Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baron Blood (1972)

More like Baron Boring. One of the lesser efforts from cult-fave Italian filmmaker Mario Bava, the cinematographer-turned-director who made the revered frightfest Black Sunday (1960) and the stylish crime picture Danger: Diabolik (1968), this numbingly dull horror flick concerns an aristocratic killer brought back to life. It says everything you need to know about Barron Blood that the resurrection doesn’t happen until 30 minutes of screen time have been wasted on chitty-chat, and that top-billed actor Joseph Cotten doesn’t appear until nearly an hour into the film. Baron Blood is the sort of enervated genre picture that makes viewers wait (and wait and wait) for something to happen, then delivers so much less than expected. The movie takes place in Austria, where square-jawed American Peter (Antonio Cantafora) visits relatives following the completion of his master’s degree. It turns out Peter is a descendant of Baron Otto von Kleist, aka “Baron Blood,” who committed atrocities centuries ago before being cursed to oblivion by a witch. Peter hangs around the Kleist family castle, which is being converted into a hotel by architect Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer), then decides to read an incantation that—according to myth—will bring the murderous baron back to life. Why? Apparently, for no reason other than to propel the wheezy plot. Anyway, the Baron indeed returns, in the form of a ghoul with decaying skin. Complicating matters is the arrival of Alfred Becker (Cotten), a mysterious figure who buys the castle. Rest assured, there’s zero suspense about Becker’s true identity, so by the time he is revealed as Baron Blood in disguise, tedium has taken root. Although the storytelling of Baron Blood is terrible, the movie has moments of visual flair, since Bava was almost physically incapable of making a bad-looking film. Yet a few evocative lighting schemes and a handful of slick camera moves are hardly enough to sustain interest, especially when Cantafora and Sommer contribute such lifeless performances. (Cotten phones in a standard-issue scheming-villain turn.) Even the gore factor is paltry, despite Bava’s predilection for staging elaborate torture scenes.

Baron Blood: LAME

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