harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Kill, Baby... Kill! [P1 of 3]

Another attempt at posting this damned review:

Kill, Baby... Kill!

(& a long and unnecessary subtitle)

Originally known as: Operazione Paura (Italian)


Starring: Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Erica Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Giana Vivaldi

DIR: Mario Bava

Edited Blurb: (It wants to give the whole plot away, and dammit, that's my review's job!) Considered by many to be one of Italian horror-meister Mario Bava's best, this occult murder mystery skillfully interweaves elements of the 'giallo' thriller formula with a creepy Gothic ghost story.

My Blurb: There are a few things we need to get out of the way first. One, this is a VCI Entertainment disc, which means that the picture is a bit rough. It also means that there isn't any subtitles and that this is dubbed over in English. So, I can't make any statements about whether the dialog is a) accurate or b) sounds better in its original language or c) allows me to tell you if this is a complete cut or not. None of this stops me from liking this movie a lot.

Scene 01: We open outside of a large and dilapidated building near dusk.

An overacting woman is doing the type of fleeing that women do when they're doomed. You know, where we stop every couple of steps in order to wail loudly giving away our exact position and hyperventilating and basically doing everything in our power to make sure that our killer catches up with us? Yeah, she's doing that.

She's yelling things like "Oh, no! NO!" etc., again as loudly as possible....

Under and over her yelling, we get ghostly moanings....

Doomed woman runs up some steps to another dilapidated building - I believe a disused chapel of some sort. There she stands in the doorway, eyes wide with fear, frozen for several moments...

Below her we see some old, iron wrought fencing sealing off an alcove. We get a view of this from doomed's perspective and we can see it all in wavy distorto-vision.

Seemingly against her will, doomed throws herself onto the iron spikes topping the fencing, spearing herself through the middle...!

We see a shadow in the doorway of someone looking down at her body. It appears to be a child, and we hear her giggles of amusement. We follow her footsteps as she travels back down the stairs from the abandoned chapel, giggling the entire way.

Scene 02: We pan as we get the credits around a village in bright daylight. But through music and what we're shown, we immediately get a sense of despair over this hamlet.

Walls are crumbled and broken, dark shadows hang over every street, there are no sounds of people going about their daily business ... everything has the appearance and vibe of a village close to death....

Commentary: I love this. I love how this was shot giving us all of the cues we need to understand that whatever is happening here, that doomed woman got caught up in it and it is an ongoing pattern of misery hanging over this community. A community that is apparently resigned to their doom, since they haven't bugged out yet....

We hear footsteps on cobbled streets and watch as four men carry a coffin through the narrow and dark path. From a doorway, a woman peeks out with fear.

Scene 03: We follow the men as they carry the coffin outside of town. At the same time, a carriage pulls up and our hero-doctor arrives. The coachmen tries to warn him off from coming to this god-forsaken community, but of course our doctor is a man of science and is determined to find out the cause of the rash of deaths in town.

The coachman refuses, of course, to enter the town proper. We get some dialog that lets us know that the doctor works as a coroner....

Scene 04: We follow our coroner as he makes his way through a mostly deserted village. Everything he passes seems to be in a state of disrepair. He passes a shrine of candles and crosses, which don't appear to be doing anyone much good.

From windows, faces peer out at him with suspicion.

Scene 05: The doctor enters a tavern/rooms-for-rent establishment. The villagers aren't exactly hostile, but they aren't giving any enthusiastic welcomes to the stranger in their midst, either (do they ever?). The atmosphere is eerily quiet, as literally everyone seems frozen and staring at the doctor.

The silence is broken when the doctor inquires after Inspector Krueger, who he finds waiting for him. Also there to greet him is the Burgomeister. He greets the doctor.

Scene 06: In a room upstairs that the Inspector is using as an office, he is getting upset and frustrated with the townspeople. All of them seemingly refusing to cooperate with any information about the victims. They all give the same spiel ... we no see, we no hear, we know nuthin' about nuthin', in a nutshell.

He can tell that the villagers are, to a man, afraid as he finds a charm is worn by the man he is interrogating. He complains bitterly about the superstition and ignorance he has to put up with.

Commentary: Way to cozy up to the residences and draw out the information you need, Inspector....

Scene 07: We discover that Irena Hollander was the doomed woman at the beginning. She was a maid at the Baroness Graps' castle estate. She had written a letter to the Inspector about the rash of deaths in town, pleading for help and expressing the fear that she would be murdered next.

Scene 08: The Inspector and the Coroner leave the Burgomeister to discuss things more in a corridor overlooking the tavern floor. The Inspector warns Paul that the villagers have been spectacularly unhelpful, seemingly terrified for their lives, which has made it nearly impossible to discover what actually happened to Irena or what murder she had been referring to.

