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'Baba Yaga' is a fascinating mess. Corrado Farina seems like an intelligent guy but even he admits that he failed in his attempt to adapt the erotic comics of Guido Crepax to the movie screen. Farina's initial choices for the lead roles of Valentina and Baba Yaga fell through and so he had to reluctantly make do with Isabelle De Funes and Carroll Baker. On top of that his movie was recut behind his back by a producer with second thoughts and he had to fight to salvage it. Despite all this behind the scenes drama it is a movie which will appeal to fans of arty Eurotrash like Franco's 'Vampyros Lesbos' and 'Eugenie De Sade' and Bava's 'Lisa And The Devil'. The plot of the film is minimal and frankly not its strong point. Valentina (De Funes) is a successful photographer who comes under the spell of a mysterious witch Baba Yaga (Carroll). That's about it folks. The movie attempts to create a dreamlike atmosphere, mixing up fantasy and reality. It isn't entirely successful but some sequences are quite impressive. In fact it's probably best enjoyed if you ignore the minimal story and just concentrate on the imagery and the music. Farina complained that Carroll Baker wasn't the right physical type to play Baba Yaga, who in the original comic strip was androgynous and not conventionally beautiful. That may be so but I certainly enjoy looking at Ms. Baker, an actress who made several left of center movie choices in the '60s and '70s including 'Orgasmo', 'The Sweet Body Of Deborah', 'Bad' and 'Bloodbath'. The DVD by the way includes a brief outtake of a full frontal scene from her for those that are interested. 'Baba Yaga' is one of those movies that you either love or hate. I'm in the former camp.
Until relatively recently comic books in the US were mostly aimed at
kids (and thanks to a self-censorship body called the Comics Code
Authority--which made sure little Johnny didn't get hold of a copy of
"The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" or "Cherry Poptart" and be scarred
for life--adult comics were often unavailable even for adults). But
things were different in Europe, especially in France and Italy in the
60's and 70's where "fumetti" were very popular with adults, exploring
adult themes and experimenting with narrative structure in ways that
the American "graphic novels" are only just getting around to today.
Fumetti were also pretty hip in Europe at the time (again in contrast
to America where the coolest guy who publicly admits to reading comics
even today is "Clerks" director Kevin Smith).
There have been a handful of movies based on fumetti. The most famous is "Barbarella" because it featured Jane Fonda, but this has also made it an easy target for people like idiot critic/right-wing ben-wah ball Michael Medved. "Diabolik" has become highly respected today because of director Mario Bava and the two incredibly attractive leads, but it was reputedly not a well-regarded fumetti. I've heard "Satanik" is pretty bad period. Some years later there was also "Cemetery Man" based on a novel by the author of the famous fumetti "Dylan Dog". It was this movie though that has just confused the hell out of everybody since it's based on a comic strip "Valentina" few outside of Italy have read and few in Italy probably understood. Valentina is a photographer who through the agency of a magic camera falls under the spell of a strange lesbian witch, Baba Yaga. That's the basic plot, but it goes off on so many bizarre and surreal tangents that the movie itself is almost impossible to describe. At one point, for instance, Baba Yaga gives Valentina a doll which suddenly turns into a real-life dominatrix who strips her naked, ties her up, and whips her while the witch looks on approvingly. In another scene, Valentina's suddenly part of a firing squad shooting a naked woman on a Jean Rollinesque deserted beach.
Carol Baker is the witch and although she is woefully miscast (too young and voluptuous)she acquits herself well (and even did a full-frontal nude scene which was censored out). The actress that plays Valentina, Isabella de Funes couldn't act her way out of an 8mm porno loop with a German shepherd co-star, but she really doesn't have to in this very visual, non-linear movie. Ditto with Ely Galeani, who apparently auditioned for Valentina role but was (hard as it is too imagine) even worse than de Funes,so she took the living doll role. It's also interesting to see George "The Grim Reaper" Eastman in a romantic role as Valentina's lover (maybe they got him confused with George Hilton?) Rounding out the cast is Angela Covello ("So Sweet/So Dead", "Torso") one my favorite obscure Italian actresses. This movie definitely isn't for everybody, but if you're on this site reading this review (and you've heard of any of these people) I expect you'll probably like it.
