Movie Reviews - Baron Blood, Barood, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Battle of the Bulge, Bay of Blood

Baron Blood (C, 1972) AKA The Torture Chamber of Baron Blood, Chamber of Tortures, The Blood Baron, The Thirst Of Baron Blood, Baron Vampire, Gli orrii del castello di Norimberga
This is a Mario Bava horror film and that's the main thing you need to know, because all Bava is essential. A young man named Peter visits his ancestral home, "The Castle of the Devils," in Austria. His ancestor was the notorious Baron Von Kleist, who tortured to death hundreds of villagers, often impaling their bodies on the roof of the castle. Peter brings an old manuscript containing an incantation written by a witch named Elisabeth Holley, whom the Baron had burned to death. She left it as a curse to resurrect him from the dead. Just as a joke, he and Elke Sommer go to the castle and perform the ritual. When bells start tolling and something rattles the door, they revoke the spirit. Later they find a hidden room with a ruined portrait of the baron, and they try the incantation again. The manuscript is blown into the fire afterward so they can't revoke it, and a wheezing, pain-wracked thing in a black cloak and a slouch hat crawls from a grave outside. Von Kleist was subjected to a lot of torture before death, so he's in bad shape, broken and bleeding. He gets medical attention from a local doctor, then kills him and sets out on a rampage, killing several more people by hanging and iron maiden. Soon afterward a wheelchair-bound Joseph Cotton buys the Castle of the Devils and Sommer goes to work for him, restoring the castle while being stalked through its halls by the baron. They go to a local witch for help in sending the Baron back, and she invokes the psychedelic spirit of Elisabeth Holley, who says he can only be destroyed by his own victims. In a beautifully-atmospheric sequence, a little girl gets hunted through forest paths near the castle - in one brilliant shot she drops an apple and the camera tracks it down the hill until it ends up with a shot of the Baron's tortured hand gripping a tree. Joseph Cotton (doing his best Vincent Price) gives them a tour of the castle and springs a few surprises on them. Beautiful, authentic locations, a little gore (although rather restrained when you remember that just before this Bava had filmed the splatter-laden Bay of Blood), and a welcome throwback to Bava's earlier supernatural horror films. Baron Von Kleist is, of course, based on Vlad Tepes, the real-life Dracula. The Baron's makeup (by Carlo Rambaldi, who also made E.T.) and outfit are a nod to Vincent Price's in House of Wax. -zwolf

Barood (C, 1998)
Bollywood revenge flick in which a woman's husband was killed by a mob boss who's so ruthless he even puts hits on people who cut him off in traffic. For years this woman carries on a vigil, praying for revenge. Meanwhile, the gangster's daughter Neha is a pop star, but she's bratty and shows up late for a show, so the revenge-crazed woman's son, Jai (Akshay Kumar) - who, through a stroke of only-Bollywood-would-have-the-balls-to-try-to-suspend-your-disbelief-this-far luck, is also a pop star - shows up and does the show instead, dancing around with his pants on fire (and that's not hyperbole - I mean, the guy's pants are literally burning) to a song that cops riffs from "Smoke on the Water." Neha has her up-and-coming gangster (and son of a corrupt police captain) boyfriend Sanjay try to kill Jai, but they screw it up, resulting in some insane car antics (some of which you can tell are inspired by Mad Max - the rest are just madness, period!). Then some guy imitates M.C. Hammer and Michael Jackson to open for Neha... who, much to her chagrin, is teamed up with Jai. Even though Neha tried to kill him, Jai thinks she's kinda cute so he tries to strike up a romance with her. She plays along and goes skiing with him... but only so some more of her gangster buddies can try to snuff 'im. Jai kung fu fights a guy and there's a crazy ski-and-motorcycle (on snow?) chase, followed by a snowmobile explosion fest where Jai saves Neha's life. She regrets all those assassination attempts and tries to lure him back with some musical number that seems based on that "Hush little baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird" song. Jai is a dope, so it works. His mom finds out that his girlfriend is the gangster's daughter. Also, the gangster has promised Neha to Sanjay. And if these weren't complications enough, Jai becomes a policeman and swears to avenge his father's murder, unaware that his fiancee's father is the killer. It's a completely impossible and unbelievable situation that'll make orphans of damn near everybody before it's over, but what the hell, it's a movie and they can get a lot of drama out of this kinda thing, so just shelve your disbelief completely and go along with it for the entertainment factor. Remember: Oedipus Rex ain't exactly plausible, either, and that's a classic. Plus, the crazy plot results in lots of explosions, kung fu, automotive mayhem, broken glass violence, double-crosses and frame-ups, gunfire, a dance number with people dressed in bug costumes, and plenty of ruthless vengeance. It's slowed up by the melodrama and musical numbers in some places, and there are spots where you may scream "we get the idea already, Jesus Christ, give it a damn rest!", but overall it'll probably kick yer chubby ass. If nothing else, check out the last 20-30 minutes, which is a very-ridiculous nonstop battle between Jai and a bunch of wrestlers and kung fu experts in a fiery RDX factory. It's some of the craziest action you'll see anywhere. Seriously - Ringo Lam would look at the last reel of this thing and go, "Well, that's a little excessive, isn't it?" -zwolf

