Kill, Baby... Kill!
kill baby kill! | mario bava | romano migliorini | roberto natale | giacomo rossi stuart | erika blanc | fabienne dali | gothic | witch | ghost | haunting | haunted house | curse | mystery | italy | piero lulli | luciano catenacci | michaela dominici | giuseppe addobbati
Film: Kill, Baby… Kill! (Operazione paura)
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale and Mario Bava
Starring: Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Erika Blanc and Fabienne Dali
This was a movie that I didn’t know about until I got into listening to podcasts and learned about who Mario Bava was. After seeing a few of his films, this one was that popped up on to my radar and went on a list to see. I’m now getting that chance as part of the Podcast Under the Stairs Movie Club Challenge. The synopsis is a Carpathian village is haunted by the ghost of a murderous little girl, prompting a coroner and a medical student to uncover her secrets while a witch attempts to protect the villagers.
For this movie, we start with a woman fleeing in a panic. Her name is Irena Hollander (Mirella Pamphili) and she climbs a staircase to a window. She looks back before falling to her death, being impaled on a fence. There is then a little girl who walks down steps in these ruins.
We then shift over to a doctor coming to his village. His name is Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). He’s been summoned there by Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) to perform an autopsy. The town isn’t happy about this as they’re superstitious. Even the carriage driver doesn’t want to take Paul all the way and forces him to walk. Once he arrives, he meets with Kruger and Burgomaster Karl (Luciano Catenacci). There are talks that Irena’s death wasn’t suicide, but murder. With the villagers not wanting him there and taking place where this does, I did get a vibe of Dracula.
Paul is then joined by Monica Schuftan (Erika Blanc). She is originally from this village, but she was raised elsewhere. The reason she was sent to Paul is that she is a medical student and the only person in the area qualified enough to aid him. She’s never helped with an autopsy though and she’s quite nervous.
As I’ve said, the villagers don’t want their help. They believe there is a curse here from the Graps family. No one goes to their villa as anyone that does, does not return alive. The people of this village hold odd beliefs. They put a lot of their faith in a witch by the name of Ruth (Fabienne Dali). Paul, Kruger and Monica have to figure out what is happening in this village before it is too late. There is a little girl they keep seeing who is supposed to be the dead daughter of Baroness Graps (Giovanna Galletti), Melissa (Valerio Valeri). Monica’s past also might hold a key here as well.
That is where I’ll leave my recap of this movie as to not spoil things. What I like is that we have an interesting mystery here with social commentary that is relevant today. I must give credit to the writers, Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale along with director Bava. He also technically helped with the screenplay. Together they crafted an interesting story.
Where I’ll start though would be the gothic feel of this movie. It felt to me like an Italian take on what Hammer was doing with their films around this same era. We have this village that is set in its ways, keeps to itself and holds superstitious beliefs. Going along with this, we have Paul, Monica and Kruger who are from a more modern place. They believe in science and are more grounded. Monica is a nice bridge here to the beliefs of the village to a more modern look. To correlate this commentary, it is interesting to watch this during a pandemic, because we have people who don’t believe in science and it at times makes me think of a more primitive way of looking at things.
Moving from here, this movie is making you question whether something supernatural is going on here. The villagers believe there is a vengeful spirit of Melissa getting her revenge. Baroness Graps and her villa seem to be cursed as well. When Paul tries to do an autopsy, they want him to stop. To save the souls they need to bury the dead at once. Watching this with modern eyes, we side with Paul and his crew. The villagers also turn to a witch, Ruth, for help. This is interesting as this goes against what we normally know. There is a fascinating reveal though as to why Melissa would be haunting the village. It blurs the lines of who deserves to be punished and who doesn’t. At the end of this movie, I believe something supernatural is happening here and I like that Bava makes you question it all the way to the end.
That should be enough for the story so I’ll go next to the acting. Stuart is solid as Paul. I like that we follow him as we hold the same beliefs. There can’t be something supernatural here so as weird things happen and he questions it, we do along with him. Blanc is much of the same. I like that the more we see her, the more we learn that her back-story is engrossed with the village. Dali is solid as the witch. From there I’d say that Lulli, Catenacci, Galletti and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. Special credit to Valeri for how creepy he was as Melissa.
Then from here it is just the cinematography, effects and the soundtrack. For the former, Bava shows you why he’s a master filmmaker. He does some interesting shots and angles. There’s one where we are swinging and zooming in on a cross in a cemetery. It turns out, there is someone on the swing and it is simulating a point of view. We get more of the zoom in and out. I give credit for when this was made and trying something like that. I’d say that the effects aside from that were fine. We don’t get a lot, but we don’t necessarily need them. The soundtrack also fit for what was needed in building the atmosphere.
So then in conclusion here, this was a solid movie that I’m finally glad to be ticking off my list. We have an interesting story and premise that has some social relevance even today. I like that we follow Paul and his group where we believe there must be a grounded answer to what is going on, but the more they realize there are supernatural elements, we follow that change as well. The acting is solid across the board. The cinematography does some interesting shots. The effects and soundtrack also help to build this atmosphere. After this first watch, I’d say this is a good movie and one I’m excited to revisit.
My Rating: 8 out of 10