Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Let the Right One KILL, BABY, KILL (1966)
The Right One, you already let her in, and good for you. But now who's gonna creep you out... tonight? I'll be coming at you with ideas all month, so relax and let it happen. This is KBK's own Stevie Wayne wishing all of you in Antonio Bay a very merry... Keep watching! Keep watching the skies, the tube, the fog, and KILL, BABY, KILL, a 1966 Italian spook show with class appeal and atmosphere that's cozy warm fire perfect from maestro Mario Bava.
It take a few viewings to really appreciate KILL BABY; it's not as highly regarded as some of Bava's other work, which is probably due to a history of bad prints and title changes. A Victorian Gothic Italian rural villa ghost story, KILL, BABY, KILL's Italian title was OPERAZIONE PAURA! (Operation: Terror!). We don't blame them for changing it, but why make it sound like a giallo spy thriller? The similar sounding film FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL came out the previous year, and was a film that set the bar for outre grooviness, but grooviness hadn't even been invented in the BABY's Victorian Age setting. Instead there are beautiful 'old master lighted' bowls of fruit, great wind effects, sedatives ("give her 20 drops") and an array of strange and wonderful women, including an Anna Magnani-ish bruja (Fabienne Dali), a terrified innkeeper's daughter (Micaela Esdra), a stylish and terrified med student named Monica (Erika Blanc), and Melissa Graps, a ghost girl with blonde hair (to tie the film even deeper into RIGHT ONE, she's played by a very spooky boy, Velerio Valeri). She's so weird, like Italy's Victorian era version of THE BAD SEED times the SHINING's murdered twins divided by Norman Bates in "wouldn't hurt a fly" drag.
It's interesting that the hero and heroine of this film are the most puddin'-headed when it comes to the supernatural, making it the opposite of DRACULA, where the smartest guy in the room believes in vampires and the victims and dupes cling to out-finesse'd medical science. Here the two outsiders refuse to budge from their skepticism even as it costs the lives of everyone around them and they themselves see some real gone daddy freak-outs. Hey, I can dig it; that's how science rolls, and it makes sense. Exclusion-based ideologies will always dismiss or ignore what they have yet to incorporate, and when it comes to the supernatural, a refusal to believe is actually a pretty good defense.
The film's only fault (if it truly has one) may lie in the way Bava's slow pans and zooms around cobwebbed villa interiors and moonlit exteriors can be a bit too lulling and repetitive for the easily bored viewer expecting visceral thrills and cheap shocks. But a visionary like Bava deserves to indulge himself fully since every foot of this film is pure visual poetry, and the score and the wind sound effects are as soothingly eerie as October itself! Who needs be riveted when you have this much atmosphere? It's the ideal film to fall asleep to, almost like a white noise machine.
In fact, I've seen this movie five times now and it gets better every time, even when it does put me to sleep. In order for a film to be 'hypnotic' on its fifth viewing, which this certainly was, first it has to first be 'boring' - that's the nature of hypnotism as I've come only recently to realize. Since BABY tells only one story, it's not as relentlessly scary and blackly comic as Bava's 1963 trilogy BLACK SABBATH (Which will have you and your viewing comrades calling each other "Stanka!" for weeks on end). KILL, BABY, KILL can seem padded here and there with repeated shots of bells tolling and gloomy ghost-eye exteriors. Cool scenes of victims returned as undead servants of the evil spirit, foreshadowed all through the first 2/3 of the film never materialize. Did Bava run out of undead make-up? Is that the reason the film is so slow, and yet over so fast?
It doesn't even matter, honey. It's the right one so let it in. Just make sure you get the Anchor Bay DVD version, in Italian with English subtitles and colors so beautifully autumnal and dream-like you feel like you're walking through the Italian Victorian Gothic wing of a museum on a crisp fall evening. Look at the painterly lighting of this creepy scene below:
That's painterly, right? You can barely see the old lady in the right-center of the frame. And watching the film itself seems to attract spiritual energy if you have any ghosts in your apartment, as I do. Right as I was thinking the ghost girl Melissa should be represented by one of those bouncing white orbs I'd been reading about (orbs turn up in a lot of 'ghost pictures'), her little white ball bounced down the stairs and rolled past our stunned hero. I got creeped out. Dude, what is with those orbs? How did Bava know to show the bouncing ball right at the very same moment I was pondering this unexplained mystery? Dude, if you don't believe there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in mere coincidence, then it's you who are superstitious. Accept the truth: the spirit world is all around us! I feel them! They are restless this month. Sleep tonight in a barbed wire nightshirt, for your mother's sake, and for Tura Satana's sake: Operazione Paura, begin! Again!