Combustible Celluloid
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With: Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, Tony Kendall, Ida Galli, Harriet Medin, Gustavo De Nardo, Luciano Pigozzi, Jacques Herlin
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino
Directed by: Mario Bava
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 12/10/0965

The Whip and the Body (1963)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lash and Spurn

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many Mario Bava fans consider The Whip and the Body to be one of his best, and it's certainly a contender with its effectively stylish rendering of a pulpy ghost mystery.

Christopher Lee stars as Kurt, an errant, outcast son who returns to his family mansion, much to the chagrin of everyone there. Before long, he turns up dead but his ghost continues to cause trouble. Kurt's brother Christian (Tony Menliff) has married Kurt's former lover Novenka (Daliah Lavi), but secretly loves a beautiful servant girl (Ida Galli). An older servant woman (Harriet Medin) blames Kurt for the death of her daughter, and has saved the murder weapon -- a dagger -- in a glass case, hoping to use it again in the same way. Kurt's father (Gustavo De Nardo) doesn't think too highly of his son either.

So everyone's a suspect, but as usual Bava is more interested in using his trademark gloomy colors to establish a mood and an atmosphere than he is creating suspense or logic. The film dabbles in sadistic eroticism as Kurt lashes his former lover Novenka with a whip -- and she appears to like it.

One small drawback is that Lee's voice is dubbed in both the English and Italian language versions (the DVD from VCI Entertainment comes with both, plus subtitles). Bava used his pseudonym "John Old" to sign the film.

In December of 2013, Kino continued upgrading the Bava library to Blu-ray with this title. It contains both the English and Italian versions, plus the French version (with subtitles). Bava biographer Tim Lucas provides another of his informative commentary tracks. We also get trailers for this and other Bava titles.

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