Baba Yaga (1973)
Is it real or is it a dream...
Year of Release: 1973
Also Known As: Black Magic, The Devil Witch, Kiss Me Kill Me
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Corrado Farina
Carroll Baker ... Baba Yaga
Isabelle De Funes ... Valentina Rosselli
George Eastman ... Arno Treves
Ely Galleani ... Annette
Daniela Balzaretti ... Romina
Sergio Masieri ... Sandro
Angela Covello ... Toni
A young photographer discovers that she has befriended a witch, as an eerie succession of mysterious and diabolical events test her sanity and her sense of reality.
Baba Yaga, remindin' us to leave those creepy, leather clad S&M Cabbage Patch dolls in the display window of Spencer's Gifts where they belong. Yeesh, what kinda weirdola MTV addict would buy somethin' like that anyway? I mean, well yeah I bought one once, but that's cause I thought it was a Barry Darsow WWF Wrestling Buddy from his Demolition days. Course, Barry's breasts were a little bigger, which prolly shoulda tipped me off now that I think about it, but that's neither here nor there an you people aughta start mindin' your own business anyway. An speakin' of boobs, I hadda stand up an lay out the series of events surroundin' Billy Hilliard's third ex-wife's incarceration yesterday mornin' over at the Soggy Valley Women's Correctional Institution to make sure nobody unleashed that torrent of psychotic bimbosity on an unsuspectin' public. See, it was parole hearin' day for Rolanda "remanded without bonda" Stubbins-Hilliard an, like I mentioned awhile back, Billy'd been visitin' 'er on visitin' day every week tryin' to patch things up. Billy's a good guy, but the moment any honeydews enter the equation he turns into Wolf Blitzer on celebrity Jeopardy! So anyway, Rolanda's sittin' at 'er little table, smooshin' 'er oingo boingos together for the parole board an makin' goo-goo eyes at Billy, claimin' that whole tongue chompin' incident was "temporary insanity" an how she just loved Billy so very much that 'er "womanly emotions jus' got the better of 'er." Which is easy for her to say when she's still got full use of 'er tongue. Least that's what Phyllis Jablonski, my close friend an mauler over in C block tells me. Naturally, these dorks on the parole board're buyin' every bit of this crap like a fat guy at a girl scout bake sale, til I decided it was time to stop holdin' my peace before they let this lunatic go an she ends up holdin' Billy's piece in one hand an a bloody steak knife in the other.
So I jumped outta my chair an started waivin' my arms around like a maniac at a Phish concert havin' a bad acid trip, an proceeded to uncork a rant about how obvious it was to anybody who'd graduated from primary school that the victim was obviously sufferin' the effects of Stockholm syndrome. They all looked at me like I'd had too much sour mash an landed on my head after bein' bucked off of a saw horse, so I tried again. "The man identifies with his abuser, an can't see that he's gonna be skinned like a potato at the Roman Catholic church benefit breakfast on Saint Patrick's Day," I explained. Still nothin'. The only reaction I got was outta Harold Barnabas, who made like he was tryin' to dig an earwig outta that wind tunnel on the left side of his head. Clearly I'd overestimated when figurin' these three guys might have a combined IQ of 53, so finally I just blurted out: "can't you skunk dumplins see there's black magic fueled vaginamancy afoot here?!" The message finally got through, an Rolanda was out of 'er chair an hurdlin' tables an bailiffs like Rocky Balboa til she was on me like indecent exposure charges on Pee Wee Herman's rap sheet. I'm pretty sure she broke the record for the 50 meter dash an about three of my ribs when she eventually speared me into the fire extinguisher hangin' on the back wall, but my point'd finally been made an so once they peeled 'er offa me like a mashed squirrel offa the freeway, they denied 'er parole an filed additional charges against 'er for trespassin' all over my midsection. Billy finally understands what I was doin' now, an he said it was "uh nithes thin' anybolly evuh dih fol me," so it was all worth it in the end. I'm not the kinda guy who'd ever hit a woman anyway, so it's not like I really coulda prevented the situation; although I don't envy Rolanda when Phyllis figures out why I'm absent from next week's conjugal visit. Those gals in the pen don't take real kindly to havin' their recreational activities revoked, an they especially don't like anybody touchin' their stuff. Ugh... I wonder how busy Tetnis is today... feels like one of these busted ribs is jabbin' my spleen.
