Archive for guido crepex

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