lisa and the Devil” and another appears at the very beginning of “Baron Blood”, which starts by emphasising the film’s specific 1970s setting as handsome, jet setting student Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) takes off from New York for his family’s homeland of Austria, where he is to be met by his Uncle, Dr Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti) at the airport in Vienna. Images of wealth and sophistication (1970s style, at least) are accompanied by a disarmingly sunny and rather cheesy cocktail lounge titles theme from Stelvio Cipriani that sounds like a must cover for the James Last Orchestra! While fitting in with the contemporary imagery of first class air travel which accompanies it, the music seems about as out of place in a Gothic horror film as any cue of this nature could be, a fact which is highlighted when the film’s title appears on-screen, dripping in bright blood-red lettering! Leone simply liked to ensure that his money ended up visible on the screen whenever possible and so, upon landing, Peter leaves the airport with his uncle in a Mercedes-Benz, making this one of the most expensive-looking Mario Bava films in the director’s filmography.

The young modern is immediately eager to find out all about ‘the bloodthirsty baron on my father’s side,’ and jokingly tells his uncle how he hopes to ‘scare up a ghost or two!’ Peter’s obsession with his evil ancestor and his activities continues when his uncle takes him to view the ancestral home of his famous relation -- known locally as the Devil’s Castle -- and he hears all about Von Kleist’s murderous escapades, such as his fondness for impaling his enemies on poles left jutting out of the castle towers (a very ‘Vlad the Impaler’ reference) as a lesson to anyone who might consider crossing him; and – most significantly – torturing women from the village, accused (by him) of being witches. Gazing at some of the cruel-looking medieval devices of torture preserved in the castle armoury among a gruesome selection of masks, skulls and lethal iron implements, Peter ponders how many innocents the Baron actually harmed with these weapons. Although a fairly tritely written character, cast with a handsome but not particularly distinguished young Italian actor, Peter’s grim fascination with the feared 17th century villain of whom he is the last living direct descendant, is emphasised repeatedly in the screenplay. His uncle has to remind him that the Baron’s memory is much more vivid to the locals, who remember how Von Kleist tormented and tortured their own ancestors. Because of past associations, they won’t go near the castle -- its painful history making it a potent symbol of persecution in local folk memory. Peter’s trivial attitude to the crimes committed on this site and what they once meant to the people of the past and now mean to their descendants, is on a par with that of the hotelier, Herr Dortmundt (Dieter Tressler), who plans to re-open the castle as a themed hotel with a museum attached, Coca Cola machines positioned garishly next to the torture dungeons! Peter is also much taken with the pretty young mini-skirted student, Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer), whom he meets on site, working for the local Committee for the Preservation of National Monuments, and whose job it is to oversee Dortmundt’s renovations and to make sure they don’t go too far in changing the castle architecture.

It turns out that Peter is in possession of a parchment he found in his Grandfather’s attic as a boy back in America, containing a spell written down by one of the baron’s victims -- a local witch called Elisabeth Hölle. Bizarrely, the witch’s spell is an incantation designed to bring the Baron back to life … for the purpose of having him suffer the same fate which eventually befell him in history, over and over again: that of being tortured with his own instruments by those he had previously persecuted, then burned to death in one of the rooms of the castle, which is today named The Burnt Room after that actual event! Elisabeth Hölle’s curse is a means of allowing history to live on eternally, unchanged and unaltered in memory, the crimes of the past never to be forgotten or later glossed over through their being forcibly punished in perpetuity. Peter trivialises the intent behind the parchment though, by using it as a means of flirting with Eva, taking her on a jokey date to the castle at midnight, where the couple play at resurrecting the Baron by reciting the incantation in the room in which he died. When the spell seems to actually work though, and footsteps can be heard from behind a locked, cobweb-shrouded door, and the doorknob begins to rattle as though someone were actually trying to get in, they hurriedly revoke the spell using the same parchment.