But I'll get over it. After about six months of wakin' up to a stabbin' pain every time I roll over at night, anyway. Right now we've got more important things to consider though, like what the exchange rate is on itty bitty Italian boobies when convertin' into domestic danglebobbers. I guess that isn't real important considerin' it's now 42 years after the fact, specially since they're prolly apricots in tube socks at this point, but I got some other observations here that're still just as relevant today as they were in the days when cinema wasn't ram-rodded through a one size fits all stencil set. First, tryin' to hide your wangdoodle from a nude fashion model's like tryin' to hide your psychological trauma at a Nine Inch Nails concert; cause anybody you'd try to conceal it against has already seen it, an've long since moved on to bigger, more frightenin' versions. Second, when your lead actress is so gaunt that 'er face has an hourglass figure, you might wanna consider callin' Anorexics Anonymous. Specially if we're gonna hafta see 'er nekkid, cause when you can play the glockenspiel solo from Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do" on 'er rib cage, the movie's prolly not gonna kill at the box office. An third, gettin' caught rubbin' one out to your neighbor's leather bar Barbie can result in some pretty serious embarrassment if they aren't into that kinda thing. So if it happens, an the cops aren't called, you should prolly thank God for small sexual favors.
Now, where the heck else're you gonna learn about things that *really* matter like these? Unless you've got a time machine that'll return you to 70s Italy, no place. But it's not all spaghetti an meatballs, an this flick's guilty of an act that grates on me every time I witness it; showcasin' people who're completely incapable of recognizin' when they're just downright lousy at somethin'. You know who I'm talkin' about, right? The ones at work who think every opportunity to do a "special task" is little more than a means to prove how amazin' they are to everybody? Course, the moment they stand up an ask for the job everybody else's eyes roll back in their heads like The Undertaker durin' a casket match cause we all know exactly what's gonna happen, but at least deadpoolin' on the extent of the damage gives us a little somethin' to help pass the day. But to be fair, we've all been there too, cause there're things in life that each of us is just mindblowingly abysmal at. I certainly haven't forgotten the day I tried weldin' the trailer hitch back onto Cleave Furguson's Ford Bronco, nor the angry phone call that followed which detailed a story about goin' fishin' out at Lake Gunkamucka, only to be passed on the right by his Alumacraft after the hitch jostled loose like an unsecured hooter on the Gravitron. A police citation an a $700 property damage judgment against you helps to clarify where your individual skill set comes up short pretty quickly, though. But anyway, Valentina in the movie for instance, she's a photographer of all things jiggly, only she never gets with the program an realizes how bad she is at it until she's killed the careers of no less than three people. I mean, I ain't Italian so I'm not exactly sure what she did wrong, but there's no question she's screwed up somethin' fierce an simply refuses to own up to 'er faults an accept that maybe she's just not cut out for this line of work. An fightin' it only makes things worse, cause once everybody knows about your shortcomin', they start showin' up just to watch your latest train wreck. So seriously people, let's all of us learn to accept our limitations before anybody else hasta die, or have their outhouse knocked off its foundation. Ain't none of us perfect, after all.
