• Baba Yaga



    Released by:
    Blue Underground
    Released on: February 28, 2012.

    Director: Corrado Farino

    Cast: Carroll Baker, Isabelle De Funes, George Eastman

    Year: 1973

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    The Movie:


    Corrado Farino’s 1973 film Baba Yaga begins by introducing us to Valentina, a foxy young professional fashion photographer. One night, while saving a stray dog about to be hit by a car, she makes the acquaintance of a mysterious woman named Baba Yaga, who happens to be the passenger in the limousine that she ran in front of. Baba Yaga is slightly older than Valaentina, and it’s apparent from the get go that there’s something going on with her that isn’t quite normal. Anyway, she’s kind enough to give Valentina a ride home that night but before she lets her out of the car, she takes the clip off one of her garters and keeps it. Kinky!


    That night, Valentina starts having strange sexual dreams that she can’t seem to explain, but she knows it’s related to that woman she just met. Things get decidedly stranger when Valentina's camera starts to have bizarre and perverse effects on its subjects. When Valentina pays a visit to Baba Yaga's massive old mansion, she uncovers some strange antique items; most notably a dominatrix doll that Baba Yaga bequeaths to Valentina, telling her that the doll’s name is Annette. When Valentina takes the doll back to her apartment, things just get stranger and kinkier as the movie goes on, and it all leads to a whacked out finale that might leave you scratching your head a little bit in confusion, but in the best possible way.


    Having been semi-familiar with the erotic comics of Italian fumetti maestro Guido Crepax, I kind of knew what I was getting into when I first saw the film via the crappy unauthorized release Diamond put out on DVD a couple of years back re-titled as Kiss Me, Kill Me and incorrectly attributed to Umberto Lenzi. Seeing it in its proper aspect ratio, uncut, and with nice audio and video quality made it a much more gratifying experience and it was, for lack of a cornier term, like seeing the movie again for the first time. Compositions are obviously always important to a film but when a movie is as well put together visually as this one is, well, let’s just say you can toss that fullframe disc in the garbage. There was obviously a lot of care and attention to detail put into the set ups and staging here, as the cameras are always in love with both Baker and De Funes, framing them sometimes rather softly to up the ante as far as their allure and sex appeal is concerned. The hyper stylized backgrounds from Crepax’s comic books are a big part of the film’s look as well, from the zebra print hanging on the wall in one scene to the dungeon where the film’s oversexed finale plays out.


    While a lot of the more sexual aspects of the film may seem tame to today’s jaded viewers, there is still plenty of strange and sleazy goings on in the film to keep your attention. Carroll Baker is great as the mysterious title character while Isabelle De Funes is inexplicably sexy as Valentina. It’s also always good to see George Eastman do his thing on camera, even if he is more or less a bit player this time out. All involved are obviously quite committed to their respective roles, turning in rather brave performances and handling the edgier side of the material quite believably.


    Video/Audio/Extras:



    Blue Underground offers up Baba Yaga on Blu-ray in a nice looking AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer ‘taken from pristine vault materials. All in all, this is a pretty nice upgrade, offering considerably more intense looking color reproduction and a much more film like image than the DVD could. Those who have seen the film before will know that a lot of it has always been very soft looking, and that softness carries over to this Blu-ray release as it’s evidently how the film was shot, but there’s still quite a bit more detail to take in here. Black levels are pretty solid, there are no obvious compression artifacts nor is there any obvious noise reduction to complain about either. Texture is also improved, you’ll notice this in the fur coats that some of the performers wear and elsewhere. A lot of the last half hour or so takes place in some fairly dark locations and the film isn't always the brightest thing you're likely to see, but shadow detail is stronger here than it has been befoer on DVD and it all feels like a pretty solid representation of the film's intended look. All in all, Blue Underground has treated the film quite well in high definition.


    Audio options are handled by way of DTS-HD Mono tracks available in English and Italian with subtitles provided in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. Again, we get an improvement over the DVD here, as the lossless tracks offers slightly crisper sounding dialogue and a much richer sounding score than we’ve heard before. There are no problems with hiss or distortion, the levels are well balanced – the movie sounds good.


    First up is a pretty decent gallery of promotional stills and posters, and there are a lot of great images contained in here. There’s also a comic to film comparison provided on the disc and it’s nice to see Crepax’s original material entwined so nicely into the supplements here. There is also a great twelve minute documentary on Crepax’s erotic comic work entitled Freud In Color that takes a look at the Italian comics scene from its inception up to, at the time at least, the modern works of Guido Crepax and the material that he dealt with in his pages. There are approximately ten minutes worth of deleted scenes included as well and there are a few riskier scenes here than what made it into the final cut of the film. Finally, the last feature is a twenty-two minute interview with the film’s director, Corrada Farina, entitled Farina and Valentina in which the director sheds some light on how the movie came to be and his experiences making it. The films theatrical trailer is also included on this Blu-ray.


    The Final Word:


    Baba Yaga is a twisted and trippy piece of Eurosleaze that proves to be a lot of fun with plenty of quality exploitation elements. Fans of the film will find that this Blu-ray release offers a very nice upgrade from the already very solid DVD release from 2003.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jamie Edwards's Avatar
      Jamie Edwards -
      Pic 5: The Ely Galleani doll! Always liked this movie, it's pretty unique.