Joshua Reviews Mario Bava’s Baron Blood [Blu-ray Review]

Snow is on the ground, Christmas trees are up, and for most people, the horror film collections have been safely tucked away for at least the next handful of months. Families around this nation are delving deep into the worlds of films like It’s A Wonderful Life and The Shop Around The Corner, and discs full of carols and classic Christmas jams. However, with the latest addition of their Mario Bava Collection finally getting a release, Kino has other plans for cinephiles.

The company, as part of their aforementioned Bava collection, have released a brand new Blu-ray of one of the director’s most singular and esoteric pieces of work, Baron Blood, and while it may not fit many people’s appetite this icy cold Holiday season, it’s every bit as entertaining, beautifully crafted and entirely off the wall as any film the director had ever made.

Often deemed one of Bava’s weakest outings, it’s weak, yes, but it’s also one of his most charming and visually inspired. Starring Joseph Cotten and Elke Sommer, the film follows the story of a young man who journeys to Austria to discover more about his past, only to discover that a past family member, a baron, was burned at the stake. However, when he reads aloud from a book, the Baron returns, and picks up his evil ways from right where he left off.

Performance wise, as with much of Bava’s oeuvre, Baron Blood is weak. Cotten gives the film a distinctly comedic sense of cartoonish dread that really pairs well with the Gothic horror found within Bava’s frame. It’s not a performance that Cotten will likely be remembered for 50 years from this review, but it’s one of his most over the top and truly entertaining. Antonio Cantafora and Elke Sommer are both fine, but ultimately not given much to do except play as the viewer’s vessel for emotion and dread.

The real star here is Bava and his frame. If one thing is true following the viewing of this, and the other previously released members of Kino’s Mario Bava Collection, it’s that Bava is one of the most visually singular filmmakers in all of horror cinema and its history.

Seemingly singularly focused on the idea of Gothic horror and dread, his films have within them both a dark physicality given by the film’s set design and foggy photography, as well as a brightly colored and equally narratively over the top sense of style imbued within the frame by the neon cinematography and lavish costume design. It’s really quite an inspired pairing that gives Bava a look and feel all his own.

And the film absolutely thrives here in this brand new Blu-ray. The film looks and sounds superb here, particularly the visual portion of this transfer, coming from a new master, mastered from the original 35mm negative. A commentary is featured on this release, adding an entertaining and insightful reason to return to the release, and the disc is rounded out by an alternate title sequence, original trailers and even some radio spots. Toss in a genuinely gorgeous piece of art adorning the release’s front cover, Kino has yet again knocked a release out of the park. The film itself is a flawed mess of a horror film, but with an over the top performance from Joseph Cotten and some gorgeous direction from arguably the most underrated master in the horror genre, Baron Blood is one of the most entertaining horror films that many people have likely not given the time of day.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.