Exploring the secret room the next day, Peter and Eva find a portrait of the Baron, clad in his 17th century puritan garb but with the facial features scratched out, leaving only the eyes unaltered, which peer out of the portrait to follow the two around the shadowy room in that traditional fashion. Bava turns this simple investigative scene into a highlight of the movie that re-emphasises how Peter is being steadily trapped and drawn into a nightmare by his overly romantic notions about the past: cobwebs drape the painting and Bava’s camera switches back and forth between alternating perspectives, those that take the POV of the portrait itself, gazing out into the room at the two protagonists; and those that emphasise the painting’s bizarrely life-like eyes from Peter and Eva’s vantage point, the piercing orbs looking as though they are positioned at the centre of a spider’s web, drawing Peter into their orbit and ensuring that his curiosity will be piqued enough for him to go back the next night with Eva to the same room and again repeat the incantation that will this time succeed in re-awakening the  dead; ‘finding myself face to face with my ancestor from the 17th century, whether he’s a monster or not, would be interesting!’ Peter continues to insist. But this time the shutters blow open and the parchment disappears into the fire-grate on a gust of wind and is burned up, just at the fateful moment of resurrection, thus making it impossible this time to rescind the spell and send the Baron back to the shadowy realm of the dead.

The Baron is brought back in a corporeal form, still clad in his 17th century hat and cape and with the hideous disfiguring burns and wounds inflicted upon him at the moment of his death still suppurating, ensuring in the process that he leaves a gloppy trail of crimson blood wherever he wanders. Bava takes the opportunity now afforded from hereon in by the Baron’s atmospheric resurrection, to pay tribute to a number of his own films and also to some classics: a sequence from Val Lewton’s “The Leopard Man” provides the inspiration for the supernatural sign that first alerts Peter and Eva to the fact of the Baron being back in business, when a pool of blood is shown seeping beneath the door of The Burnt Room. The Baron’s actual emergence from a muddy grave is a direct lift from Prince Vajda’s resurrection in Bava’s own “Black Sunday” and becomes the first of a long list of re-staged sequences from the Bava filmography, which occur one after the other as the Baron demonstrates that he’s lost none of his appetite for sadism. Anyone he meets while still in this disfigured form has to be disposed of, including the kindly Doctor Hessler (Gustavo De Nardo) who attempts to treat his wounds on the stormy windswept night of his resurrection, but gets viciously stabbed in the throat for his troubles.

Despite harking back to the Golden Age of Italian Gothic in its imagery, and even earlier, to Hollywood classics of the ‘40s and ‘50s, Bava doesn’t stint on the gory details: the current owner of the Baron's ancestral home gets his neck snapped and is hung from a balcony in the castle dungeons, while the mad bug-eyed caretaker, Fritz (the Italian Peter Lorre, Luciano Pigozzi), caught prowling about the premises at night looking to loot some of the castle’s hidden treasures, is shut in a spiked, medieval iron maiden contraption in a further reference to Princess Asa’s fate from the prologue to “Black Sunday”. This time the scene is even more gruesome thanks to the makeup artistry of Carlo Rambaldi, whose work allows a side shot of the spikes actually entering Fritz’s head followed by a close up of strings of flesh and dripping blood hanging off the spikes when the Baron reopens the casket, and Fritz’s pierced face gawps out of what is now his bloody tomb. Bava’s famous cynicism about human nature makes itself felt just before Fritz’s murder, when the giggling caretaker finds Herr Dortmundt’s body hanging from the castle rafters and, having earlier been fired by the owner for scaring Eva in the armoury, attempts to take some form of revenge on his old boss by stealing a gold ring from the swinging corpse’s finger – another clear reference to an incident which motivates the action in the memorable “A Drop of Water” segment from “Black Sabbath”.

The Baron, while inhabiting his cloaked and disfigured form, is played by special effects man Franco Tocci; but in order to reclaim his castle home at the auction that now has to be held after the death of Herr Dortmundt, Von Kleist must assume a more inconspicuous persona after first reclaiming a stash of hidden treasure concealed beneath a dusty trunk in The Burnt Room. Alfredo Leone was determined to get a big name actor in to play the part of Alfred Becker, the Baron’s 20th century persona, and first of all turned to AIP standby Vincent Price, unaware that Price and Bava had worked together before and shared the bad experience while making “Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs”. Price wasn’t interested and Ray Milland, Leone’s second choice, was unavailable. This turned out to be a stroke of luck though, for it transpired that Hollywood luminary Joseph Cotton was now interested in prolonging his acting career by taking on work in low budget movies, many of them horror films. “Lady Frankenstein” and “The Abominable Dr Phibes” were just two of his other screen appearances from around the same period. The screenplay of “Baron Blood” makes a curiously half-hearted attempt to disguise the fact that Becker and the Baron are one and the same person, but it always seems obvious to the viewer that this is so, despite Becker appearing to be wheelchair bound for the greater part of the movie before eventually revealing at the climax that not only can he ambulate himself freely, but that he also has the strength of ten men and is impervious to bullets! Becker makes it plain that he intends to live in the castle and restore it to its former glory, removing all the improvements and innovations the former owner has started work on in his efforts to turn the building into a tourist attraction. However, neither Peter nor Eva realise just how authentic Becker plans on making his recreation of the past!