The movie begins with Valentina (this dame with black helmet hair who looks like somebody stuffed a vacuum attachment into Talia Shire an lyposucked 'er down to the skeleton), Arno (George "Anthropophagus" Eastman), an their guido buddy, Guido, hangin' out at this party where half the guests have faces like blood blisters, til Val starts worryin' about what'll happen to 'er Gucci hand bag if one of 'em pops like a bloated mosquito an they hafta leave. Unfortunately, Guido owns a two-seater, so after awhile Val gets P.O.'d about George's stick shift jabbin' 'er an decides to take 'er chances with the winos an the guys with nicknames like "the hatchet" before bailin' out. Doesn't even stop to accept George's fabulous Joan Rivers limited edition mink pimp coat, what a stuck up bitch. Then Val hasta pull this dog outta the path of Carroll Baker's car an Carroll feels so bad about the whole thing that she tells Val to get in the car so she can give 'er a ride an introduces 'erself as Baba Yaga. Which if my knowledge of Slavic mythology is correct, is a name derived from the chorus of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" an roughly translates into English as "food is murder." So once they get to Val's place, Baba goes gaga for Val's slip an gropes 'er garter til she finds where Val's been concealin' 'er labia lipstick dispenser an promises to return it later. Then Val heads inside to throw up a little so she don't bulk up to 67lbs on account of that Ritz cracker she had back at the party, before headin' to bed an dreamin' about these Nazis shovin' some nekkid lady into a grave. I guess the Nazis picked the other girl cause Val already looks like she's vacationed at Auschwitz. The next mornin', Val wakes up to 'er buzzer goin' off an hasta hastily hide 'er hoo-ha so she can get let 'er model friend (Toni) in an take a buncha pictures of 'er dressed up like Captain Hook in drag. Then Baba Black Slip shows up an starts fondlin' Val's camera like she thinks the meanin' of life is scrawled on it in braille an tells Val to put on somethin' kinky an drop by her place to sample the Baba ganoush. Meanwhile, George is out shootin' a TV show an calls up Val to see if she'll come visit 'im on the set cause he's gettin' tired of all the dainty French guys strokin' his beard an sayin' things like "incroyable." Cept when she gets there George's tryin' to net a rat scurryin' around in some sewer runoff so he can get some stills for his liberal propaganda newsletter, an then they hafta argue about which one of 'em's makin' a better go at overthrowin' the fascist power structure with their work, which ultimately gets 'em all worked up an ready for some scandalously sacrilegious sex of sinfully skanktified secularity. So George parks his Micro Machine up to Val's place, only while they're headin' upstairs, Baba Gooey's watchin' 'em from across the street like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction an gettin' more'n more P.O.'d by Val's choice of vaginal companionship.
Then Toni shows up an George hasta hide his Italian sausage behind a bed sheet, while Toni dresses up in a black leather cowboy outfit like she's headin' over to the O-gay Corral to ride the mechanical bull backwards. Only once Val starts photographin' the fastest buns in the west, Toni folds up into an origami crane an George hasta take 'er home an force Pedialyte down 'er gullet so she'll be ready to get back on the horse by mornin'. So since 'er day's now been shot to hell like an Obama mannequin at a Wyoming rifle range, Val heads over to Baba's abode to take pictures of all the weird crap that looks like it came from Sylvia Browne's yard sale. Then she finds an oubliette in the floor an Baba yells upstairs to 'er that she's been meanin' to get that thing filled in an to just disregard Jennifer Connelly's screams for help. You wouldn't believe what that little twat did with the lovely lotion basket Baba got for 'er. So Val resumes rootin' around through all the Medieval Times props, til she comes across a rare limited edition S&M Barbie an hasta roll around on the floor an score some lacquered fingernail nookie after realizin' what kinda money she can extort outta Waylon Smithers for it. Then Yaga comes upstairs an finds Val strokin' 'er Ba-bas an tells 'er she can have the doll if she'll just promise not to squirt all over 'er imported Tibetan tapestry again. Val's thoroughly psyched an soaked, so she decides to head into town an take pictures of some hippy protestors who don't seem to realize Italy ain't involved in the Vietnam war, cept when she tries takin' a picture of this guy who looks like Jesus he crumples up like a paper football that just got intercepted by the detention hall warden. Then she heads home an dreams she's clad in full Nazi regalia an goin' up against the Jesus lookin' guy for a 15 round expedition bout, only she destroys the guy with one punch before makin' out with Baba like she just went the distance against Apollo Creed. Unfortunately, she hasta take a rain check on 'er wet dream with Baba so she can get up an shoot some interracial fondlin' stills with a couple more models an get David Duke's boxers in a twist, while 'er newly acquired white power puppet sits there fumin'. By this point, Val's finally wised up an started usin' a different camera, but once the black guy splits the lights end up goin' out an when they come back on, Romina (the remainin' model) has a puncture wound that's got nothin' at all to do with the black fellow's schlonker. Meanwhile, George's shootin' a PSA with this guy who looks like Brian Hackett from Wings, where he instructs the Hackett look-alike to throw a bucket of cocaine on a third guy til he spontaneously combusts. A line is a terrible thing to waste, an there musta been about 1000 of 'em in that bucket.
