BAVA WEEK: Baron Blood (1972)

There’s an urban legend called The Well to Hell, which claims that you can hear Hell through a hole in the earth and there have even been audio recordings posted as proof. Those recordings have been revealed to be the soundtrack to this film. That should tell you what you’re getting into.

Peter Kleist arrives from America with the intention of taking a break and studying up on his family’s history. His uncle Karl allows him to stay at his large mansion and refuses to discuss their ancestor, Baron Otto Bon Kleist, better known as Baron Blood for the torture and murder he inflicted on the village. His foremost crime was burning a witch named Elizabeth Holly at the stake as she cursed him to rise from the dead again and again, knowing no rest, so that she could take her revenge on him over and over again. The Baron’s castle is being remodeled for tourists, so Peter asks his uncle to take him there.

At the castle, Peter meets Eva (Elke Sommer, Lisa and the Devil), who works with Dortmund, a businessman who is fixing up the castle. She is there to ensure that Blood’s castle retains its original beauty. Eva comes to Karl’s house for a meal, where we learn that Baron Blood has been seen in the woods near the castle. And Peter has found an ancient spell that will awaken the spirit of the Baron. Karl warns him of dabbling in the occult and seeing as how we’re only a few minutes into the movie, we know he’s not going to listen.

Of course Peter and Eva go to the bell tower and read the spell at midnight. The bell tolls two, not twelve, symbolic of the time of day that Blood’s victims rose up and killed him. Eva begs Peter to reverse the spell, but a gust of wind blows the spell into a fireplace as the Baron emerges from his grave.

The Baron is born with the same wounds he died from, wounds even a doctor cannot he heal. He then goes on a killing spree, starting with the doctor and a gravedigger, then hanging Dortmundt and smooshing the castle’s caretaker inside a spiked coffin.

The next day, Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotton, The Abominable Dr. Phibes), a handicapped millionaire in a wheelchair, purchases the castle. He seems like a decent guy, so Eva stays on…long enough to have the Baron attack hr again. She quits her job and moves to the city, only for the black-clad Baron to follow her, chasing her through the foggy streets in a scene that is pure Bava. She escapes to Karl’s home and luckily, he finally believes that the Baron is still alive.

A local medium helps them to bring back Elizabeth Holly, who gives them a magic amulet and the knowledge that because Peter and Eva brought the Baron back, only they can destroy him. The moment they leave, the Baron kills the psychic.

The Baron also chases Karl’s young daughter. She then realizes that the Baron and Becker are the same man, as their eyes burn like fire. When they confront the wheelchair-bound man with this revelation, he denies it and shows them his castle, which now has dummies impaled on stakes as decorations. As they debate what to do next, he rises from his wheelchair and knocks all of them out, taking them to his torture chamber.

Eva learns that when her blood and the amulet come together, the Baron’s victims all come back from the dead. They rise and tear him apart limb by limb as Peter, Eva and Karl escape. We hear Elizabeth Holly’s laughter as the film ends.

Critically, this is not considered one of Bava’s best. However, I found plenty to like here, with the design of the Baron being quite frightening. And how can any movie that features Elke Sommer running through the fog be bad?

You can watch this on Shudder. And should right now!

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