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A young man, Peter, returns to Austria in search of his heritage. There he visits the castle of an ancestor, a sadistic Baron who was cursed to a violent death by a witch whom the Baron had burned at the stake. Peter reads aloud the incantation that causes Baron Blood to return and continue his murderous ways.
For more about Baron Blood and the Baron Blood Blu-ray release, see Baron Blood Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Vincent Fotre
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Elke Sommer, Massimo Girotti, Rada Rassimov, Antonio Cantafora, Umberto Raho
» See full cast & crew
Baron Blood Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 4, 2013
Mario Bava's "Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga" a.k.a "Baron Blood" (1972) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video. The release includes three versions of the film; original English and Italian trailers; video introduction by journalist and Italian horror expert Alan Jones; radio spots; video interview with Italian director uggero Deodato; production stills; and audio commentary with Mario Bava expert Tim Lucas. The release also arrives with a 22-page illustrated collector's booklet featuring an essay by critic James Oliver, as well as a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys. In English or Italian, with optional English or English SDH subtitles. Region-B "locked".
Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora, The Bitch), a very handsome young man who has recently completed his master's degree, arrives in Austria to stay with his uncle, Dr. Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti, Theorem). While relaxing, Peter hopes to visit the castle of Baron Otto von Kleist, his great-grandfather.
Soon after, Peter and his uncle drive to the castle where they meet Mayor Dortmundt (Dieter Tressler, A Walk with Love and Death) and his stunningly beautiful assistant Eva Arnold (Elke Sommer, Sweet Ecstasy), who oversees an expensive restoration campaign whose goal is to transform the place into a big tourist attraction. Eva immediately makes an impression (and with her unusually short miniskirt, it is difficult not to) and Dr. Hummel enthusiastically invites her to have dinner with him, Peter, his wife and daughter. That night, Eva and Peter decide to visit the castle alone and try to bring his infamous great-grandfather back from the dead using a parchment left by a witch. The sequence where they manage to do precisely that is one of the most atmospheric in the entire film.
Before Eva and Peter meet the Baron, he kills a friendly local doctor and a kooky temp worker. The spectacular death of the latter makes it perfectly clear why many moons ago Peter's great-grandfather was nicknamed Baron Blood.
While the police try to figure out who is responsible for the killings, a wealthy wheelchair-bound man (Joseph Cotten, Citizen Kane) appears and purchases the castle during an auction. The man then reveals that he plans to finish the castle's restoration so that he looks exactly as it did while the man that built it lived in it.
Based on a story by Vincent Fotre, Mario Bava's Baron Blood is a handsome Gothic horror film with a distinctive contemporary flavor. Large portions of it look genuinely spooky but it is clear that the film was also meant to appeal to younger viewers that may not have yet fallen in love with the horror genre. The presence of German actress Elke Sommer, who prior to Baron Blood had appeared in a number of very popular European sexy comedies (Le bambole, Les bricoleurs), certainly proves it.
The film is loosely divided into two large acts. The first works better as it slowly builds the tension these types of films typically benefit from. Bava's use of light and colors here is very effective. The second act isn't as good. The many close-ups with Sommer's beautiful eyes, for instance, would have been more appropriate for an entirely different film. Cotten's performance is also largely unconvincing.
The natural elegance of the Austrian castle, however, infuses the film with a certain atmosphere that makes it well worth seeing. In fact, one could easily argue that the castle is in fact the most important character in the entire film – and Bava certainly knew it as Baron Blood was the one and only film he shot outside of Italy.
Arrow Video's Blu-ray release contains three different versions of the film: the original English-language export version, which runs at approximately 98 minutes, the shorter AIP version, which runs at approximately 91 minutes, and the Italian-language version, Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga, which runs at approximately 98 minutes. In addition to missing footage found on the export version, the AIP version also replaces Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack with a new one courtesy of Les Baxter.
Baron Blood Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.74:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Mario Bava's Baron Blood arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video.
Please note that the screencaptures included with our review appear in the following order:
1. Screencaptures #1-9 are from the longer Export Version.
2. Screencaptures #10-19 are from the shorter AIP Version.
The basics here are intact. Despite the fact that there is some wear and occasionally contrast fluctuates a bit, image depth and clarity are pleasing. Detail and especially shadow definition also fluctuate, but the film has a stable organic look. To be perfectly clear, there are absolutely no problematic post-production degraining or sharpening corrections. Color reproduction is also pleasing, though during select transitions some extremely minor color instability is present. Large debris, cuts, damage marks, and stains have been removed as best as possible. Ultimately, while it is obvious that the film has not undergone an extensive and expensive complete makeover, the final result here is indeed very good. Naturally, I am convinced that anyone looking for a good organic presentation of Baron Blood will be pleased with the high-definition transfer.
The quality of the AIP Version is very similar to that of the Export Version. There are no traces of excessive degraining or sharpening corrections. Color saturation is also virtually identical. There are no large debris, buts, damage marks, or stains.
(Note: This is a Region-B"locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Baron Blood Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray release. The Export Version and the AIP Version come with English LPCM 2.0 tracks, while the Italian-language version, Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga, comes with an Italian LPCM 2.0 track. The Export Version and the AIP Version also come with optional English SDH subtitles, while the Italian version comes with optional English subtitles.
The English LPCM 2.0 tracks are fairly similar. Overall dynamic intensity is limited, but this should not be surprising considering how and under what conditions Baron Blood was shot. Obviously, the use of different soundtracks for the two versions -- the AIP version replaces Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack with a new one courtesy of Les Baxter -- introduces some minor discrepancies in terms of balance, but the clarity and depth are indeed very similar. The dialog is stable, but some sporadic thinning, without annoying distortions, is occasionally present. Some light background hiss can also be felt but it never becomes distracting.
Baron Blood Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Baron Blood Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is easy to tell when a company cares. Like the Blu-ray release of Mario Bava's Black Sunday, this new release of the Italian director's Baron Blood is a labor of love. A simple look at the booklet that is included with it tells the whole story. I really cannot wait to see all the great releases Arrow Video have already announced, because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they will be special. Buy with confidence, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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