Apparently inspired by a comic book, "Baba Yaga" is an unusually compelling, surreal nightmare of movie that also is vibrant with the essence of the late 1960s. The story follows pretty young fashion photographer Valentina (Isabelle De Funes) who runs afoul of seductive sorceress Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker) who proceeds to meddle in her life via a tiny doll in an S&M getup. Baba is not one to take rejection lightly, and subjects Valentina to physical and psychological torments. Well-made, hard-to-pigeonhole film, director Corrado Farina succeeds in creating moody atmosphere and a warped logic in which anything can and will happen. Funes in particular does a superb job of convincing the audience of the vacuum that's engulfing her; a young George Eastman ("Anthropophagous") fares well in the role of her disbelieving commercial-director boyfriend. The direction, which intercuts comic-book imagery with hallucinogenic dream sequences (which all seem to possess a Nazi angle), is skillful and unpretentious.
I saw it last night for the first time and thought it was spectacular! Filled with style and inventive camera work that could leave Argento in shame, the movie had a bizarre, interesting story. The pace was slow and lethargic (similar to Franco's Succubus and Vampyros Lesbos); the music was excellent, including a melancholic jazz tune and a stylish rock score; and the acting was above average: Carroll Baker, as opposite of what many reviewers said, shines in the role of the evil witch (and looks very attractive also), and Isabelle de Funes was a nice revelation. Cult favorite George Eastman is also good in is supporting role. For the sleazy guys, there was also some mild S&M and some T&A, but nothing worth mention . Too bad the director only made this film, as he looked very talented. A 8/10 from me.
Baba Yaga is the story of Valentine, a photographer who photographs women(just one is model is used throughout the movie however), usually in various states of undress. She meets the mystical Carroll Baker and becomes entranced with Baker(Mystically not sexually at first). Carroll Baker puts some sort of hex on Valentine's camera and ,everytime Valentine shoots a picture of an individual, she metaphorically, at least I think, injures them as well. Slowly, The attraction pulling Valentine to Baker's character evolves into a sexual one. Valenntine is lured to Baker's home, molested and whipped and saved in the end by her boyfriend. It is a fascinating movie. I will not say that it is a great movie cause there are a few things that the viewer is left wanting. Partly, It is, in my opinion at least, based on an adult comic book that was probably relevant more in 70's Italy, and partly because of censor's scissors that chopped a bit of the movie. Farina, the director, creates wonderful atmosphere and lures you in. Isabelle De Funes, as Valentine, is absolutely gorgeous and intriguing. The Blue Underground version of this film has the censored scenes that were cut out in the extra section of the DVD. Of note in that is a full frontal nude scene from Carroll Baker. Also, A twenty two minute interview with Corrado Farina who, though no great surprise, says Jean-Luc Goddard was an inspiration of his.
I saw this in my local video store for a while, and only rented it after
finally reading the reviews here, and I must say, it was quite
Valentina is a photographer who, one night, has a run-in with a mysterious woman named Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga asks to borrow something from Valentina, promising to give it back the next morning. (I have no idea what the thing was--I decided to just forget it.) Valentina agrees, and after a very odd photoshoot with one model the next morning, she finds Baba Yaga at her door, with the item as promised. The woman also inspects Valentina's camera, and then everything Valentina photographs is plagued by something horrible. Things continue, including a creepy photoshoot at Baba Yaga's home, the gift of a strange leather-clad doll named Annette, all leading up to an extremely bizaare ending.
