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Kill Baby Kill

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    Ian Jane
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  • Kill Baby Kill

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    Released by: Stomp Visual
    Released on: 10/25/2005
    Director: Mario Bava
    Cast: Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Erika Blanc
    Year: 1966

    The Movie:


    Widely recognized as one of the finest Italian gothic horror films ever made, the late, great Mario Bava's Kill, Baby… Kill! is a testament to the director's skill at combining painterly and atmospheric visuals with unusual and otherworldly storytelling. A ghost story at it's core, on the surface the film might seem to be little more than a well made exercise in style over substance but a bit of digging and it's obvious that there's a lot more going on in the movie than simply a little blonde ghost making trouble for a small town.

    Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (of The Crimes Of The Black Cat) plays Doctor Paul Eswai is a coroner who has been sent to a small, run down village where he is to investigate a bizarre series of deaths which he suspects could be murder. With the help of Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli of Sergio Leone's My Name Is Nobody), it isn't long before the good doctor meets up with the lovely Monica (Erika Blanc of The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave) who has just returned to her hometown with some medical training. Eswai, in order to carry out his investigation, decides he'll have to perform an autopsy on one of the victims, a maid who was impaled on a sharp fence when she feel from above, but the villager's protest. He carries on, thinking them to be primitive, and soon finds that the corpse has had a golden coin pushed into its heart.

    Eswai soon hears of a young girl named Melissa Graps (Valeria Valeri) who, years earlier, was killed in the streets of the town by a gang of drunks and, as legend tells, she has returned to exact her revenge. The townsfolk, including the Burgomeister (Luciano Catenacci of Crime Busters, credited here as Max Lawrence), all believe that if her ghost appears and looks at you, then you are not long for this world. Unfortunately, a young woman named Nadine (Micaela Esdra) saw the ghost recently and both she and her parents are convinced that soon she's going to die. Eswai meets up with Ruth (Fabienne Dali of Lenzi's Desert Commandos), a witch, and then later a strange older woman named Baroness Graps (Gianna Vivaldi) who ties into the strange happenings, and slowly but surely starts trying to put the pieces of this macabre puzzle together - but is the ghost real or simply local superstition?


    Proof positive that creative filmmaking is far more important than a big budget, Bava (whose budget was so low for this picture that it forced him to pillage soundtrack bits from his own earlier films) keeps things looking spooky right from the start and never lets up. Decrepit old buildings, strange colored lighting, plenty of smoke and fog and some genuinely macabre looking interiors give Kill, Baby… Kill! more atmosphere than a movie made on the cheap over a couple of weeks has any right to have. The film is a non-stop visual feast for the eyes and perhaps it was because he was working without the aid of big financial backing that Bava here makes every shot count for all its worth. In addition to the lighting and the art direction the cinematography is also fantastic and quite creative. The camera follows Melissa as she plays on her swing set and periodically zooms in, Leone style, right into the character's eyes to emphasize certain key moments in the movie.


    As beautiful looking as the film is, however, Kill, Baby… Kill! isn't perfect. The story isn't particularly original (though oddly enough one could reasonably argue that it's had a big impact on a lot of recent Japanese horror films which play with many of the same ideas and there are similarities here to Stuart Gordon's Dagon as well - this has become a film of some influence!) in that it simply places a more sophisticated and educated man in amongst some superstitious rural types only to have him find the error of his ways. Like in The Wicker Man, we have a central character attempting to convince a secluded group of people with beliefs different from his own that their ways are wrong. It works and it's certainly sufficient but Dr. Eswai just sort of wandering around the town makes up a large portion of the story. Adding to that is the fact that Rossi-Stuart doesn't exactly set the screen ablaze with his charisma (though in his defense part of this could be the English dubbing more than his actual performance).


    With that said, Kill, Baby… Kill! still gets a lot more right than wrong. There is some truly chilling imagery here, particularly when the Melissa character presses her small hands and face against the dirty glass and curses those she looks upon. Bava foreshadows much of her diabolic activity by cleverly using a white ball that bounces around the town. It's interesting to see how the director uses an innocent child's toy to foreshadow the sinister acts to come. The story builds nicely to a satisfactory if somewhat predictable conclusion and the last twenty-minutes or so of the film really go get quite tense. Dr. Eswai's reality collides with that of the townspeople and he's forced to confront a reality which he doesn't truly understand and which the rational part of his brain tries hard to reject. It's this ending that ties the film up so well and which adds a certain level of surrealism to the picture, giving it considerably more depth than you might have expected it to have based on the first two thirds of its running time.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Stomp Visual presents Kill, Baby… Kill! in a mediocre 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While this release certainly trumps the old grey market discs that came out from the likes of Diamond, it doesn't look nearly as good as either the Anchor Bay DVD or the recalled Dark Sky DVD. Colors are a bit flat and there are some murky looking scenes where detail gets lost in the shadows. That said, it's all perfectly watchable - it's just that there are better versions that are now easier to get a hold of than this one.

    The Dolby Digital Mono English language dub track supplied on this DVD isn't bad but it's not as strong as the video presentation. It would have been nice to have the Italian language track here as well, but that didn't happen. There is some background hiss present on the track that you'll be hard pressed not to notice, but thankfully it isn't overpowering and while it is there, it doesn't really interfere with the dialogue or the score very much. Optional English subtitles are also included.



    The only supplement on this disc, aside from the menu and chapter selection options, is the film's original theatrical trailer.

    The Final Word:

    Easily one of Bava's finest moments, the movie holds up really well as a fine example of Italian gothic horror at its creepiest and most atmospheric, this really is an excellent film. When it was originally released back in 2005, this disc was a keeper, but it's since been made obsolete by better releases.
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