Kill Baby, Kill (1966)

a.k.a. - Operazione paura (ITA), Curse of the Dead (UK)

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Piero Lulli star in Mario Bava's exquisite gothic horror film. ABUS R0 DVD

The Film

Doctor Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) arrives into a small Transylvanian village at the invitation of Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) to investigate the mysterious death of a girl who worked at Villa Graps. He is assisted by local woman Monica (Erika Blanc) a trained nurse and they discover that the villagers are superstitious and terrified of an apparent curse on them in the form of a ghostly young girl. Dr Eswai visits Baroness Graps at the villa to ask her about the curse but while there he sees a young girl clad in white...

Based on a story from writers Romano Migliorini (A doppia faccia (1969)) and Roberto Natale (Odia il prossimo tuo (1968)), Bava's fourth gothic has, like Black Sunday (1960) and the Wuldaluk chapter of Black Sabbath (1963), the atmosphere of an old tale told to scare children. Although the story itself is quite unoriginal, a man of science being confronted by the supernatural in a remote village, it is quite possibly the best written of all of Bava's horror films - the script opens quite slowly but quickly builds up a compelling, underlying mystery. The second half develops some genuine tension with the appearances of the young girl Melissa - although her appearances are only brief and partly seen, her presence overshadows the whole storyline and by keeping them to a minimum, the script avoids the flaws of many modern ghost films, over-saturating the scares to the extent that they become almost mundane.

Similarly, Bava eschews the tendancy of the later 1960s horror films to increase the blood and gore elements - aside from the first death the other killings are bloodless and this avoids the film becoming a simple exploitation piece. Pacing is always on the slow side but the effective storyline keeps things moving throughout and the film builds to an effective denoument, although the climax does feel slightly rushed. Characterisation is brief but effective, the romantic subplot is unoffensive and there are a few good twists. The atmosphere as a whole is perhaps most akin to a British Hammer film and particularly remniscent of Plague of the Zombies (1966), although some wonderfully surreal touches in the latter half betray the film's Italian origin.

Taking the director's chair, Bava is on top form here and the film feels like the culmination of his gothic horror films of the 1960s - he infuses the film throughout with his trademark visual style, the gorgeously detailed crumbing and decaying sets are bathed in red and green lights giving the whole film an unreal and dreamlike feel. Composer Carlo Rustichelli provides a solid James Bernard style score which works well to build up some effective tension - he does reuse the sappy romantic theme from his earlier soundtrack for The Whip and the Body (1963) but fortunately it only crops up once. Curiously, although the dialogue seems to place the film in Austria or the Carpathians, the settings feel much more Italian (it is possible that the script was originally set in Italy, but relocated to the more traditional horror locations late in production) which gives the production a rather unusual feel - the set designs and locations are actually surprisingly similar to those used in the Mexican set Spaghetti Westerns which would have provided a completely unique setting for the story.

Two of Italy's finest character actors take the lead roles here - Giacomo Rossi-Stuart appeared in some 80 films in an incredibly varied career, he gets one of his very few top billings and is perfectly cast. Piero Lulli made his career playing villains in the Pepla and Spaghetti Westerns but he seems perfectly at home as the police inspector in a rare sympathic role. The beautiful Erika Blanc has a small but effective part as Monica while a few familiar faces crop up in the rest of the cast.

A well written storyline revolving around an effective plot combines with some of Bava's finest direction and great acting to make Kill Baby, Kill one of his very best. A must to Bava fans in particular and highly recommended to all classic horror fans.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Giacomo Rossi-Stuart - versatile Italian character actor, also appeared in Bava's Knives of the Avenger (1966)
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Bava - best known for his horror work, including Black Sabbath (1963), he also created one of the most impressive Italian sci-fi films Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)
Any gore or violence ? A little blood but nothing gory.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? A must see for Bava fans and highly recommended to all classic horror fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
Print quality is very good, colours and detail come through very well and grain is minimal.
Audio English and Italian mono - both tracks are strong and the dubbing on the English is very good.
Subtitles English subtitles for the Italian audio.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original US theatrical trailer
  • 3 television spots advertising this film as part of an 'Orgy of the Dead' triple feature.
  • Text bio of Mario Bava
  • Bonus trailers for Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Knives of the Avenger and The Girl Who Knew Too Much.
Availability Only available in the The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Previously released in the USA by VCI in a poor fullscreen print. Available in France and Germany but without English options.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 19th April 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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