Kill Baby Kill (1966)
By: David Michael Brown on August 10, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Stomp Visual (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 Enhanced). English DD 2.0. Running Time 83 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Piero Lulli, Luciano Catenacci, Micaela Esdra
Screenplay: Mario Bava, Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale
Music: Carlo Rustichelli
Country: Italy
AKA: Operazione paura
The films of Mario Bava fall into two camps: the psychedelic frolics of Danger: Diabolik, Four Times a Night and Dr Goldfoot and the Girlbombs and the horror films which made his name. Early works like Black Sunday and Black Sabbath single handily kick started the Italian horror industry and Bava continued to revisit the genre throughout his career. Hatchet for a Honeymoon, Planet of the Vampires, Twitch of the Death Nerve; all were handsomely monikered masterpieces that combined chills and bloody thrills with a knowing wink at the camera and Kill Baby Kill continues that tradition.

Starring Erika Blanc, who made The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave so memorable and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Kill Baby Kill is a turn of the century Italian ghost story. A city coroner is sent to a village to investigate a mysterious string of suicides that have been plaguing the locals. Working with the police he soon realises that the villagers are covering up a sinister secret, terrified that if they are seen helping him, they will die. It soon becomes apparent that the superstitious villagers believe they are haunted by a malevolent spirit of a young girl intent on wreaking revenge on their cursed village. This, however, is no superstition, as anyone who sees the ghost of seven year old Melissa bleeds to death in strange circumstances.

Bava's Kill Baby Kill is a marvellous ghost train ride full of spooks, spectres and gothic gloom. Beautifully lit and oozing menace from every shadow, this is a perfect example of less is more, letting the audiences imaginations lure them further into the darkness. Bava's smoke machine must have been on overdrive during the production of the film, every scene is full of menacing mist. The slow, methodical unravelling of the storyline may be too lethargic for audiences brought up on body count slasher movies, but for anyone willing to enter Bava's creepy world there is much to enjoy. Argento fans will notice motifs that would regularly occur doing his films. The sinister laughter of a child, grotesque dolls, brooding gothic architecture, garish lighting schemes...its pretty obvious that Argento looked up to Bava as the master of Italian horror.

Another bold move was to open with the gory image of the skewered back of the spectre's first suicide victim during the opening credits. It instantly shocks the audience and builds up the sense of unease. The soundtrack certainly adds to the creepy mood; one minute full on gothic melodrama, the next the whimsy of a child's nursery rhyme, the juxtaposition of styles another part of Bava's twisted storytelling. Bava is often chastised for his over use of zoom but here he makes fun of the accusation when the audience is shown the perspective of a child on a swing. It's a bravura piece of filmmaking, technically brilliant but maintaining the playful nature of the scene. Many of Bava's films show a director in love with the camera and Kill Baby Kill is no exception, he gleefully manipulates his audience and his obvious joy in telling this spooky tale exudes from every shadowy pore.
The great thing about Bava's work is the colour scheme. The bright, candy coloured lighting in Kill Baby Kill is not served well by this transfer. The dark scenes just look faded; in fact the whole film looks a bit washed out and the image is constantly grainy and dirty. I know it's an old low budget film but there should have been more effort made on such an important film in Bava's repertoire.
The audio track is nothing spectacular. Disappointingly only the English track is included.
Extra Features
All we get is one lousy trailer; not good considering the extras available on the newly released, remastered version included in Anchor Bay's Mario Bava box set. There were to be even more extras on the Dark Sky US release but that, alas, was cancelled when Anchor Bay's box set hit the shelves.
The Verdict
The film is marvellous, an absolute classic. The perfect combination of Bava's eye for Gothic melodrama and spine tingling chills, Kill Baby Kill is a must see entry in the director's impressive cannon of work but unfortunately this is not the way to see it. A 4 star film on a 1 star disc! Save up your money and buy the US Bava box set instead.
Movie Score
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