Blue Underground // 1973 // 83 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // February 20th, 2012
You will know the secrets that men have been trying in vain for centuries to know.
What were people thinking in the late '60s / early '70s? Amend that: What was Carroll Baker thinking in the late-'60s/early-70s? I mean, I complete respect her decision to take off to Italy to make movies like Orgasmo and So Sweet...So Perverse, but I can see where her rep in the U.S. might have taken a bit of hit, as well.
Now, another of Baker's dubious European forays is getting its Blu debut.
Baba Yaga stars Baker as an erotic witch who becomes fascinated with sexy photographer Valentina (Isabelle De Funes). They meet one evening when Baba Yaga almost runs Valentina down with her car and then offers her a lift home. Rather than asking for gas money at the end of the trip, Baba yanks a clip from Valentina's garter, and after running it around in her mouth, says she'll return it the next day.
Valentina goes home and has a nightmare about having to face a cat-stroking Nazi in her underwear. A model friend wakes her up with a visit, and Valentina photographs her topless and pretentious, until Yaga drops by with the garter clip and interrupts the shoot. Baba fondles Valentina's apparatus -- her camera, that is -- and soon after, Valentina finds that when she shoots people, they fall down and sometimes die, as though the camera has become a gun.
Try as she might, Valentina can't get Baba Yaga out of her head, and she ends up visiting the mystery woman at her spooky house. Baba Yaga gives Valentina a doll done up in S&M gear, but Valentina fears the doll is one of those marauding, Trilogy of Terror types and has more nightmares, including one where she's in a Nazi boxing match.
All the craziness leads back to Baba Yaga's more stately mansion, and soon, Valentina finds herself trapped in a web of erotic horror. Will she survive, or is she damned to be Carroll Baker's plaything for eternity?
Depending on your mood and tolerance levels, you'll likely find Baba Yaga to be either an enjoyably trippy bit of Eurotrash surrealism or an annoying dose of incoherent, pseudo-artsy Eurotrash trash. I lean toward the latter, but it's not all a wash.
The film is based on a European adult comic book, just as Barbarella and Diabolik were. Baba Yaga is less irritating than Barbarella, though not as much fun as Diabolik. Director Corrado Farina tried to replicate the look of the source material, but despite some interesting visual touches, things just don't come together in a satisfying way.
The biggest problem is that there's no compelling narrative through line. The endless parade of images and tableaux just seems weird for the sake of being weird, and before long, it becomes tiresome. There are a few heavy-handed political observations and the occasional attempt to convey humor or build suspense, but none of this makes the film any more palatable.
Baba Yaga is supposed to be a continental woman of mystery and a centuries-old witch, but Baker's flat, eastern-seaboard inflections would be more at home in a dinner theater in Philly. Everything Baba Yaga says sounds echoey, like she's talking to you via a bad cell connection. I guess this is supposed to make her sound other-worldly, but it ultimately just makes her sound silly.
The point of all this -- in case you didn't pick up on from the longing looks and intimate posturings between the two ladies -- is that Baba Yaga wants to get into Valentina's pants. From the little we see of Valentina, this hardly seems to require the Herculean effort Baba expends, with props, spells, and other accoutrements.
Blue Underground's release of Baba Yaga (Blu-ray) is a technical upgrade of its 2003 DVD. As with most Blue Underground Blus, the tech is solid. The image is overall clear with good definition and solid colors. Audio is an unexciting but functional mono track.
Supplements are all ports from the 2003 release. They include an interview with Farina, a featurette on Guido Crepax, whose comic "Valentina" was the basis for the film, a comic book to film comparison, and some deleted and censored scenes, one of which gives us Carroll Baker full-on naked.
Baba Yaga's kinda fun to look at, but frustrating to really watch. Interesting in a pop art way, but there's not enough here for a recommend.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (Italian)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted/Censored Scenes
* Comic Book to Film Comparison
* Image Gallery