Whip and the Body: Uncut (La frusta e il corpo) (1963) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Sep-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Author Tim Lucas
Biographies-Cast & Crew
More…-Original American Main Titles
More…-Profile - author Tim Lucas
Gallery-Photo
Isolated Musical Score
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Other films x 2
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 86:56 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mario Bava
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Daliah Lavi
Christopher Lee
Tony Kendall
Ida Galli
Harriet Medin
Gustavo De Nardo
Luciano Pigozzi
Jacques Herlin
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Carlo Rustichelli


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     After an absence of some years, Kurt Menliff (Christopher Lee), returns to his family’s castle by the sea. His father Count Menliff (Gustavo de Nardo) is still alive, just, and in Kurt’s absence his younger brother Christian (Tony Kendall) has married Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) and stands to inherit the castle when the Count dies. Also in the castle is their cousin Katia (Ida Galli), who loves Christian, and servants Losat (Luciano Pigozzi) and Giorgia (Harriet Medin). Kurt had left the castle after seducing Giorgia’s daughter Tanya, who stabbed herself to death with a dagger that is still in the castle, enshrined in a glass case!

     In the past Kurt and Nevenka had also been lovers, and they waste no time in renewing their relationship. Kurt is a deft hand with a whip and Nevenka, it seems, is not adverse to a spot of sado-masochism. When that night Kurt is stabbed to death with Tanya’s dagger, most of the castle’s inhabitants have both a motive and the opportunity, which results in a number of red herrings and false leads. Kurt is interned in the family crypt, but shortly afterwards Nevenka starts to see him in visions that are frightfully realistic. Are these hallucinations brought about by her sexual desires or do the dead really walk? And can ghosts really leave muddy boot prints across the floor of the castle?

     The Whip and the Body (La frusta e il corpo), from 1963, is a classic Gothic horror story from the Italian master Mario Bava, although in the main titles the director is credited as John M. Old. In his commentary on this DVD, Tim Lucas reveals that the US distributors asked Bava to “pick any old American name” so John M. Old he became! The film, although a horror story, is almost bloodless, the tension and terror arising from a dark and spooky castle, moody music courtesy of composer Carlo Rustichelli, hidden passageways, long gloomy corridors, dark rooms, light, reflections in mirrors, storms outside, a sprinkling of sexual desire and perversion. If this sounds a bit clichéd, its not; this film is tense, spellbinding, creepy and very well made, benefiting from Bava’s masterful use of colour, light and shade. There are a number of excellent sequences in The Whip and the Body, but if you want a crash course in Bava’s classy cinematic techniques, try the sequence starting at 48:08 where Nevenka walks down the stairs into the crypt. Here is light, darkness and shadow, plus vibrant purple, green, yellow, blue and red highlights to crank up the tension and the otherworldly feel of the scene. The climax to the sequence is not too bad either.

     The Whip and the Body is a delight, a classic Gothic horror tale that is another masterful display of technique, tension, red herrings and colour by Mario Bava. This is subtle European horror of a very high order, and they really do not make them like this any more.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The DVD cover claims the film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. While it is 1.85:1, in the NTSC format, we get a single sided, single layered disc and the film is not 16x9 enhanced.

     A caption at the start of the film thanks those who worked on the restoration. The print is still not great, but is likely to be as good as it will get. The picture is soft, and clarity does suffer. Detail is sometimes lost, especially in the dark scenes (of which there are many) where shadow detail is quite murky. Blacks are OK, skin tones, brightness and contrast vary. The disc authors would not have been helped by Bava’s use of colour with psychedelic greens, purples, blues, yellows and reds in many scenes to complicate the balance. These colours provide wonderful contrast to the darkness within the rest of the frame.

     Despite the restoration, artefacts are frequent. Small and large dirt marks and scratches, such as the vertical scratch at 55:13-19, occur regularly. They are noticeable, but not overly distracting. There is also motion blur during camera movement and aliasing on bars. This, however, makes the print sound worse then it is; it is better than one might expect from a 1963 film.

     English or Spanish subtitles can be selected. The English subs were in a largish white font. They followed the English language dub closely.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The DVD cover is again incorrect when it indicates there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track available. It is not: what we get is a choice of either English or Italian, both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps, plus an English audio commentary with the same specifications.

     Dialogue was clear, and the music of Carlo Rutsichelli (credited in the main titles as Jim Murphy) plus effects such as the wind and storm, or footsteps in the hall, came across fairly well, if on the dull side. However, the audio was perfectly adequate, although there was some hiss and crackle evident in the scenes without effects or music. There was no surround or subwoofer use.

     It really does not matter which language you select, the lip synchronisation is indifferent. The cast mostly spoke English dialogue, phonetically for non-English speakers among the cast, but no dialogue was recorded on set so both audio tracks were overdubbed – in the English dub it is not Christopher Lee’s distinctive voice on the soundtrack. As a result, most of the lip synchronisation in the English dub was not too bad – the Italian track was diabolical.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Commentary – Tim Lucas

     Recorded over ten years ago, Lucas provides a knowledgeable and entertaining commentary showing an encyclopaedic knowledge of The Whip and the Body and Bava. He covers Bava’s career and techniques, locations, the biographies and filmographies of pretty much everyone who appears on screen or who contributed behind the camera, and the music. He also points out some of the film’s nuances, and discusses the film’s failure at the box office. An excellent commentary and an essential listen.

Biographies

     Short, silent biographies and filmographies for

Original American Main Titles (1:04)

     In America the whipping scenes were cut, a total of about 10 minutes, the main titles redone and the film released with the title What. Enough said, no wonder few could figure out what was going on.

Tim Lucas / Video Watchdog

     One page of silent text on Lucas and a magazine he writes for.

Photo Gallery

    54 black and white and colour movie stills and poster art from around the world. Silent, use the remote to advance.

Play Soundtrack (7:58)

     A and B sides of The Windsor Concerto from the score provided by composer Carlo Rustichelli for the film.

Trailers

     Whip and the Body (French) (3:27), Planet of the Vampires (2:06) and Blood and Black Lace (American). This last trailer is very poor colour wise and does not do justice to the vibrant colours of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This NTSC Region 0 release is identical to the US release right down to the menus. There is a Region 2 German PAL release that is 16x9 enhanced which DVDBeaver considers superior: check out their comparison and screen shots here. That version retains the excellent Lucas commentary so would be the preferred choice if you can get it and your system supports Region 2 discs. There does not appear to be a current Region 2 UK release of the film.

Summary

     The Whip and the Body is a delight, a classic Gothic horror tale that is another masterful display of technique, tension, red herrings and colour by Mario Bava. >. It is subtle European horror of a very high order.

     The video is not 16x9 enhanced but acceptable, the audio good for an almost 50 year old film, the main extra is an excellent audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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