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Blu-ray Review: Mario Bava’s ‘The Whip and the Body’

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If there’s one thing Blu-ray distributor Kino Lorber continues to knock out of the park, it’s their Mario Bava Collection. Having reviewed every single release, they have yet to sneak in a clunker. With so many titles still not released yet, considering The Whip and the Body is their ninth, I hope to see many more in the future. Full of Bava’s mesmerizing color schemes and gothic production design, The Whip and the Body is another one of his erotic pieces, maybe even more so than Five Dolls for an August Moon. Bare flesh isn’t everything when it comes to eroticism, and this time, Bava let’s Christopher Lee loose with the titular object.

WhipBodyCoverLee plays Kurt Menliff, who has just returned to the family hillside castle. Kurt is there to give his blessing to the marriage of his former lover Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) to his younger brother Christian (Tony Kendall). Kurt and Nevenka still have sadomasochistic feelings for each other — which is where the whip comes in — and Kurt learns that Christian is in love with Katia (Ida Galli). Meanwhile, the housekeeper Giorgia (Harriet Medin) is still grieving the death of her daughter, keeping the dagger that killed her inside a literal glass case of emotion. She wishes the dagger would plunge itself into the neck of whomever killed her daughter. Soon enough Kurt is murdered with the dagger, laid to rest, and soon may or may not be haunting the castle, whip in hand.

All the gothic trappings are included in Bava’s erotic thriller. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as thrilling as it could be, or as erotic as it should. Anyone who watches Bava films knows he likes to keep things more restrained, but it might have perked up better had he subdued to the prerequisite T&A of this type of film. It also doesn’t help the mood that the film was shot in English and then later dubbed for release. Missing is Lee’s iconic voice and some of the other voiceovers are pretty over-the-top, deflating the drama. But at least the production design, camera work, color use, and music are all up to par with what we expect from any Bava film.

As with the rest of the Bava Collection, Kino Lorber has remastered the film from an original 35mm print and looks quite healthy for a 50-year-old film. Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Bava fills the screen with all things gothic. Thankfully, the disc keeps things looking as good as they can with inky blacks, swirling grain, and devoid of any aliasing or banding. Some source inherited soft shots rear their heads, but is no fault of the new HD transfer. However, there are also plenty of white and black specks, stray hairs, scratches, dirt, and a few vertical lines to keep things from looking even better. Things only a Criterion restoration could remove, but are sort of welcome when watching a film of this kind. It’s nice to see some prints remind us that we’re watching a film.

WhipBodyPic1As for the audio, Italian, English, and French uncompressed 2.0 Linear PCM tracks deliver the atmospheric mood, even while being confined to mono. I watched the film in English and it sounds way better than you’d think. Although, the dubbed dialogue comes across as silly at times, with the film being shot in English, this track makes the most sense to watch. Subtitles are included of course, available in English only.

As for special features, all we get is another boring track by Bava historian Tim Lucas (author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark), ported over from the DVD release. Sounding like he’s reading a script, and quite proud of himself, Kino should look into finding someone else to record new tracks for future Bava Collection releases. A trailer for The Whip and the Body is also included, as well as for the Bava Collection’s Black Sunday, A Bay of Blood, Baron Blood, and Lisa and the Devil.

I’m really enjoying these Kino releases of the Mario Bava Collection and honestly wouldn’t mind if they released every film on his resume. His style was ahead of its time when these were new releases, and his influence still feels fresh in some of today’s films. This summer’s You’re Next pays great homage to Bava’s A Bay of Blood which was also a precursor to the original Friday the 13th. With surprisingly spry video and nicely done audio, don’t let the lack of features deter you if interested. The Whip and the Body is another fine addition to the increasing Blu-ray releases of Mario Bava.

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.