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (C, 1993)
This animated feature (an outgrowth of the TV cartoons) is much better than any of the live-action movies. While Bruce Wayne has personal troubles of his own (he's in love), Batman is wanted by the cops for bumping off gangsters. 'Cept the one really doing the gangster-snuffing is another caped figure called The Phantasm, who moves around in a mist and has a big blade for a hand. The Joker is all mixed up in it, too. Intelligent and well-written script and dramatic, atmospheric artwork... even though it's fine for kids, adults will enjoy it, too... maybe more than kids, since the plot is pretty complex and serious. The cartoon series did a better job with the Batman character than the "real" movies ever did. -zwolf

The Battle of the Bulge (C,1965)
One of those big-ass all-star war movies, this one serving up Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Charles Bronson, George Montgomery, and Telly Savalas, and its epic look demands to be seen in letterbox format. It's rather slow going for a war film at first, and sometimes kind of artificial (poor backscreen effects during driving or flying scenes, German soldiers breaking into song during inspection, phony German accents). It takes about an hour before there's any action, but then you get some fairly decent tank battles. Panzers are rolling in, crushing all resistance, and when the Americans try to blow up bridges to halt their progress, German spies ruin the plans. Then the railroads try to rush in some artillery to handle the tanks, and the Panzers put the quietus on that plan, too, making things look pretty bleak for the good guys. But, o' course, you know the Allies won that one, so the suspense ain't gonna kill you, unless you want to see what Hollywood solution they come up with. You may not believe it when you see it... Still, this manages to be some solid entertainment, even if it's not one of the WW2 masterpieces and not all that historically accurate. -zwolf

Bay Of Blood (C, 1972) AKA Carnage, Twitch Of The Death Nerve, Last House On The Left Part 2, New House On The Left, Bloodbath Bay Of Blood
Paranoiac gorefest by Mario Bava that's not his most polished work, but still may be his most influential, since it's the direct inspiration for all those Friday the 13th movies, which not only took the basic idea - the stalking and slashing of thirteen victims - but copied some of the killings to the letter. Victim-fodder includes four goofy vacationing college students (including one big silly German girl named Brunhilda who's like the human equivalent of that girl rabbit who always wants Bugs Bunny to "give to me large kiss!"), a guy who collects insects (and makes friends with them), his tarot-reading wife, a guy who fishes for squid, and others. The killings (which spare nothing - this is groundbreaking gore) include machetes in the face, throat-slashing, two bodies speared while having sex, stabbings, stranglings, decapitations, and more, all in close-up and with Bava's wonderful sense of color and lighting. The plot is scant - people are basically snuffing each other over a piece of prime real estate - but the film usually catches criticism for overuses of the zoom lens. Eh... it's not a problem. All this... and a funny surprise ending. Not Bava's masterpiece (for me, that'd be Kill Baby Kill), but definite must-see stuff for splatter fans. -zwolf

More film reviews are available in the archives on our website!

No comments:

Post a Comment