But anyway, about that time Val comes drivin' up so she can make George take 'er to lunch an tell 'im all about Baba bein' the Freddy Kruger of the wet dream an tryin' to mind control 'er into goo-gooin' Baba's ga-ga. George tells 'er to call off the witch hunt an eat 'er manicotti before it gets cold. Then George takes 'er to the art house theater next door to watch Haxan which doesn't help matters much at all, cause pretty quick Val gets the knock kneed shakes an hasta remove 'er ass quicker'n Howie Mandel when he sits in somethin' moist in the raincoat section of a 42nd Street porno theater. But she's been thinkin' durin' the 13 seconds it took 'er to get from seat to street, an once George tracks 'er down she explains that the shutter was off on 'er cursed camera when the lights came back on after 'er fashion shoot, an she'd like to know what in the name of Bondage Barbie's bra bustingly bouncified boobies is on that film. So the two of 'em go back to Val's place to develop the film an find an entire roll fulla pictures of this blonde chick wearin' Barbie's boob hoists slingin' 'er jigglers around before stickin' Romina with a hat pin. This doesn't help to improve Val's already tenuous hold on reality, an things get even worse when George calls to check on Romina an finds out she's gone to the final castin' call for Italy's Top Model up in the Heaven region. By this point, Val could really use a nap, preferably one that comes at the hands of a fifth of somethin' that tastes like fire. Cept once she goes to sleep she starts dreamin' about bein' part of a firin' squad that guns down Romina while she's bein' led nekkid into the ocean, an once that's over she ends up back in 'er studio where the blondage babe makes off with 'er camera an some of 'er slobber after plantin' a big wet one on 'er. Then Val wakes up to the phone buzzin' like my old electric razor that never was the same after I spilled Listerine down into it, an Baba tells 'er that if she wants to see 'er camera alive again she'd best ger 'er high strung hiney over to Baba's place. So Val drives over there an demands to know how the grim reaper got inside 'er camera til Braba Yabos tells 'er that what she dunno could fill Jay Leno's parkin' garage, an that she aughta focus on the tangible things in life, like Baba's Boobies. Meanwhile, George is searchin' all over Val's place for any signs of 'er skinniness, til he realizes she musta gone over to the farmer's market for some melons an puts the pedal to the plastic in his little foreign Matchbox car. While that's goin' on, Baba's pre-shelled bombshell's puttin' Val in shackles an whippin' 'er like Kunta Kinte while Baba Slobba sits there mentally recordin' it so she can use it for fap material later. Eventually, George gets his tuna can over to Baba's place an by this point George is just a teensy bit P.O.'d about his squeezebox fallin' into the hands of a bitchy old lesbian, an once he scales the front gate he grabs 'imself a good sized snake-bashin' club an heads inside to initiate Whackin' Day festivities all over Baba's face. Gonna cut it off here, but it's a public domain title so you can check it out via the following link if you're still conscious.
Alrighty, well, this one's actually based very loosely on a combination of the Baba Yaga legend of Slavic mythology, and an Italian comic book called Valentina, for which the main character in the movie is named. I say very loosely, because the Baba Yaga character herself seems to be universally angrier and uglier than Carroll Baker, but the concept of her being a supernatural being remains intact at least. Most of the other events of the movie are relatively faithful to the comic, which was pretty racy when you get right down to it. Although standards for such things are relative to the part of the world you happen to occupy, and for Europe in the 1970s, it really wasn't all that big of a deal to see this kind of thing. Meanwhile in America, we were goin' apeshit tryin' to make sure no children were bein' permanently scarred by Creepshow comic books, because we're clever like that. In Europe, they tend to understand that shielding people from everything isn't a particularly smart long term strategy when attempting to build a learned, civilized society. Although it does keep the morality police placated. So unless you were to read up on the backstory behind the movie, you're likely to come away thinking this is some weird exploitation art film, when really all the controversial sexual elements were simply drawn from the original source material. That's not saying it isn't an artsy fartsy flick tryin' to make a statement, but that has less to do with the direction, and more to do with the comic book it was based upon. There's also a lot of surrealism swirling about it, both in terms of the viewer's inability to ever be completely certain how much of what they're seeing is real and how much is a dream, but also the overall bizarre aura that hangs in the air like a fart in an airtight panic room. And honestly, that strange, intangible quality actually helps to detract a little bit from the somewhat subpar acting of the main character. Everything's just so unsettling that you almost don't notice the little problems, and even when you do they slip from your mind rather quickly because you end up getting drawn in, despite the fact that the pacing is a little slow. It's difficult to describe exactly what I mean, though. In terms of the atmosphere, I'd liken it to a watered down Phantasm. You've really gotta just watch this one to figure out whether or not it's for you, cause it's difficult to describe in ways that would normally help someone determine whether or not to see it. I think it's fairly well made, but it's not one I particularly cared for due a lack of action. However, I could see fans of cerebral horror potentially enjoying it quite a bit.