Definitely not for everyone, but still an okay movie. Fans of giallo thrillers will like this very offbeat, trippy movie. I didn't really understand the meaning behind Valentina's SS-influenced dreams, and in fact, they were quite disturbing. The bottomless pit in Baba Yaga's house was a nice touch, and actually, the house in total was quite creepy. Annette was very weird, the living doll. And the ending--that was the oddest part of the whole movie! As I said, not for everyone, but still entertaining. And am I the only one who thought the music was nothing special? Sorry, I didn't get what all the hype was about from the other reviewers. Oh well. Still, check this movie out if you can find it.
Lounge revival fans and obscuro movie freaks should definitely take a look at this gem. (Very) loosely based on the erotic graphic novels by Italy's own Guido Crepax, BABA YAGA is a "giallo" movie on acid. Call it Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA on peyote. Kinky, weird, and sometimes just plain funny: miss it at your own risk. Oh, and dig the killer soundtrack, too!
Is this artsy fartsy seventies jive or compelling allegory of the so called enlightened intellects versus the unknown? That's up to you to decide. I know nothing about the comic strip so I can't compare Valentina is a fashion photographer being romantically pursued by George Eastman (aka Luigi Montefori, from The Unholy Four and The New Barbarians). Fobbing him off one night and walking home herself, she finds a puppy lying within a circle of candles and narrowly manages to save it from being run over by a car driven by the mysterious Baba Yaga (Carrol Baker, from The Devil with Seven Faces). Baba Yaga's immediately starts getting weird on Val, taking a clip from her suspenders and saying she'll be back the next day. And the next day indeed (after Val indulges in some topless photography), Baba turns up and gives her the clip back and gives her address. Intrigued in a way only free living seventies people can be, Val goes to Baba's house, takes photos of things, finds a bottomless pit in the hall, finds a strange glove and puts in on, which prompts her to do a bit of invisible banjo playing while the film turns into a comic. Baba also gives her doll in bondage gear and curses her camera so that every time she takes a picture of someone, they die. The doll on occasion turns into Ely Galleano (from Lizard in a Woman's Skin and High Crime) who puts in a performance so erotic, I felt obliged to send her some money in the post. Sounds weird, eh? It is, all done in a surreal, playful manner with plenty of topless women and kinky situations. It's not overly pervy though, but highly stylish. The sets and general execution are very good indeed, involving scenes that turn from reality to comic strip, a nazi trial, a boxing match with a guy dressed like Jesus, and a soap powder commercial that's truly bizarre. Gore hounds will be disappointed, as will though who like things fast paced. As for me, I liked it. Made a nice change from all the violence you usually get from Italian films from this era. The copy that Shameless Screen Entertainment have released looks to be the fullest version (including a full frontal scene with Baker!), and it looks beautiful. This is the only version I've seen so I can't comment on anything that's gone before.
From the beginning, with a credits sequence set against a background of stark, stylized black and white illustrations while we hear the driving yet haunting theme song, this movie grabs you. If you are already a fan of the "giallo" genre, you will be delighted by this film. If you're not, or don't know the genre, don't expect much in the way of a coherent plot or continuity, just lose yourself in the studied weirdness of the individual sequences. This film is particularly interesting as it has a certain "hip" and even political sensibility that gives it a real late 60s/early 70s feel. Neat music!
During the late '60s and early '70s, Carroll Baker expatriated from the
United States and made some horror flicks in Italy. Among these giallo
movies was "Baba Yaga". It portrays a fashion photographer (Isabelle De
Funes) getting involved with an otherworldly older woman (Baker). The
title identifies who she is, but people unfamiliar with Slavic
mythology may not know who that is. Baba Yaga is a witch in Slavic,
especially Russian, folklore. Depending on which story, she can be good
or evil, but they usually portray her living in a house standing on
chicken legs. We in the west usually mispronounce the second part of
her name: we say YAH-gah, but it's actually yah-GAH.
But let's not get off topic. I liked this movie. It was sort of half horror, half look at the mod culture in early 1970s Italy (although it seems like all the giallo movies back then showed it). And of course, there's plenty of eroticism to go around; as far as I'm concerned, Carroll Baker embodies (pun intended) eroticism. Quite cool.
Also starring George Eastman.
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