Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Classics: THE WHIP AND THE BODY on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kino Classics: THE WHIP AND THE BODY on Blu-ray

Bava and Blu-ray: two great tastes that taste great together. Italian director Mario Bava is truly a "cinema guy" as Quentin Tarantino once called him. He mentioned him in the same sentence as Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray as I recall. All three filmmakers have a distinct sense of visual storytelling and have created many memorable cinematic images in their time. One of Bava's most memorable qualities is his use of highly creative and stylized lighting in all his films. Each of his frames is striped or splashed with shafts of lights throughout. Bava is absolutely right at home in this sort of gothic story , set in an old castle. Also at ease in this kind of tale is the great Christopher Lee. Sadly, the two only made a few films together, but I feel like Lee is the perfect choice to inhabit the role he does here. This film resembles a gothic Giallo or something along those lines as there is a bit of a murder mystery aspect to it. Christopher Lee is well suited to his role as Kurt Menliff and he brings a diabolical charm to it that few actors at this time could probably have pulled off.
 In terms of chronology, THE WHIP AND THE BODY came out in 1963, wedged between BLACK SABBATH (also 1963) and the glorious BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964). The 1960s were Bavas most fertile period wherein he directed other such classics as BLACK SUNDAY (1960), PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965), KILL BABY KILL (1966) and DANGER DIABOLIK (1968). I find it interesting that this was a very "gothic friendly" period in cinema as Roger Corman was also digging into this type of thing with his Poe cycle of films around the same time. Something like MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, which was shot by the great Nicolas Roeg is a nice companion piece to the gothic Bava films of this time. Both MASQUE and the Bava films (which he almost inevitably shot himself), have gorgeously stylized color palettes and production design. In a time of much stylization through CGI, I have come to appreciated a great set, lighting and camera angles more than ever.

The big special feature included on the disc is a deeply informative commentary track by Tim Lucas, a Bava expert if there ever was one. If you've never heard a Lucas commentary, they are always Criterion quality and above, packed with details about the production, each actor in the cast, the crew, as well as Bava and his thematic regularities, techniques and special effects. It really like taking a 90 minute master class on the film. I've yet to come across a Lucas commentary on a Bava film that wasn't truly enlightening. Highly worthwhile.

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