BABA YAGA (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Director Corrado Farina’s film Baba Yaga was inspired by the comic strip art of Guido Crepex’s surreal and sexy adventures of Valentina. The result is a highly visual, completely original and delightful bit of Euro-trash.

Fashion photographer Valentina Rosselli is walking home late night when she sees a car speeding towards a dog in the road. She jumps forward to save the dog and is nearly hit herself. The driver of the car is a middle-aged woman who apologizes and insists she be allowed to drive Valentina home. The woman tells Valentina their meeting was pre-ordained. When the strange woman stops in front of her building she lifts Valentina’s skirt snatching the garter clip from her belt. She divulges to Valentina that she needs something personal from her and that she will return it tomorrow. Intrigued and disturbed Valentina crashes for the night and has a series of strange and vivid dreams. As promised, Baba Yaga returns Valentina’s garter clip and suggests she place it back on her thigh for her. Her awkward advance is thwarted when Valentina intimates she is not wearing her belt. After fondling her camera she invites Valentina to her old home to take some photographs and leaves her address. Valentina decides to go check out the odd eccentric woman’s house and while she is there is given a disturbing looking doll dressed in bondage gear as “protection”. Valentina’s life becomes a series of peculiar dreams, strange occurrences and even death. She has no choice but to confront Baba Yaga to put an end to the nightmare.

Baba Yaga is a kinky, sexy surreal collection of erotic and fetish inspired dreams of executions, Nazi soldiers and dark holes with no bottom. Her reality becomes intertwined with her dreams and the lines between what is real and not become blurred. Her camera becomes a deadly weapon when it literally starts “shooting” her models. The bondage doll given to her by Baba Yaga becomes a woman and pokes a model with her hairpin. Valentina herself is chained and whipped by the kinky doll-woman! That’s just a few of the delightfully demented images you’ll be treated to! Valentina’s hip pad has almost as much style as the woman herself. Valentina has the coolest wardrobe ever and a great Louise Brooks bob. Baba Yaga’s old house has a dank, dark creepy dungeon-like atmosphere and contains an endless collection of trinkets and old junk. There is a parade of scantily-clad and naked woman on display throughout, just boobs though, no bush allowed by the Italian censors! The film oozes with the anti-establishment sentiment, sexual awakening and pop culture sensibility of the decade. It’s like flipping through some hip and kinky fashion photographer’s portfolio. There’s no gore or graphic violence whatsoever but there is plenty else of interest to look at. I am not sure I would even classify this as horror. Although the film is named after a witch, its ties to Baba Yaga the child-eating witch of Slavic folklore are loose at best. It’s really Valentina’s story though not Baba Yaga’s.

Farina had his share of problems with the making of Baba Yaga. Actress Anne Heywood who was hired to play Baba Yaga pulled out at the last minute for a role in the film Trader Horn. Farina went on vacation after the film was completed and came back to find his film had been cut and re-edited in his absence. Outraged, he took his case public and the studio surrendered the film to him, but pieces remained unsalvageable. The Italian censors ended up cutting out a couple more pieces, including Carroll Baker’s nude scene. Had I not watched the special features on the DVD I wouldn’t have known the difference. The film doesn’t exactly follow a straightforward logical narrative anyway. Isabelle De Funès who plays Valentina Rosselli is very watchable and does an excellent job bringing the character to life. I’m not sure I have seen George Eastman play the straight man before. He plays Valentina’s love interest Arno Treves and although he doesn’t do a bad job, he seemed a bit awkward. In lieu of Ms. Heywood pulling out Farina needed to find a new Baba Yaga. Carroll Baker is given a funky makeup job to make her round face appear gaunter and it works okay, but the woman herself was a bit lifeless. She is a bit of a weak link here, but not unbearably so.

