I first encountered Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill — or Operazione Paura (Operation Fear) — as all great movies should be encountered: in the foggy evening at a drive-in after none too few beers and other intoxicants. The only downside of this movie is that I can’t get back the feeling I had when I saw it the first time.
This movie was Bava’s return to gothic horror, yet it had no budget to speak of, reusing music from other films and with the maestro probably not even being paid for his work. In fact, the entire cast and crew worked for free to finish the film. The budget was so tight that instead of using a crane for one shot, Bava had to make due with a seesaw.
In the U.S., it was released as Curse of the Living Dead, which isn’t anywhere near as great of a title.
Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Knives of the Avenger) has been sent to a small village to perform an autopsy on Irene Hollander, who has died of mysterious circumstances. Medical student Monica Schufftan (Erika Blanc, The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave) has been assigned as a witness; she soon sees something horrifying as a silver coin is inside the dead woman’s heart.
There’s also a ghostly little girl who either frightens people or convinces them to kill themselves. She’s Melissa Graps — actually played by the son of Bava’s concierge Valerio Valeri — the daughter of a baroness who is punishing the town. And Monica may be more involved in this strange town and these spectral doings than she can imagine.
As shocking as a child urging people to impale themselves and slash their own throats is today, I can only imagine how shocking it was in 1966. This movie has moments that feel like pieces of a dream, like when Eswai chases himself continually through the same endlessly repeating room.
You can get this movie from Kino Lorber.