• Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, The



    Released by: Redemption Films
    Released on: June 9th, 2015.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Howard Vernon, Hugo Blanco, Gogó Rojo, Paula Martel, Georges Rollin
    Year: 1962
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    The Movie:

    Spanish auteur Jess Franco has certainly received his fair share of abuse from the critical establishment over the years - both mainstream and cult. But early in his career Franco had a hand in a few gothic horror films that tended to have a more conventional approach, and those films - such as THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS - are solid entertainments.

    The plot of THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS would have been creaky in Boris Karloff's heyday. The usual nonsense about family curses, evil relatives and the "blood taint" passed from one generation to the next. Of course, you've got the deathbed confession too. The title character had a thing for slaughtering nubile young ladies many centuries ago you see, and as his female relative (dutifully watched over by Franco workhorse actor Howard Vernon as her brother) lays dying in her castle it is imperative that the family heir (and her son) Ludwig (Hugo Blanco) be warned. Seems murders are occurring anew, and mom wants her son to stay alert lest he start feeling some evil urges..,

    This is a pretty basic setup, replete with a cop named Borowsky (Georges Rollin) and a journalist dubbed Karl (Fernando Delgado) hot on the heels of the killer, a couple of twists and a completely obvious fake suspect. But no matter. That isn't why we are here anyway. What we want, and what Franco delivers in spades, is oozy gothic atmosphere, mannered but entertaining acting, gorgeous ladies, and dollops of pretty outré sex and violence for the day.

    As a cultural artifact, there is a reasonable case to be made for this film as a "proto-giallo" with its focus on sadistic sexuality and use of some classic visual motifs of that genre (black gloves for one). And while not the fastest horse out of the gate in terms of pacing, it certainly builds up a head of steam by the end. A couple of plot tangents threaten to bog things down as well, but Franco gets that under control quickly enough. As for the acting, Vernon is probably the most OTT but entertaining, while Blanco is the stiffest (though nothing disastrous). Cinematography is quite strong, and this is fine looking black and white horror. It also has a very cool jazz score that's pretty adventurous by Daniel White. All told, this is far from incompetent (a tag thrown at Franco far too often by lazy critics).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Redemption/Kino's 2.35.1 framed AVC encoded 1080p presentation mirrors most of their work on the Jean Rollin catalog: filmic and organic with minimal restoration and some print damage. Black levels are generally deep and overall fine detail good providing a crisp enough black and white experience. One important caveat however - an inserted scene featuring the film's most violent set piece is from a different source element and visibly inferior to the rest of the picture. But it's certainly watchable and in the interests of completeness essential to the presentation. In short this is a respectable a/v job for an older title with a limited restoration budget to work with.

    The LPCM French audio has some minor dropouts but is a decent mid-line quality track. The English subtitles provided are well rendered and easily read. You will hear the occasional pop and hiss too - but nothing serious. Extras? Just the theatrical trailer.

    The Last Word:

    A rock solid black and white gothic entry in the early Jess Franco canon, THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS is an easy film to like for fans of this genre. Despite some small pacing issues, it remains engaging from first frame to last, provided the viewer is willing to indulge Franco in some melodramatic tendencies in the first quarter. It also has a touch of kink to it and some early Giallo spirit.

    Recommended.


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    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      First time I watched this I never made it to the hour mark, but on re-watching I found much to enjoy. It also really sprung to mind, how many elements actually do equate to being a Giallo. Never thought about it before.