Paul tries to be understanding... at first anyway... of their natural suspicion of strangers. The Burgomeister himself said that very few ever visit the village, so they're an insular bunch.

Paul also mentions in passing the carrying of the casket that he saw on his way in. This riles up the Inspector even more, as he states that they're trying to bury Hollander before a proper autopsy can be performed. He rushes the coroner along to prevent this.

Scene 09: In the town cemetery, the Inspector and Coroner arrive to stop the grave diggers from continuing with their attempts to put Irena in the ground.

Commentary: And, you'll note that there are no mourners, no service, no family at the graveside... clearly no one wants to get within range of Irena Hollander's burial.

He orders the men to take the body back to whereever it was being stored for a proper autopsy. The coroner insists he must have a witness with the correct qualifications to assist, and the Inspector tells him he has already found such a witness. Before he can go on, the Innkeeper shows up to tell him that the men he wanted to question more have all run out. He's been sent by the Burgomeister to bring him back to the Inn.

Scene 10: Back at the Inn, the Inspector asks why the Burgomeister allowed them to disobey the order to wait for him to return. The Burgomeister admits that he has no further power over the townsmen, as the curse over the settlement has everyone driven by fear these days. The Inspector accuses Herr Karl and the rest of the town of trying to protect someone, but Karl denies this.

Herr Karl tells him that he'll explain what has a grip on the town and all within it, telling him the answers are at the Villa Graps....

Commentary: There is something about Luciano Catenacci as Herr Karl that even the dubbing can't affect. He's striking with his large ears and bald head, but he's also got this magnetism to him and intensity. Every time he is on screen, my attention is fully on him. I wish he'd had a larger role in this.

Scene 11: Back at the cemetery, Paul is waiting outside where the body is being kept. A woman appears at the door to the cemetery caretaker's workspace. Irena's body is lying on a table awaiting her examination.

The woman is Monica Schuftan. She reveals that she is the closest thing that Paul will find to a medical expert in the town. She had been born in this hamlet, but had been away since she was two. During that time, she had studied natural sciences. And, by coincidence, she returned to her home village on the same day that Irena died.

Scene 12: In a weird transition, we fade/jump with a shaky camera movement to the setting sun.

Commentary: This transition was poorly filmed and edited and seems really out of place. I get the scene, it's showing us that darkness is falling, so it is likely that someone is going to die, but it was just poorly integrated.

Scene 13: Back in the cemetery we get a very interesting shot moving forward and backward, as if we're looking through the point of view of a child on a swing. We also hear the laughter return. A pull back, reveals that there is indeed a little girl on a swing set in the cemetery, right outside of where the autopsy is being performed.

Commentary: This scene should be ridiculous. Why would there be a swing in the cemetery after all, but the way it is filmed is quite good and is actually chilling. The laughter is a bit overdone, as it will be throughout the movie, especially since it doesn't sound genuine. But, I like the sets and lighting that creates a spectral mood of foreboding.

Scene 14: As the autopsy is being performed, Monica starts to get a bit freaked out as something dances shadows on the wall. She breathes a sigh of relief upon seeing that it is only a moth fluttering around the lantern in the room.

Outdoors, the camera glides slowly through the thick groundfog, coming closer and closer to the window of the caretaker's workroom.

Commentary: What makes this scene as creepy as it is, to me, is the music. It's kind of a simple, childish tune, but there is this undertone of eerie in it that works so well with the camera movement and the sets.

At the autopsy, Paul finds a coin in Irena's heart. Monica tells him that it is a town's legend. She tells him that local belief states that anyone suffering a violent death can only find peace if there is money in their heart to purchase it.

Meanwhile, the POV continues to stalk closer to the window, listening to Monica's voiceover.

From inside of the room, we see a little girl's hand rest against the window pane....

Scene 15: Later, in the quiet alleyways of the town, Paul and Monica are making their way to where she is staying for the night. It isn't the tavern where Paul has a room. They're discussing Irena's case, with Paul unable to tell whether there was a suicide, an accident or a murder based on his physical findings. Monica is focused on the coin placed in Irena's heart, taking it as a sign that the murderer may have wanted to ensure that she didn't come back for revenge, but Paul states they'll have to leave further investigation to Inspector Krueger. He also asks why she'd returned to the hamlet and she shares that it was to visit her parents' graves.

She doesn't remember anything about them, but they had left her a small inheritance and she wanted to pay her respects to them.

They bid one another a good night.

Commentary: And here is where I'll complain a bit, because it quickly becomes irritating: For whatever reason, Paul can't see to go two sentences without saying 'Monica'. I hope you really, really like that name. You're going to be hearing it constantly... and it only gets worse when Monica finds herself threatened and Paul runs around shouting for her over and over and over.

