Archive for carroll baker

KNIFE OF ICE (1972) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by goregirl

I mentioned recently Umberto Lenzi’s 60s and 70s giallo so I figured I owed you a review. I probably should have picked one I rated more highly but Knife of Ice is something quite unique in Lenzi’s library. Knife of Ice is completely sexless and contains no graphic violence! I’m not going to beat around the bush here; the lack of both of these elements did lose Knife of Ice some points. Does a giallo need sex and violence to win my heart? I can live with no graphic violence when there is an abundance of sexuality regardless of what form that may take. I can also live with no sex if the violence is beautifully staged, artful and/or nasty. Not that sex and violence is the only appealing aspect of giallo; there is of course, the puzzles, red herrings, attractive and inventive cinematography and the wicked performances from a stable of sexy and/or macho leads! To be perfectly honest however, without the sexual and violent elements the Italian thriller seems…well…less thrilling. So does a giallo need sex and violence to win my heart? Generally speaking I would have to answer yes. And now back to our regularly scheduled program…while Knife of Ice is a flawed giallo it definitely has elements worth noting!

Martha witnessed a train accident when she was younger that took the life of both of her parents and left her mute. Martha has been living with her uncle and cousin since the traumatic incident. The story begins with Martha picking up her cousin Jenny at the train station. A big step for Martha, who has an understandable aversion to trains. Faster than you can say ‘welcome home Jenny’, Martha finds her dead body in the garage. Will Martha be next? With a line-up of suspects and an alleged Satan-worshipping sex maniac on the loose the prospects are plentiful.

American actress Carroll Baker was in a string of Umberto Lenzi films including Orgasmo, So Sweet…So Perverse and Paranoia with Knife of ice being the final entry. Baker was also in a bunch of non-Lenzi giallo which included Baba Yaga, The Devil with Seven Faces, The Sweet Body of Deborah, The Flower with the Deadly Sting and The Body. Ms. Baker had a very busy few years in Italy! I actually really liked Baker in Knife of Ice. I would even go so far as to say it is one of my favourite performances from the actress. As Martha she is given a very conservative wardrobe and a bobbed cut with a barrette shoved into it that made her appear younger than her actual age. She plays a mute in Knife of Ice and does not utter a word. We often see things from her perspective throughout the film and share her frustration with communicating. She is sweet and likable and is a well thought out character who effortlessly elicits empathy. Sadly, I was only able to find this film dubbed and the dubbing was particularly troublesome in Knife of Ice. I can not deny that Baker’s performance is further illuminated by the fact that she is the only character that is not dubbed. Unfortunately the story at times doesn’t always support Ms. Baker’s efforts.

The plot of Knife of Ice is rather unspectacular. I have to admit, I was surprised that they killed Evelyn Stewart’s character Jenny so early in the film. Too bad actually. The interaction between Martha and Jenny could have added an interesting layer to the story. We get some background on the cousin’s history, specifically a day at the bull-fights. Martha’s flashbacks reveal the two women at a bull-fight and Martha is repulsed by the events while Jenny seems to be overcome by bloodlust. The film could have used more angles of this sort. They do introduce a devil worship sub-plot which is a much welcomed addition to any giallo. There are very few giallo that feature the supernatural. Granted, right off the bat it felt like a massive red herring, but it was interesting just the same. There is a focus on a particularly gnarly set of eyes that is also nicely realized. Anyone who has watched more than a handful of giallo are likely to identify the culprit before the finale. Knife of Ice stages potential suspects rather grandly making them far too obvious to be legitimate options.

Umberto Lenzi boldly shoots much of Knife of Ice in the daylight, although there is a nice gothic tone that illuminates the villa once the sun sets. It is a lovely looking film, quite flawless actually. The sets are fantastic and Lenzi uses the landscape to great effect. There are some decent moments of suspense at times although there are not nearly enough of them. Not only is the violence not graphic, there is a very small body count, and as it turns out, one of the deaths is nothing more than a coincidence.

I actually enjoyed Knife of Ice, however compared to most of its peers; particularly those that came out in 1972; (the mother of all giallo years) it ranks pretty low. I definitely would have preferred seeing this film in its original language and I make no apologies for wishing that Knife of Ice had used more trashy elements in its plot. Like I said, I did enjoy Knife of Ice, but it is definitely flawed. Recommended with warning.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Carroll Baker, Alan Scott, Evelyn Stewart, Eduardo Fajardo, Silvia Monelli, George Rigaud, Franco Fantasia, Dada Gallotti, Lorenzo Robledo, Mario Pardo, Olga Gherardi, Consalvo Dell’Arti, José Marco

BABA YAGA (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by goregirl

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