Sometimes when you pick out film titles from a film company catalog solely on how lurid and sleazy the box art looks, you find yourself pleasantly surprised with the product for reasons based on “actual” technical film quality. BARON BLOOD is a film by Mario Bava who is none other than one of the three greatest Italian horror/suspense cult directors from generations past who is often mentioned in the same sentence as Argento or Fulci. Known for his love of the supernatural, the trademark dark shadowy settings (which often conceal even more dark shadowy evil doers) and his overwhelming love of sudden close ups, Bava is beloved by all lovers of ancient “after midnight” movies from a bygone era, which scared horror audiences without sickening them with today’s extreme visuals of blood, gore, or viscera (at least until his own Bay of Blood, which helped to kick start the slasher revolution).
The plot is simple but is as follows: a man named Otto Von Kleist returns to his Native Austria and learns of the story of his brutal ancestor, a man named Baron Von Kleist (who perhaps was better known as “Baron Blood” to the locals for the cruel and sadistic manner that he would torture and kill them). Overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia and dark curiosity regarding his family history he awakens the Baron with magic scroll, knowing fully well that the spell contains a section for recantation just in case the Baron wasn’t as much of a “people person” as the local folklore might have suggested. Well wouldn’t you know it? A door opens suddenly as a rogue gust of wind blows the scroll into the fireplace making it impossible to send the bad, bad Baron back to the nether plane from whence he came. With the token unstoppable evil entity now loose in the castle, this gothic romp begins where they all do.
BARON BLOOD, as many horror films filmed in a more restrictive time (pre- 1974’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) operates on the concept of suspense over slaughter. The sets are immense and the camera work masterful, squeezing as much ideological menace as possible out of the action which admittedly only includes one graphic murder onscreen. Still, far from boring, this film does come from an era where ambiance and elaborate, authentic looking settings ruled the day.
But modern gore hounds, or anyone who has never seen a single Vincent Price film, will probably wonder what all the onscreen cries and screams of dread are about. The black-clad, caped character of the Baron looks like a sad mix of the Phantom of the Opera and Zorro and as previously mentioned before, most of his dirty deeds are implied rather than explicitly shown in any manner of detail. Speaking of Vincent Price, this film seems to follow the original version of HOUSE of WAX very closely, including a famous scene at the end where a lowly caretaker figure in a wheelchair suddenly stands tall in a sudden smug, sinister moment of evil triumph. Before all you haters say I ruined this film with some kind of “spoiler” you should know that by the time this particular scene occurs onscreen in “BARON BLOOD”, it is hardly a surprise to anyone.
In closing, Baron Blood is sexless, fleshless, and some of the scenes where the Baron fills his “appetites” lack modern day punch. Yet, for the bargain price of $4.99, you can buy an extremely atmospheric little flick that will illustrate the subtle nuances between “terror” and “horror” and just may teach you some film tricks on how to make an audience feel genuinely uneasy without grossing them out every spare moment (a lost art, if you ask me). While this is a bargain priced full-framed transfer of the film, it does feature the superior unrated version rather than the cursed 90 minute cut, so, for that alone, this release gets three skulls from me. Despite its flaws, this DVD deserves more respect from future generations of film lovers everywhere than the poor Baron himself was shown by his meddling, insufferable descendants.
Special features include a trailer and a few of those sweet intermission “snack food” shorts which make me want to leap up and lick the screen at once. (Considering the type of films I usually review, feel free to insert your own joke here).
Want it? Get it! Click here to buy!