Monday, April 11, 2011

Film Review: KILL, BABY...KILL! (1966, Mario Bava)

Stars: 4.3 of 5.
Running Time: 85 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Starring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, ZORRO '75), Erika Blanc (I AM SARTANA TRADE YOUR GUNS FOR A COFFIN, SHOOT GRINGO SHOOT!), Fabienne Dali (LE DOULOS). Assistant directed by Lamberto Bava (DEMONS 2, BLASTFIGHTER). Music by Carlo Rustichelli (DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE).
Tag-line: "Makes you shiver and shake!"

A woman screams. "NO, NO, NOOOOOO!" She dashes across a garish, Eastmancolor landscape.

She flings herself from a great height, impaling herself on the spiked fence below. Cue opening credits. That's Italian horror for you in a nutshell- gory, stylish, and abrupt. As such, KILL, BABY...KILL is an untamable mini-masterpiece. Sure, you may never really connect to the story or the characters, but... oh, the spectacle! The artistry! The ingenuity! The cobwebs! It's Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James fed through a rainbow-colored meat grinder and transmogrified into batshit crazy Italo-Gothic fettuccine. It's full of striking, stirring imagery: Four red-hooded men solemnly convey a coffin across the countryside in silhouette. The camera wanders through a mist-enshrouded graveyard full of moss-covered masonry lit by a deep, dark blue sky. Bava's frenetic zooms and pans (i.e., a POV shot of a girl on a swing) elevate those basic cinematic techniques to new pizzazz-y heights: the sheer, intoxicating joy with which he tackles these simple elements recalls the boundless imaginations of cinema pioneers like Méliès or Lumière. Consequently, Bava's (and this film's) influence on cinema is staggering: Argento, Kubrick, Fellini, Burton, and Lynch have all followed in his wake at one time or another.

As an aside, this film's influence on TWIN PEAKS cannot be understated. We have out-of-town experts and inspectors carrying out an investigation of one in a series of murders, which are blamed on an ambiguous, localized evil. During the autopsies, coins are discovered- inserted into the corpse's hearts (á la BOB's fingernail messages). Later, when entering the mansion which apparently is the locus of said evil, our hero must chase a doppelgänger of himself through a looping, interdimensional hallway- a scene duplicated almost exactly with Agent Cooper is in the Black Lodge in the Season 2 finale:

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart catches up with himself... does Kyle MacLachlan.

In the end, who says you need narrative coherence to make a superior film? Not Mr. Bava! Almost five stars.

-Sean Gill


Jason said...

Holy shit! I had seen Kill Baby Kill and Twin Peaks, but had never put this together before- it's exact!

Sean Gill said...


Yeah, it is pretty direct. Lynch is notoriously tight-lipped about his influences, but I'm preeeeeeetty sure I've heard him mention Bava before. Regardless; the scene works well in both!