Dr Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, papa of Kim) arrives somewhere in Eastern Europe at the behest of Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) to perform the autopsy of Irene Hollander (Mirella Pamphili) whose death is burnt on our retinas during the opening credits. She is the latest in a long line of residents who die, all seemingly at their own hand, and yet something is nagging at the Inspector. The villagers themselves are suspicious of the medical outsider and do everything in their power to prevent a postmortem even enlisting the help of local witch Ruth (Fabienne Dali) to make the reparations for a peaceful afterlife and to counteract “the curse” inflicted by the creepy blonde child in white who likes to peer into windows. For the stoic and steadfast Doctor who is so initiated in the world of science, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to reconcile the rational amidst the supernatural, old superstitions, and his own eyes. He, along with Nurse Monica Schuftan (Erika Blanc) work together to unlock the secrets of the village, the eerie goings-on in the crumbling Villa Graps, and the history behind the reclusive Baroness (Giovanna Galletti) and her little girl Melissa (Valerio Valeri).
Mario Bava was a genius when it came to horror and the Gothic. He was a master of avoiding blood and gore, when needed, and often instead concentrated on building mood and atmosphere, through music, cinematography, special effects, and diegetic sound: echoing footsteps, squealing cats, and creaking doors were among his specialities, as well as the sublime use of lighting and coloured gels. He depicted fear and the emotional experience of it through an artistic subtlety few have been able to replicate. Bava transgressed the medium which left him unappreciated in his time, and his body of work often overlooked. Operazione paura or the US-monikered Kill, Baby… Kill! is a beautiful and enchanting piece of supernatural horror, atmospheric and credible in its Gothic tropes. Under the threat of death or no, Villa Graps is well worth the visit.
The Arrow Video label of Arrow Films has put together a great package celebrating this Gothic gem, one of a slew of Bava’s oeuvre which have been restored and made available to own including Black Sunday, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Black Sabbath, and Blood and Black Lace. Aside from the 2K restoration HD digital transfer, there is, as one has come to expect a whole host of additional treats besides.
The Devil’s Daughter: Bava and the Gothic Child (21 mins) – This in-depth audio essay written and narrated by Kat Ellinger is brilliant. She discusses Bava’s influence on contemporary filmmakers, specifically citing Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak. In addition, she works her way through examples of Gothic literature and cinema, paying particular attention to the Gothic family, monstrous mother, and demonic child in relation to KBK as well as other films which followed and those which are indebted to Mario Bava and the character of Melissa Graps. A 2007 interview with Bava’s AD and son, Lamberto is the subject of Kill Baby Kill (25 mins) during which Bava Jr talks about working with his father and grandfather (Eugenio was also a special effects technician and cinematographer) and their collective interest and pursuit of the supernatural.
The whole documentary-style interview takes place in Calcata, Italy as Bava takes us on a tour of the village which was used as the location for KBK, through Villa Frascati which doubled for Villa Graps and discusses the fun they had recreating the cemetery (amongst other interiors and exteriors) on a sound stage. Erika in Fear (10 mins) – After introducing the main feature, Erika Blanc gives this lighthearted interview during which she describes her experiences on set and what it was like working with her director. Affectionate reminisces are abound as Blanc denounces cinema of today as being flat which is one of the reasons why audiences are only discovering Bava’s technically precise and professionally perfect films now; they’re not used to such vibrant colour.
Yellow (2006) (6 mins) – Semih Tareen’s short film and beautifully-hued love letter to the cinema of Mario Bava.
German Opening Titles (3:25) – in which orange text declares the title of the film Die toten Augen des Dr. Dracula – odd, given Dracula’s nowhere to be found.
International Trailer (2:32)
Photocomic – 68 slides break down the vintage photocomic book, in which every frame is depicted in comic book cells. This was originally published in Film Horreur in 1976 and provided by Uwe Huber.
Image Gallery – 28 slides show the German posters and lobby cards – which Erika Blanc works her way through in her interview – again provided by Uwe Huber.
New audio commentary – provided by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark.
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.
First pressing only: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Travis Crawford.
Region: B/2|Rating 15|Language: Italian/English|Subtitles: English/English SDH|Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1|Audio: Mono|Colour|Discs: 2