Kill, Baby… Kill! – Italy, 1966

Kill, Baby… Kill! – original title: Operazione paura [“Operation Fear”] – is a 1966 Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava from a screenplay by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale. It is known under many titles including Curse of the Dead and Curse of the Living Dead. It stars Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Erika Blanc.

The film’s score was attributed to Carlo Rustichelli (Libido; Blood and Black Lace; The Whip and the Body) but in his Euro Gothic book Jonathan Rigby says that it was “actually cannibalised from familiar themes by Rustichelli, Vlad, Lavagnino, Masi and Trovajoli.”

1907: In a Carpathian village a series of murders occur in which the victims are found with silver coins embedded in their hearts. The coins are revealed to be talismans placed on the victims by the town witch (Fabienne Dali), meant to ward off the supernatural powers of the aged Baroness Graps (Giana Vivaldi).

The baroness has been performing these duties for the ghost of her murdered daughter, who wants to claim the villagers’ souls. In order to free the village from the curse, Dali must find the sequestered baroness and destroy her…

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Released on Blu-ray on 11 September 2017 by Arrow Video in the UK with the following extras:

  • Restored 2K high definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark
  • Kill, Bava, Kill!, an interview with assistant director Lamberto Bava
  • Yellow, Semih Tareen’s short film homage to the cinema of Mario Bava
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Booklet featuring new writing by critic Travis Crawford

Reviews:

” …occasionally jolts into the realms of free-form delirium and dementia. The spectre of little Melissa Graps, with her white lace dress and bouncing white ball, is perhaps the most influential icon of the Italian horror cinema, having been copied in countless other films, notably Federico Fellini’s Toby Dammit (from Spirits of the Dead, 1968), and the film itself has been an admitted influence on such directors as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch.” Tim Lucas, All the Colors of the Dark

“Embracing the opportunity to shoot in full colour, Bava creates a lurid, entrancing dream-world which clearly informed the work of Argento and Fulci, and indeed any director interested in exploring otherworldly ideas: one scene, where the hero seems to pursue a vision of himself, is an almost shot-for-shot antecedent of David Lynch’s disturbing final episode of Twin Peaks.” Tom Huddleston, Time Out

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“Stuart-Rossi rather drags things down with his one-note performance, but Erika Blanc makes a reasonable heroine and Valerio Valeri (oddly uncredited) is suitably creepy as the malicious ghost. The film is as visually stunning as you might expect, and eventually builds to a creepy and atmospheric finale that is undeniably impressive, with the image of Melissa Graps and her bouncing ball becoming somewhat iconic – if, perhaps, not as influential as has been claimed.” David Flint, The Darkside

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“There are several directorial touches that convey a genuine sense of the supernatural. The shot of the girl’s face at a dirt-frosted window, and the appearance of a child’s toy ball, bouncing towards the camera, announce the intrusion of the vengeful ghost with effective eeriness. The scene on the spiral staircase, brilliantly set up and shot, and the sequence where a character appears to chase themselves are virtuoso set pieces, worthy of comparison with Hitchcock.” Image Sound Word

“In an opportunist gesture typical of the Italian film industry, Bava’s most poetic film – complete with surrealist references to, among others, Jean Cocteau and M C Escher – got its name from the preponderance of larkish spy spoofs of the period that included the word ‘operazione’ in their titles.”Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic

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“If you love this sort of thing then you’ll easily forgive some of the stilted acting (especially between leads Stuart and Erika Blanc) and a music score from Carlo Rustichelli that plays as if it’s trying to wake the dead all by itself.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema

” …the very definition of atmosphere because character and plot are secondary to the mood and feel. The intense visuals, bathed in light yet flowing with fog, are Bava’s return to the Gothic after three years making contemporary giallo films. The whirling score – which occasionally features a theremin – maintains the eerie simmering mood almost from start to finish.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“Bava’s direction is, as almost always, quite abysmal but thanks to his previous career as a cinematographer, the movie looks good and turns out to be a quite atmospheric supernatural shocker, although as hollow as an empty egg.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982

” …abundance of visual beauty, fantastic use of color, incredible story which merely links the bravura cinematics. Another must-see, of course, but when will Bava get a decent script?” Castle of Frankenstein

Slant Magazine called the film “arguably Bava’s greatest achievement”.

Allmovie said the film has “an eerie and atmospheric effort that reflects many of the elements that have made the popular Italian director’s films so compelling: excellent cinematography and strong performances from the talented cast.”

Kill Baby Kill may not be Mario Bava’s best thriller, but the film offers another opportunity to enjoy the director’s bravura cinematics.” Lawrence McCallum, Italian Horror Films of the 1960s

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Cast and characters:

  • Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Doctor Paul Eswai (Death Smiles at Murder; Crimes of the Black Cat; The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave; et al)
  • Erika Blanc as Monica Schuftan (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the GraveDevil’s Nightmare, Mark of the Devil Part II)
  • Fabienne Dali as Ruth, the Sorceress
  • Giana Vivaldi as Baroness Graps
  • Micaela Esdra as Nadienne
  • Piero Lulli as Inspector Kruger
  • Luciano Catenacci as Karl the Burgomeister
  • Franca Dominici as Martha
  • Giuseppe Addobbati as The Innkeeper
  • Valerio Valeri as Melissa Graps [uncredited]

Filming locations:

Calcata, Viterbo, Latium, Italy

Trivia:

The film’s shooting title was Le macabre ore della paura (“The Macabre Hour of Fear”). The little girl with a bouncing ball imagery was also re-used in FeardotCom

Offline reading:

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