The greater portion of the second half of the movie concerns Becker’s attempts to eliminate those who might pose a threat to his resuming his occupancy of the castle through their having come into possession of secret knowledge about a second method that apparently exists of sending him back to his grave. Elke Sommer’s character, Eva, becomes one of his major targets after she casually mentions having heard a legend about the existence of such a method as a child, although it now eludes her memory. This leads to several protracted chase sequences – probably the key set-pieces of the movie and as such some of the most superbly executed of Bava’s career – in which, having related this information to Becker, Eva is pursued by the sinister, supernatural shape of the disfigured Baron through the towers and staircases of the castle; then, after she’s been rescued and given a lift home by Peter, she finds the same lurking shape in her rooms at the student halls of residence. Another chase scene ensues, this time stylishly shot amid billowing night fog to specifically reference a similar scene from André De Toth's  1953 version of “House of Wax”, in which  Phyllis Kirk found herself in a similar situation with Vincent Price as her shadowy pursuer.

The idea of Eva already subconsciously knowing how to rid the world of the Baron’s evil taint because of knowledge gained in childhood is even more overtly referenced through the character of Gretchen, Dr Hummel’s daughter, played here with her usual faintly disturbing charm, by Italian child acting regular Nicoletta Elmi, who was last seen as an infant-aged killer at the end of Bava’s “Bay of Blood”. Gretchen’s pre-awareness of the supernatural aura already surrounding the castle before even Peter and Eva’s negligence with the parchment, invokes the common idea that childhood innocence is either a precondition to an ability to be able to perceive the supernatural, or it enhances such abilities because the innocent child is more likely to be free of adult prejudices. Dr Hummel himself is involved in research into paranormal activity and telepathy, yet it is his little red-haired daughter who has seen the ghost of the Baron everyday on her way home from school, standing atop one of the castle towers. It is also Gretchen who immediately perceives the fact that Becker and the Baron are one and the same, and that the rich invalid’s corporeal presence in no way precludes him from simultaneously being a ghost. This makes her also a potential target for the Baron’s violence and the film includes a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood sequence in which little Gretchen is chased by the black cloaked Baron through a woodland path while riding her bike home from school -- a scene which even ends with the suggestion that she may have met a gruesome end (although it eventually turns out that she has survived her encounter with 'the ghost').

This suggestion of possible child murder being among the Baron's crimes brings an uncomfortable angle to the otherwise rather standard Gothic flavour evoked by the film, but if Gretchen’s age and innocence give her special insights that the adults of the story are unable to comprehend and which therefore make her vulnerable to the Baron’s sadistic pleasures, then her femininity seems to be another factor in both her psychic ability and her potential for becoming one of the Baron’s victims. Rada Rassimov plays another in a long line of female soothsayers in Bava movies with her role as Christina Hoffmann, a clairvoyant and a medium whom Dr Hummel and the others consult when they want to make contact with the spirit of the woman who created the spell in the first place, Elisabeth Hölle, in order to find out how to send the Baron back to his grave. Hoffmann lives surrounded by pentacles and primitive carvings and tells the assembled protagonists that the barriers that they perceive to be separating time and death do not exist. The communion with Hölle’s spirit takes place in a woodland glade -- the site of her death by burning, next to a standing stone. Rassimov also plays Elisabeth Hölle (thanks to some in-camera trickery which allows Hoffman and Hölle to appear on screen at the same time), who, tellingly, appears as a red head, connecting her again to the young red-headed Gretchen, who would clearly have been condemned as a witch had she lived and grown up in Hölle’s age. Even more appositely, it is Gretchen who eventually realises that the amulet given to Eva by Hoffmann holds the key to destroying the Baron. This occurs during a curious sequence just before Dr Hummel, Peter and Eva prepare to pay Becker a visit at his castle, which might be a continuity error but which ends up obliquely suggesting that Gretchen may herself possess supernatural powers of bi-location just like the Baron’s, since she is seen being sent to bed by her mother one moment, but then turns up at the front door seconds later to offer the valuable suggestion that the amulet might be used to send the Baron back to oblivion!

