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A Bit of Gothic by Numbers
on 20 March 2009
I'm a big Mario Bava fan, but I'd struggle to rate this film as a masterpiece, especially when compared to his earlier films such as Blood and Black Lace or Black Sabbath. I've probably got two main gripes about the film. Firstly, there just aren't enough stand out scenes in my mind. The best is when Elke Sommer is being chased through the fog filled streets by the Baron. It's very reminiscent of Vincent Price in the House of Wax, and it creates an excellent sense of suspense and fear. The backdrop of the film, set in an actual Austrian castle, adds a great deal of Gothic weight to the proceedings, and Bava uses his surroundings well. But the formulaic story just lets him down. My second, and probably more significant issue is with the use of Joseph Cotton as the Baron. He just feels too much like a lovable uncle, to be effective as the reanimated face of evil incarnate. (He was great in Dr Phibes when he was the victim of the sinister Vincent Price, and indeed, you could easily imagine Vincent Price making a great Baron Blood.) Here he just doesn't cut the satanic mustard in my book.
If, like me, you're a big Bava fan then this film is certainly worth seeing the once. However it's not one that I'll find myself reaching for again very soon.