I certainly don’t profess to know anything about comic books. Being ignorant to this bit of pop culture, I really only know the superhero stuff. I had never heard of Guido Crepax until a couple years ago when I first rented Baba Yaga (this is my second viewing of the film). Crepax started his career in comics in the 60’s and was a forerunner of European adult comics. His amazing black and white strip is a study of dreams with an erotic vibe and Valentina’s sexy and intriguing adventures range the genres. It is fantastic, beautifully surreal stuff! The awesome pictures I included here came from the DVD-Rom from Blue Underground. They so beautifully illustrate the films vibe and it gives a wee taste of Crepax’s work.

It is a damn shame Farina only did two feature films! After watching Baba Yaga I immediately put his first film They’ve Changed Faces in my queue. The DVD from Blue Underground only offers a dubbed version of Baba Yaga and includes an interview with director Corrado Farina, a tribute piece dedicated to Guido Crepax about comic book art, a picture gallery, a trailer for the film and the aforementioned DVD-Rom comic to film comparison art. Baba Yaga is a stylish, surreal, strange, sexy and beautiful 70’s pop art time capsule. Baba Yaga is Euro-trash at its most entertaining and is a grand nod to the awesome comic art of Guido Crepax. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Corrado Farina

Starring: Carroll Baker, George Eastman, Isabelle De Funès, Ely Galleani

11 Responses to “BABA YAGA (1973) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. Wow, you kind of got me interested to check out the comic strip as well. Looks like controversy targeted at the director made this one of those cult classics since he wasn’t around very long. Gonna check this out!

    • goregirl Says:

      I really enjoyed this one…but even if you hate it, at least you’ll get to see lots of naked women!

  2. bizarre_eye Says:

    I enjoyed this too; a real curio. Good review GG.

  3. Wow, what an intriguing, informative and comprehensive review of Baba Yaga! What an absolutely kick-ass website in general. You certainly have quite an impressive body of analytical written work here. I have found a number of favorite movies, many of which I had wondered if anyone else had ever seen, as well as some movies for which I have searched, but failed to find because I could not remember the titles. And there are some compelling entries that are right up my alley which I would not otherwise have known about.

    With the groovy links and downloadable stills, I have to say that this is one thoroughly well thought-out blog. Why didn’t I think of this? More power to you and keep up the good work. It’s great to find a reviewer who understands and appreciates the film genres I love. I shall be checking back here for viewing suggestions on a regular basis.

    • goregirl Says:

      Hi Pam, first off…thanks for the kind words! It was actually your review over at 366 that reminded me I needed to re-watch this film! I try to cover the gamit in regards to what might be considered “horror” by covering thrillers, suspense, exploitation and anything else that might have a dark vibe. I’m always open to suggestions, but for the most part I review and watch what appeals to me. I wonder sometimes if I stray too far and too often from straight up horror flicks. It really is music to my ears to hear that someone out there appreciates the film choices I’ve made!

  4. If i can garner any crossover fans to the realm of 4E D&D you can check out the newest version of baba yaga here….http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=91061

    Thanks and terrific site!

    Bill

  5. Hi Goregirl – nice review! We are showing Baba Yaga at my film club on August 30th, in London. Go to my blog here on WordPress at http://www.atomicbark.wordpress.com for more info….cheers….

    • Gory Greetings Atomic Bark!

      I listen to Truth About Markets on Resonance FM! I don’t know why it never occured to me to check out their other progamming. Lot’s of good stuff on there…and I will definitely be checking your show out! I would love to check out Baba Yaga on a big screen but London is a wee bit of a trip from Vancouver Canada.

      Cheers, GG

  6. […] her way both to the big and smaller screen (I’ve yet to watch the erotically surreal 1973 Baba Yaga or the 1988 version which looks amusingly like the titillating late night cable channel fare my […]

  7. […] I have photo reviews that I suppose would better qualify for this category. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I chose my review for the 1973 film Baba Yaga. I was quite pleased with how I mingled the comic art of Guido Crepax with images from the film. I think it is part of what makes this film special or as a commenter stated a “curio”. You can click on the pictures to make them huge! Check it out HERE. […]

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