I had no idea that a person's name could get so repetitive and annoying....

Scene 16: On the way back to the tavern, we see Paul begin to be stalked by a man through the darkened, misty alleyways. Paul hears footsteps, putting him on edge, but whenever he turns around, he finds no one there, although we see his stalker's shadow.

Paul doesn't get far, before he's set upon by the two gravediggers. They're pissed off that he disrespected the dead by performing the autopsy. One of the gravediggers has a blade with him. They set upon Paul for defaming Irena's corpse.

Paul is nearly fatally knifed, when a woman's voice rings out a command to stop. It's not Monica following after Paul, but a different woman, who we'll learn is named Ruth. We'll find out more about her in a bit.

Upon seeing her dramatically lit, the would be killers of Paul rush off.

When Paul turns back from watching his attackers flee, however, she is no longer there.

Scene 17: Paul makes it back to the Inn, where the Innkeeper's daughter is sweeping the floor. She gives Paul a message from Inspector Krueger that he was on his way to Villa Graps. When Paul asks if he said when he'd be back, the Innkeeper's daughter reports that you don't come back from the Villa, before panickingly covering her mouth.

Paul tries to ask her why she'd say something like that, but the girl runs for her room, terrified and insisting she never said anything....

Scene 18: After Paul makes his way upstairs, the daughter of the Innkeeper comes back out, but she's obviously in a state. She rushes to the Inn door and barricades it and then looks fearfully around the room. She seems in a state of near-hysteria, when she senses something behind her and turns....

Through the window, she sees a blonde girl looking in at her displeased, and immediately screams in terror!

Innkeeper's wife comes out to find out what is wrong with her daughter, who is Nadienne. Nadienne reports in horror that she saw 'her face at the window', which is immediately received as a death sentence.

The Innkeeper, Hanze, is sent to fetch Ruth as Nadienne's only hope. But as he goes to leave and opens the door, he finds that Ruth is already mysteriously there waiting!

Commentary: Ruth also has a habit of looking expressionlessly at people with shifty eyes. Monica will also spend a lot of time with apparently immobile facial muscles, except when she starts to get terrorized later. I mean, what the heck? Were they directed to act like mannequins?

Ruth tells the Innkeeper that she could already sense that Nadienne was in harm's way... Is Ruth responsible for the deaths?

Scene 19: Up in his room at the same time, Paul reads the Inspector's note that he's gone to the Villa Graps to confirm a story that the Burgomeister told him, apparently explaining what is happening in this village.

He tells Paul in his note that only the Baroness Graps could tell him if the 'incredible' story is true. He directs Paul to join him there as soon as he's able.

Scene 20: When Paul arrives downstairs, he's distracted by the sounds of distress coming from Nadienne. A woman's voice (Ruth) is telling her that no one will be able to harm her if she'll do as Ruth directs.

He goes to the apartment door and peeks through the cracks to see Nadienne and her mother standing in obvious duress. Ruth walks by with a bowl of burning herbs....

Scene 21: In the room, we see Ruth performing some sort of witchcraft. With her mother and father watching, Nadienne begins to be whipped by Ruth with thorny branches leaving trails of blood across her back.

Ruth orders the vengeful spirits to keep away from Nadienne, as Paul watches the girl whipped through the door....

Our camera roves to a window, where we again see the blonde girl peeking in from outside....

Scene 22: Paul feels or hears the little girl at the door, because he spins around suddenly, but sees nothing. In the meantime, Nadienne also senses that the ghost girl is there outside waiting to punish her. And, I'll just tell you right now that the girl's name is Melissa.

Ruth is escorted out through a side door after she gives something to Nadienne, warning her she shouldn't remove it if she wishes to stay safe.

Scene 23: Outside, she walks around the Inn, passing the front door in which we do not see any signs of Melissa. As she walks away though, she's stopped by Paul stepping out from the darkness. Paul tells her he saw her 'sorcery'.

He confronts Ruth over why the villagers are calling on her to perform such superstitious spells. She tells him about the town being cursed. She also tells him that she believes that Irena was compelled to throw herself onto those iron rail spikes. She warns Paul that he should collect the Inspector and leave town that night and stop the continuing inquest into the maid's death, if he values his own life.

Paul, of course, blows off this warning. He tells her that the Inspector is even now looking for a clue to the madness that seems to have infected the town up at the Villa Graps.

Scene 24: From her window overlooking the alley, Monica listens in on Ruth warning the doctor not to go to the Villa. As Paul and Ruth continue walking, Monica closes her window, perturbed by something....

