Kill, Baby... Kill! (Operazione Paura) (1966) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1966|
|Running Time||83:28 (Case: 85)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Mario Bava|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In an eerie, isolated European village a woman is seen frantically running towards the gutted ruins of a building. She climbs to the top, hesitates, and then leaps to her death-by-impalement on a spiked, rusty iron fence below.
Called in by the local constabulary to perform an autopsy on the suicide, Dr Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) and his stunning assistant, Monica (Erika Blanc) are unnerved by the deeply superstitious behaviour of the local population. As the body count continues to rise, it becomes apparent to the outsiders that the villagers are harbouring a dark secret and living in mortal fear of a little girl’s ghostly presence.
Like a Banshee, the girl’s unsettling laughter warns of impending sickness or death, while her cold gaze and winsome appearance seals the fate of those who lay their eyes upon her. As the local police inspector and Dr Eswai struggle to rationally explain the strange events, their efforts are frequently confounded by the arcane rites and rituals of a mysterious black-robed witch (Fabienne Dali), who appears to have the power to hold the evil at bay.
Kill Baby…Kill is the late Mario Bava’s Euro-gothic masterpiece. Not a frame is wasted in imparting a sense of unearthly dread and supernatural wonder. Images such as the coffin-carrying, red-hooded men scurrying along the skyline like a grotesque beetle and the tightly framed pale faces of two old men peering through a frosted glass window are startlingly macabre. Even wild camera zooms appear fresh and highly compelling when demonstrating the point of view of the young girl oscillating on a swing in a fog-shrouded graveyard.
Narrative-wise, Bava revels in taking the conventional and turning it on its head. Traditionally, black clothing is worn by the villain, while white is mostly associated with innocence and purity. Here, he subverts these basic principles by having the malevolent young girl clad in white and the benevolent witch dressed in black. Moreover, “monsters” are generally depicted as a male force, but in Kill Baby…Kill the entity is represented by a vengeful feminine presence. In fact, apart from a few fetishistic trimmings like candle holders in the shape of male arms and naked stone cherubs, there is an all-pervasive ambience of maternal loss and sorrow coursing through the film.
Not as brazen as his other works like The Whip and the Body, Twitch of the Death Nerve and Blood and Black Lace, in Kill Baby…Kill Bava still delights in exploring sadomasochistic themes. However, the focus is shifted away from mere sexual gratification and centred on the conflict arising between the intuitive feminine and rational masculine. The witch is characterized as possessing a positive, primal naturalistic force that challenges and inhibits the scientific principles held so righteously by the doctor. Even when the witch whips a young girl with an olive branch and later bounds her with barbed wire, it is part of a ritual of protection, not sexual satisfaction. The doctor is appalled by this foolishness, but the villagers welcome the procedure as they believe it’s the only effective way to ward off the evil.
Corresponding with the physical decay of the village itself, the townspeople are so gripped by fear that they have lost the will to live. Their terse and morbid conversations take place within homes filled with dust, cobwebs and torn curtains carelessly draped over broken windows. Even time appears stagnant and the perspective of the corporeal environment begins to change. The endless spiral staircase and the infinite number of identical rooms that Dr Eswai encounters in the Baroness’ mansion add to the sense that the village is in its nightmarish death throes.
Evidently, the original negative has been lost and all known 35mm prints of Kill Baby…Kill have supposedly deteriorated beyond repair. So this, like all other DVD editions released in the past, has been sourced from a 16mm print.
Kill Baby…Kill is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. I also believe this Region 4 Stomp Visual DVD is the first time the film has been released with 16x9 enhancement.
However, every rose has its thorns and the print here exhibits a lot of grain and background static, which is an unfortunate by-product of the inferior 16mm film stock. But once your eyes adjust to the fuzzy and at times shaky transfer (15:16 and 31:18, for example), Mario Bava’s gorgeous colour schematic, cinematography and gothic sensibility manages to ooze through and rise above the noisy source material.
Shadow detail clarity is surprisingly not too compromised by the graininess and fuzziness of the print, while black levels are adequately deep and free of low level noise. Contrast fluctuates slightly, with some scenes appearing too bright, and others too dark.
Noise reduction also threatens to be a problem throughout, with many objects like a door, statue, walls, furniture and even entire building facades moving slightly or on the verge of being unfixed when they should be static.
The colour palette which mainly consists of organic sepia tones contrasts quite spectacularly with the film’s garish use of red, blue and green lighting. These primary colours are highly effective in creating a surreal, otherworldly ambience when used to illuminate parts of the gothic mansions, cemeteries, grounds and crypts.
Film artefacts are quite prevalent, with scratches, white speckling and print blemishes cropping up frequently.
The quality of the Dolby Digital 2.0 dual mono mix fares slightly better the video. The eerie, penetrating sounds of the glockenspiel score by Carlo Rustichelli shines through with a minimal amount of distortion.
The minimalist score is only subtly used to enhance the drama or creepiness of certain scenes and remains subservient to the visuals.
There are only a few incidences of clicks or dropouts in the audio. The most obvious example is during the opening title credits where a quick audio jump was clearly heard.
Although sounding rather stilted and theatrical, the dubbed English dialogue is well-matched to the characters. There is only some slight hiss evident during vocal delivery, but generally the spoken word is audible.
Being a front-centred dual mono mix, the surrounds and subwoofer are silent.
|Surround Channel Use|
Theatrical Trailer (2:28) (1.78:1 and not 16x9 enhanced)
The night brings terror! Blood chilling fear!
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There have been two editions of Kill Baby…Kill released in the United States: One by VCI and the other by Brentwood Home Video. Both versions are taken from 16mm prints, presented cropped and in an aspect ratio of 4:3.
The picture and sound quality on the VCI edition are comparable to our own Stomp Visual release, but on direct comparison, the VCI transfer loses quite a bit of information from the left and right sides of the screen. For example, in the VCI edition the burgomeister Karl is almost completely cut out of frame (10:39) and the maid is entirely missing from the right of the screen when she should be visible (21:40). There are other numerous examples where the compositions look too tight and important information is lost. Bonus features are limited to a text-based Mario Bava biography and filmography and trailers for The Night Visitor, Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Blood and Black Lace.
The Brentwood release is shocking. Apart from a sickly brown hue, the print is almost devoid of any other colour. It is also cropped and, like the VCI transfer, loses important information from the left and right side of the screen. It contains no bonus features.
There is also a Region 2 (German) release by Anolis Entertainment that goes under the rather lurid title Die Toten Augen Des Dr. Dracula. It has an interview (in Italian with German subtitles) with Erika Blanc that’s not available on any other version. It also has a U.S and German trailer and poster and still galleries. It’s presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but not 16x9 enhanced. A few fan forums have praised the picture quality, suggesting a lot of time and effort has gone into restoring it. Unfortunately, it contains only a German language audio track.
If you can tolerate black bars on the top and bottom of your monitors and you can understand German, then the Region 2 Anolis Entertainment release is the best option.
However, until the original negative or a pristine 35mm print is sourced or restored, then our correctly framed 16x9 enhanced Region 4 Stomp Visual release is the best version currently available for English-speaking fans.
Kill Baby…Kill is considered by many fans and critics to be Bava’s most focused and self-assured film. Like Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Vampyre (1932), Bava’s innovative narrative and visual style and supernatural mise en scene has been an enormous influence on countless horror filmmakers.
Although this Region 4 Stomp Visual edition is 16x9 enhanced and rightly frames Bava’s gorgeous compositions, the poor quality of the source materials is disappointing.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|