BARON BLOOD (Orrori del castello di Norimberga, Gli)
(director: Mario Bava; screenwriters: from a story by Vincent Fotre/Vincent Fotre; cinematographer: Mario Bava; editor: Carlo Reali; music: Les Baxter; cast: Joseph Cotten (Baron Otto von Kleist/Alfred Becker), Elke Sommer (Eva Arnold), Massimo Girotti (Dr. Karl Hummel), Rada Rassimov (Christina Hoffmann), Antonio Cantafora (Peter Kleist), Humi Raho (Inspector), Alan Collins (Fritz), Dieter Tressler (Mayor Dortmundt), Nicoletta Elmi (Gretchen Hummel), Gustavo De Nardo (Dr. Werner Hessler), Helena Ronee (Elisabeth Hölle); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alfredo Leone; Image Entertainment Inc.; 1972-Italy/West Germamy-in English)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cinematographer-turned-director, the maven of the modern horror film, Mario Bava (“Black Sunday”/”Kill Baby Kill”/ “Black Sabbath”) works from a dull script by Vincent Fotre (from his book) and overuses the zoom shot (as is his penchant) in this disappointing film. It was so weakly presented that one never gets over the suspension of belief needed to get through this tedious and unimaginative piece of schlock. To make matters worse, the acting was atrocious. Joseph Cotten, going against typecast, does not make for a good villain. Elke Sommer was around because she looks good screaming, but when given dialogue there are problems. Antonio Cantafora made for an uninteresting and obnoxious lead. There are no surprises and few scares, but on the positive side the legendary filmmaker does set an eerie mood and there’s good location shots of Austria (such as the use of a real castle, Castle Kreuzenstein).
The twentysomething American Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) just finished his master’s degree and arrives to vacation in Austria to stay with his uncle, a research scientist in ESP, Dr. Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti), trace his family roots and visit the castle of his 16th century ancestor Otto von Kleist. He was a sadistic homicidal nobleman nicknamed by the local villagers Baron Blood, who enjoyed torturing people to death and left the bodies of his victims on spikes outside his castle and had a torture chamber in the castle for more fun and games. The villagers finally rebelled and put him out of his misery. The castle is now up for bid, as it’s rumored investors are interested in turning it into a luxury hotel for tourists. Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer) is a young architect (believing that might be harder than believing in the film’s resurrection of the dead) working on the restoration of the castle, who gets invited by Karl to dinner with his wife Martha, his young girl Gretchen and the ogling Yankee nephew. That evening Eva and Peter, already an item, visit the castle because he has a parchment left by Elisabeth Hölle, a witch burned at the stake by the Baron, who before her death placed a curse on him and left an incantation for bringing the Baron back from the dead so his victims can arise from the dead momentarily to torture him in an even worse way than how he tortured them. When revived on their second visit, the Baron takes the form of a wheelchair-bound mystery man named Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotten). He wins the bidding war to buy the castle, called by the locals the “Castle of the Devils” and restores it complete with torture chambers. He goes on a killing spree of those snooping around the castle, and the dynamic duo become perplexed and frightened for their own life when they can’t return him to the dead because the parchment accidentally burned. Eventually Eva and Peter are saved by a mystic woman (Rada Rassimov) who gives them the magic amulet of Hölle’s, but not before she gives them a stern lecture on innocent witches getting killed and Peter being a twit to release such a monster on the world.
It was Bava’s first and only film away from Italy, and one that’s easily forgettable. If this standard horror film was the only one of his films you ever saw, you would wonder what all the fuss was about him.
REVIEWED ON 9/18/2006 GRADE: C