Archive for the ‘gothic horror’ Tag

Kill Baby, Kill (1966)   Leave a comment

You have to love a film that starts with a woman running out of a decrepit mansion, screaming and impaling herself on a pointy fence.

Dashing Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) arrives at a dreary village in the Carpathian Mountains to perform an autopsy.


“I’m dashing.”

Inspector Krueger (Piero Lulli) wants to find the cause of death of Irena (the impaler) and the villagers are stonewalling him. They can’t or won’t talk about the young woman’s death because they fear the curse, plaguing their village for years, will afflict them too. The doctor performs the autopsy with the help of Monika Shuftan (Erika Blanc), a beautiful science student who happens to be in town visiting her parents’ graves. They’re a cheery bunch.


“I’m not sure we should use this picture for the brochure.”

Meanwhile, the burgomeister (Luciano Catenacci) pretends to help Krueger while simultaneously not telling him anything and conspiring with his lover, sexy witch Ruth (the mesmerizing Fabienne Dali) to insert coins into the hearts of all the corpses. Yeah, I don’t know. Oh, all right. Ruth, places the coins in the victims’ hearts to ward off Baroness Graps’ supernatural powers. The baroness (Giovanna Galletti), who lives in a huge derelict castle that looks like it was decorated by Miss Havisham for her Halloween layout, blames the entire village for the death of her daughter twenty years before.


Ruth

Paul does some sleuthing himself, asking the locals about the curse and trying to convince them that a cold compress is better for a young girl’s fever than wrapping a weird barbed plant around her chest.

More villagers die violently and Paul runs around town getting locked into places and yelling “Monika!” a lot. Monika keeps seeing a little dead girl everywhere and wakes up after a nightmare to find a bald doll on her bed. She tries to hold it together, but the ghost kid keeps appearing and by now the corpses are really piling up.


“I wanted granite.”

I won’t delve too deeply into the plot because I recommend you see Kill Baby, Kill and I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s a cool, suspenseful film with a few nice scares and solid performances. Paul and Monika make a pretty pair. They’re both likable, intelligent, and not swept away by the hysteria of the townsfolk. Even when Monika is completely terrified, she listens to reason, and I love the way Paul scoffs at the barbaric medical practices of the locals. He’s too logical for this crap, but even he gets a little freaked out when doors start closing on their own.


Nice arm sconces

Kill Baby, Kill has a cool medieval look to it. The dilapidated stone castles give the film a worn-out gothic look that fits in with the idea of a remote town that’s given up. Director, Mario Bava, must have blown the budget on dry ice and cobwebs and he was right to do it. The whole atmosphere lends itself to spooky goings-on. Bava and his cinematographer, Antonio Rinaldi, who also shot Danger: Diabolik and Planet of the Vampires, used the set, including a gorgeous spiral staircase, beautifully.


See?

The scenes with the little ghost girl gazing through windows and bouncing a white ball are wonderful.


Wrong kid.

Kill Baby, Kill is a fun watch. The characters are worth caring about and the story, by Bava, Romano Migliorini, and Roberto Natale, has enough going on to keep you interested. It’s a fun Halloween-y film.

 

 

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Dementia 13 (1963) Revisited on Blu-ray   4 comments

I wrote a review of Dementia 13 a while back, but that was based on seeing a fairly grainy version on YouTube. Last fall, the lovely people at Film Detective sent me a Blu-ray of the fun horror gem. I had some dumb technical issues so I’m just watching it now. Sorry, Film Detective. I didn’t forget you.


“People get so dramatic when they’re not invited to the wedding.”

Dementia 13 was made in 1963, in black and white, for $40,000. Francis Ford Coppola filmed it, with Roger Corman’s blessing, around the set of The Young Racers, also starring William Campbell and Luana Anders. It’s just 75 minutes long and it’s a terrific little thriller. It’s not a perfect film, but it moves along and the acting is good, especially from Patrick Magee, who plays—surprise—a sinister doctor.


“Oh hi.”

Since I first watched and wrote about this film, I’ve seen it a few times, but it’s never looked this good. The Blu-ray version is crisp and clear and I managed to see more details of Dementia 13 in this viewing than I ever have. It’s a real treat to see a film you like in the best possible way. Director of photography, Charles Hanawalt, uses a lot of natural and dim lighting. That makes sense considering the modern Gothic setting. It also means that in the past, I’ve had to strain to catch details. Not this time.

I enjoyed actually seeing Dementia 13 after all this time. If you’re a fan, the Blu-ray is a must.

Psst…below is my review of Dementia 13, with a few additions.

borg

Fishy fishy in the brook
Daddy’s caught you on a hook
-Nursery rhyme

As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.

creepy
“…and then I crushed its head.”

They’re a fun bunch.

funeral
Weeeeee!

Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.

monkey
If you see this you have gone too far.

Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.

spy
Eavesdropping on the funeral.

What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory version of Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.

Thanks again to the folks at Film Detective.

Fun fact: Early on in the film, Louise discusses Richard’s girlfriend saying, “You can tell she’s an American girl, raised on promises.” Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to the first lines of the Tom Petty tune, “American Girl”, released in 1976. I can’t find definitive information to link the song lyrics to the film, but it’s a neat tidbit.

quality
A sure sign of quality

shame

Check out cinemashame.wordpress.com for more horrific reviews and @cinemashame on twitter.

I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

October 2, 2014

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