Baron Blood (1972)

Posted: May 21, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava journey last week with Baron Blood (1972), a film I hadn’t seen for the best part of 30 years. Made immediately prior to the sublime Lisa and the Devil, and featuring Elke Sommer as well, this didn’t suffer quite so grim a fate — instead of being hacked to pieces with new inserts and turned into The House of Exorcism, it merely lost 10 minutes of running time and its original score. It was also a hit.

In its original form, this doesn’t scale the heights of Lisa and the Devil, or or Bava’s peaks in the 1960s. Borrowing more than liberally from House of Wax (1953), with Joseph Cotten (and stunt double) filling in for Vincent Price, this benefits from some truly stunning set pieces — Sommer being stalked in the fog and the summoning scenes in the castle being just two examples. In these scenes, Bava’s enthusiasm for the setting and the possibilities of the moment are clear, and the visuals are stunning. The plot, though, is rather ramshackle, and the material between the Big Moments rather less inspired. Bava had little involvement with the script, and the difference between this and Lisa and the Devil, where he had full control, and the story written for him, is striking. Lisa and the Devil commits fully to its dreamlike narrative, while Baron Blood hesitates between the dreamlike and the rational, to the detriment of both.

This was Bava’s first gothic since the Kill, Baby… Kill!. In other words, it’s sandwiched between two gothic masterpieces. At its best, its visuals soar, but the sum of its parts don’t quite add up to the nightmare poems of its predecessor and successor.

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