Baba Yaga: le recensioni

BABA YAGA (DVD - Blue Underground)
Reviewed by "Head Cheeze"
Da Horrorview

Talk about a raw deal. I've had a copy of Kiss Me, Kill Me in my DVD collection for at least a year, and, up until this weekend, I thought it was an Umberto Lenzi film. Why? Well because my DVD from Diamond told me so! That piss-poor release states, in huge letters across the top and spine of the cover, that it's "presented by Umberto Lenzi". To make matters worse, the synopsis on the back cover goes into great detail as to how this is "Umberto Lenzi's masterpiece of erotic horror" and credits him as the film's director. Since I purchased the film for less than $5 bucks, watched about 15 minutes of it until I couldn't bear the hideous transfer, and shoved it back into my DVD shelf with nary a thought otherwise, I just left it at that. Imagine my surprise when Blue Underground sent me a review copy of Baba Yaga, the newly restored original version of Kiss Me, Kill Me, and credited it as a Corrado Farina film! Now, I'd never heard of Corrado Farina before, but I was certain that Lenzi had to have had something to do with this film, and thought that, perhaps, this was one of his many pseudonyms. Well, according to the IMDB, Corrado Farina IS in fact a pseudonym for Umberto Lenzi. Case closed, right?

WRONG!! Apparently the IMDB's listing may be based on the claims of the Diamond DVD (even though there is a listing for Corrado Farina, and credits him with this film, as well as 1971's They've Changed Faces!) So this poor guy, Farina, has directed only two films, and one of them gets released on DVD credited to someone else? Man, oh man, I've always known Diamond made some lousy quality DVD's, but this is ridicilous. It's especially sad since Baba Yaga is actually a really good film, and Lenzi's been getting credit for it!

Well, thanks to Blue Underground, Lenzi will be credited no more!

Baba Yaga is based on the controversial graphic novels by architect turned cartoonist Guido Crepax, that chronicles the adventures in the sexually charged dreamworld of Valentina (here given the last name Rosselli). In the film, Valentina (Funès) is a successful photographer who draws the attention of the mysterious Baba Yaga (Baker). Baba Yaga holds some sort of hypnotic power over Valentina, and begins to slowly infiltrate her world. At first, Valentina dismisses the woman as an eccentric, but when Baba puts the mojo on Valentina's camera, resulting in accidents or death for whoever is photographed by it, she soon realizes that Baba is something more. With the assistance of her boyfriend Arno (Eastman), Valentina sets out to investigate Baba Yaga and sever the strange connection between the two women.

Baba Yaga is a really fun flick. While much of the film focuses on the sexual tension between Baba and Valentina, it's not your typical sexploitation film. Director Farina (you got that DIAMOND?!) assembles the film like a comic book, paying homage to the source material, by interspersing high contrast photographs with the actual film, creating comic book style "panels". This technique is used to great effect in a love scene between Valentina and Arno, and really helps to separate this film from it's genre brethren. While the script is a bit on the flimsy side, and the story somehow manages to be both simplistic and confusing all at once, visually, Baba Yaga is a remarkable film. Farina has a great eye for scenery and atmosphere, and photographs his subjects with an old Hollywood style glamour that's a sharp contrast to the usual "hard" look of low-budget erotica. It's actually a stretch to include Baba Yaga in that genre at all, since there isn't really all that much sex going on (although there's more than enough nudity to qualify).

Blue Underground presents the film in a widescreen transfer that is simply pristine. It's all the more impressive when you compare it to the aformentioned Diamond transfer, which is criminally botched in every sense of the word. The audio has also been cleaned up tremendously and no longer sounds as if it's emanating from a toilet bowl. The DVD includes an interview with Farina in which he discusses the film and the comic book art with great fondness, but more importantly proves that he does, in fact, exist! There's also a short but interesting mini-documentary on Crepax that outlines his career and body of work (As a DVD ROM feature, Blue Underground offers a more detailed look at Crepax's art with a comic to film comparison of Baba Yaga). There's also a ten minute reel of deleted footage that includes three full-frontal nudity scenes that producers demanded removed from the film, and later asked be reincoporated. Unfortunately, Farina's third edit made it impossible to reincoporate the scenes due to the way they were cut. As a side note, the workprint footage presented here looks better than the bloody Diamond release.

It's funny that Baba Yaga was marketed as an erotic horror film, because it's really neither. It's more of an art film that just happens to have some erotic and horror elements. This doesn't make it a failure by any means; quite to the contrary, I enjoyed this quirky film immensely.

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