The Baron’s sadism seems to be a function of both religion and sexual perversity, although the film underplays both themes and leaves them merely as possible interpretations of his activities : carved likenesses of Christ suffering on the Cross adorn the scaffolding in the basement where the disfigured Baron tortures and kills Fritz with an Iron Maiden, and by the time the three protagonists arrive at the castle to confront Becker, he has restored the location to its former glory: a fully functioning torture chamber, full of all the implements of torture he relied upon during his heyday in the 17th century. Becker even demonstrates a loudspeaker system he’s installed so that the surroundings continue to echo to taped screams and cries of despair and pain. This scene wryly connects Becker’s/the Baron’s attempts to restore his domineering over-lordship of the area with that of the tacky commercial enterprise Dortmundt planned on bringing to the castle’s recent renovations. Earlier Dortmundt had joked about hanging dummies on poles from the castle turrets as a tourist attraction, but now Becker is doing the same thing, only with the actual corpses of his earlier victims.

The glee Joseph Cotton’s Becker brings to the threatened torture of Peter, his own descendant, with a red hot poker -- enacted just before Eva manages to use the amulet in the correct way in order to facilitate the resurrection of Otto Von Kleist’s past victims so that they can re-enact their previous murderous revenge upon him -- harks back to a theme common to many of Bava’s earlier films in which corrupted family members prey upon their own children for sustenance. It occurred in “Black Sunday” when the vampirised Prince Vajda attempted to feast on his own daughter’s blood; and also in the “Wurdalak” segment of “Black Sabbath”, when Boris Karloff’s Gorca returned to his family home and infected his former household with the taint of vampirism. “Baron Blood” never approaches the greatness of Mario Bava’s best work, but this HD restoration certainly gives it a whole new lease of life. The English dubbed 97 minute export version goes by the name that Alfredo Leone always considered to be the film’s authentic title: “Baron Blood” – but in Italy it was for some reason given the flamboyant moniker “Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga" instead. Apart from a few minor adjustments in dialogue, the two versions otherwise play out the same (and both showcase the same Stelvio Cipriani original score),  although for once it is the English version which feels the more authentic of the two, with much more detailed dialogue included that seems to reference the underlying themes much more closely.

Both versions are included on this excellent Blu-ray showcase from Arrow Video but the real coup is its inclusion of the re-edited and re-scored AIP version as well, which, despite cutting a romantic subplot between the male and female leads, and losing an instance of gore among the seven minutes of cuts applied to the film overall to bring it down to 90 minutes, also allows us to experience Bava’s film to the accompaniment of Les Baxter’s equally excellent score, which brings a completely different atmosphere to several key moments in the story, not least one of the film’s highlights -- that scene where Elke Sommer is chased through a labyrinth of fogbound streets by the caped Baron.  In the full-length export version, this memorable scene plays out completely silently, but in the AIP cut it is considerably enhanced by Baxter’s rousing score, which many feel makes this version the more affecting of the two edits. Baxter’s score for “Baron Blood” is widely viewed to constitute some of his best work, so it is wonderful to now have this movie in all its variants and looking as good as it is ever likely to look, which isn’t perfect by any means (especially during the first half-hour when there is a lot of grain and dirt present) but which undeniably provides much more depth and brings valuable extra detail to Bava’s wonderfully elaborate and ornately furnished compositions, now displayed in a very colourful print which allows Elke Sommer’s knitted hats and a succession of  increasingly outrageous pant suits to be even more arresting sights than they were before, although admittedly for all the wrong reasons!

Arrow’’s deluxe Blu-ray & DVD edition is a three disc set which includes all three versions of the film in high definition and standard versions. Audio tracks include the Italian dub with newly translated English subtitles and the export English dub, as well as the AIP English dub with the shortened version. Both of the latter tracks also come with English SDH subtitles. Bava expert Tim Lucas provides an erudite and informative audio commentary for the English export version while genre critic Alan Jones narrates a short video introduction to the movie. “Mario Bava at Work” is an animated photo gallery of shots of Bava working behind the scenes on many of his movies, while “Delirium Italian Style” is a short video interview with director Ruggero Deodato in which he provides his own personal appreciation of Mario Bava and his work. Radio and TV spots round off the disc contents but as usual Arrow Video also include a booklet featuring new writing on the film, this time by critic James Olivier, which comes illustrated with original archive stills and posters. The disc packaging itself features original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

“Baron Blood” emerges as a much more pleasurable viewing experience now in its restored, re-mastered form and the glimpses we get of “Black Sabbath” in HD, which are included on one of the featurettes, whets the appetite for what’s to come in that department as well. This is another essential addition to the Bava catalogue on HD, and almost certainly the definitive release of this film.

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