Scene 25: Back with Paul and Ruth, she gives him directions to the Villa Graps, since he's so insistent on finding out why everyone is so afraid of the place. Before he makes his way toward the Villa, Paul tells Ruth that he now suspects she is the one who drove the coin into Hollander's heart after she was dead. Ruth will not confirm nor deny that she was responsible.

Paul tells her that they'll talk again later and heads off, but Ruth tells him at his back that anyone who goes to the Villa doesn't talk to anyone again....

Commentary: I love the set design of this movie with the constant gothic fog and the narrow, cramped and dark spaces. I also really like the ambiguousness of Ruth's character. As we'll see, she really is a morally dubious character and despite the very low key performance, I find the actress - Fabienne Dali - interesting to watch.

Scene 26: Ruth returns to her own home, filled with as many creepy items as could be fit, so that we don't know if she's trying to help or hurt the town with her magic.

Ruth is startled by that horror movie phenomena... the friend creeping silently up on you, so they can touch your shoulder to make you jump thing. It is Karl and we find out that Ruth and he are lovers.

To his unenthusiastic response to her kiss, she asks what is wrong. He tells her that they have another one, and we see that he has brought her another dead villager. Ruth reacts with angry resignation to the fates of her fellow villagers, but Karl tells her that she could end things at the Villa Graps. She replies that it would demand more bloodshed and she's apparently unwilling to take that step, pointing to the fact that although ambiguous, she's a white witch.

Ruth hints at the identity of the body, though we don't see it yet, in saying that the others are looking for him. Interestingly, she seems to know who it is even before lifting the sheet covering it. She sends Karl out to fetch a cart and the gravediggers in order to bury the body before anyone can find it (surely meaning Paul and/or Monica). She warns him that he must be taken care of that very night, or he'll become a remorseless ghost as well.

She promises the body that she'll never let 'them' make whoever it is one of the ghosts, if she can help it. We pan down to see that she has a large knife and a coin in her hands.

Scene 27: Meanwhile, Paul is arriving at the deserted looking Villa Graps. Like everything in town, we'll discover that the Villa is largely dilapidated and left to go to ruins.

Paul goes in and calls out for Krueger, but there is no response from anyone. He travels up a winding spiral staircase. The Villa seems abandoned and covered in dirt and cobwebs, but when Paul arrives upstairs, he sees a door down the hallway close. He goes to investigate.

He approaches the door he saw closed, only to have it open again to reveal a haggard, old lady glaring at him. Paul tells the woman that he's looking for Krueger, but she denies that she's seen anyone. She tells him that no one ever calls on her or is received there. She also introduces herself as the Baroness Graps.

Commentary: I also really like the performance of this actress, Giovanna Galletti, who is the most energetic of all of the actors. She plays as her character as if she's just barely holding onto her sanity and does some wonderful work as the alternatingly manic and exhausted Baroness.

Paul tries to insist that he's sure the Inspector came there, but she tells him that he's to leave immediately, or he'll be sorry.

Scene 28: We follow the Baroness, obviously frail and full of bitter age, back into the only suite of rooms that still appears halfway livable, but it still appears she's living in hard times. She makes her way to a bed in the center of the room. After moments she gets up again as a breeze stirs the curtains behind her. There are ghostly moans in the background.

The Baroness drops into a chair before a mirror, shaking. As she continues to stare into the mirror, she seems to grow more frightened and seems to slip more and more toward a trancelike state. As the Baroness' image in the mirror becomes distorted, we hear Melissa's ghostly laugh....

Scene 29: In one of the corridors, Paul is trying to determine what to do next as he cannot find Krueger and Graps wasn't of any help. He sees Melissa at the end of the hallway. When he calls out to her, she takes off running and he goes after her.

Melissa suddenly appears at the opposite end of the corridor and shares her name with him. Before he can reach her though, she's gone again. He dashes back down the corridor to see Melissa running down the spiral staircase. He follows her via her childish laughs....

Commentary: The interesting thing about Bava as a director is that he likes gelled lights. So there is always an unnatural color in his scenes that add an undercurrent of menace or mystery. It also makes his films pretty to look at and there are many scenes where there isn't anything particular happening, but because of the camera shot and the lighting, the scene looks like the central character is walking through a painting. I also want to once again point out the sets of this villa. Every corridor and staircase is filled with dust and webs and a look of neglect. It's easy to know, even before we get the background, that the Graps family and the Baroness especially has been broken by some sort of great tragedy. And, can there be any doubt that it is tied to the ghostly, Melissa? Melissa Graps?

I like the way that the story is actually made clear without any dialog needed actually. Simply seeing what is happening and now the Baroness' reaction just before Melissa appeared tells us who this ghost is. Now, we just need to learn why, but clearly there will be a town tragedy involved in Melissa's corporeal end....

{To Be Continued}
Tags: review kill baby kill

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