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Friday, May 2, 2014

Kill Baby ...Kill! (1966) Horror Ghost

Kill Baby ...Kill! (1966) - "Operazione paura" (original title), from Italian master Mario Bava it is a ghost tale set in the 1800s in the small fictional Italian village of Graps. I love Mario Bava as a film maker. He weaves a tale that takes the viewer winding down narrow passages where you loose your orientation and at times feel lost, but right before you are going to panic you see something familar and can relax. This tale starts with a curse, a village woman is distressed and crying but seems to be driven on by an unseen force. We hear a child's laughter as she weaves up a staircase and with blurred eyes views a wrought iron fence below her. Then she launches impaling herself on the fence dead. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is classic horror themed and since he had already been writing scores for film for twenty-seven years the sound scape is full and rich. Working with Bava before (the recently reviewed The Whip and the Body is an example) they seem to know what is needed and it is delivered with expertise. The story of the curse and how it is broken is then told accompanied with a great score and wonderful visuals by masters of film making.
     Dr Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is summoned to perform an autopsy on the young victim. He arrives with a warning from his coach driver. "Have you ever seen the like?" the driver says pointing at the abandoned and dilapidated church as they arrive on the outskirts of the town. He will not drive into that town. "When a place is as bad as this its been cursed I tell you. And strangers should keep their distance if they know what's good for them." he says leaving him outside the village. Like in the later Bava directed Lisa and the Devil, Eswai like Lisa passes through an arch symbolically leaving the real world and moving into a world where magic and ghosts exist. He is the counter-force to it and brings his medical training and rational thought to a village steeped in fear of magic and the afterlife. There at the request of Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli), Paul is the outsider who shouldn't but will inevitably interfere. 
 As the ghostly proceeding take place we learn that the towns people believe they are cursed by the ghost of a girl who died during a town festival. Chasing a ball into the street she was trampled by some horses. Bleeding to death she pulled herself to the church and reached for the bell rope but failed to have the strength to pull it and bled to death on that night while the drunk villagers never noticed her. So she haunts them driven on by the emotions of her grieving Mother the Baroness Graps (Giovanna Galletti) the girl drives villagers to kill themselves as punishment for their failure to save her. The driver of the story is Paul who as an outsider and man of science does not believe what he is hearing and his arch must be to come to grips with the supernatural events that are taking place around him. On this journey with him is recently returned former resident Monica Schuftan (Erika Blanc) Blanc in her seventies is still working to this day with 101 IMDB credits. Monica has a secret that she does not even know. It is a weird twist that may not really have been needed as it does not seem to change the outcome of the story. She has returned to the village after leaving as a child and is the love interest and damsel in distress for Paul.
  Also playing into the story is the village sorceress Ruth (Fabienne Dali), who tries to help (?) the villagers when they are afflicted by the ghost. Her secret alliance with a main character is so she can protect the burgomeister Karl (Luciano Catenacci), the love of her life from the haunting death. In the end though she must help stop the curse and is key in the climax to the film. 
  Paul and Monica slowly learn the whole story and Bava does a great job seeping the knowledge out in bits to keep a mystery to this film. As we learn more the stakes grow until Paul and Monica are pulled fully into the Supernatural world of ghosts and murder. Along the way are some really cool directorial choice as well as some clunky coincidences. Not a perfect film it does have some great moments though. One where trapped in the Villa Graps, Paul is trying to find Monica who has been separated from him. He sees a figure ahead of him and chases him into the next room. then the next, but the rooms start repeating as he closes in on the male figure ahead of him. When his catches him the figure turns and is the spitting image of Paul. Very cool stuff . The later Monica is fleeing the laughing ghost child Melissa, and she runs down long spiral stair case, beautifully lit with levels of different colors then too suddenly seems to be repeating sections of the endless stair. Running until she passes out to wake in the tomb of the dead girl. The lights and zoom of the camera do a great job of showing the craziness of her situation.
  Overall the film is a cool ghost story, a bit pedestrian in plot but executed with skill and vision. The print being streamed on Netflix is a bit shitty and at time feels very old. I guess it is old but I really would have liked to see a clearer version of this film. Certainly entertaining it is a period piece ghost story that still has legs after all these years. Bava knows how to create mood and make interesting shots out of the most ordinary of tales. So a healthy recommendation from this blog, keeping in mind that I am a fan of Mario Bava. A side note IMDB does not Lamberto Bava as assistant director in their credits, but he is listed in the movie credits. This would be some really early training for him at the age of twenty two.

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