Anyway, let's crack the whip on this thing an see what kinda red marks crop up. The plot is really what makes or breaks the movie, depending upon your point of view. If an atmospheric, supernatural story that unfolds in a somewhat tedious fashion with very little action appeals to you, you could well say that the movie has a great premise. I, however, would prefer to see some heads roll, and thus wasn't particularly keen on it. It's not that it's boring, just not really my thing. The acting is a little difficult to gauge, as we're talking about an Italian flick with the standard subpar dubbing. Carroll Baker did her lines in English of course, but everyone else in the cast will have been speaking Italian. When you don't speak the language, it makes assessing someone's acting prowess pretty much impossible. That said, Carroll Baker is pretty good as the creepy middle aged lesbian, and it's kinda neat seeing George Eastman not made up to look like somebody set his face on fire and had to beat out the flames with a cheese grater. As for the rest of the cast, eh, I think they'd be best summed up as the "breast" of the cast, cause that's why most of them are there, and they get the job done. Ely Galleani is one fine, foxy lady, even if they don't let 'er talk much. Here's who matters and why: Carroll Baker (Skeletons, Bloodbath, The Fourth Victim), George Eastman (Metamorphosis 1990, Delirium, The Barbarians, Endgame: Bronx lotta finale, 2019: After the Fall of New York, Warriors of the Wasteland, Ironmaster, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Absurd, Porno Holocaust, Sexy Nights of the Living Dead, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper), Ely Galleani (Damned in Venice, Naked Massacre, A Lizard in Woman's Skin), Angela Covello (Torso, Damned in Venice, So Sweet So Dead), Carla Mancini (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Autopsy, Beyond the Door, Lover of the Monster, The Hand that Feeds the Dead, Flesh for Frankenstein, Terror of the Living Dead, Death Smiles on a Murderer, The Lady in Red Kills Seven Times, The Dead Are Alive, All the Colors of the Dark, The Devil's Lover, Night of the Damned, Web of the Spider, Black Belly of the Tarantula, Asylum Erotica), Lorenzo Piani (Deep Red, The Exorcist: Italian Style, Eyeball), Ian Danby (Absurd), Corrado Farina (They Have Changed Their Face), Michele Mirabella (The Beyond, Demons 2). Carroll Baker, once upon a time, actually had what you might call a promising mainstream career, and would probably be best known as Ilse in The Game (1997), Eve Prescott in How the West Was Won, and Luz Benedict II in Giant (1956). Wonder who she pissed off.
The special effects, well, this is embarrassing, seems like they forgot to include those. Seriously, for a movie from 1973 (the year of The Exorcist), this movie has practically nothing to offer in the way of repulsive glopola that the Italians are famous for. No intestinal tug-of-war, no brain goo dribblin' outta the skull cap, no heads bein' launched through the air like patriot missiles, nothin'. Maybe a couple whip lacerations and some blood on a hat pin. Positively pathetic. Corrado Farina aughta be ashamed of himself. The shooting locations are pretty dull too. Not much in the way of European architecture to admire since most of the shots take place indoors, and most of those are pretty lame as well. The only set worth a damn is Carroll Baker's house, which does have a lot of neat antiques spread around it like she knocked over a Medieval Times and made off with their props. Beyond that though, forget it. Movie could've been shot just about anywhere by the looks of it. Fact is, just looking at it, if not for the IMDB I wouldn't be able to tell whether it was shot in France or Italy (the movie was a joint venture). Course, that's not too surprising, for all I know the difference could be as subtle as the United States versus Canada. The soundtrack is a little strange before you even realize what the movie is about, and even stranger once you do. The movie actually starts out a decidedly funkified 70s guitar medley that's not only really dated, but pretty out of place once the general theme of the flick comes into focus. But it's so out of place that it tends to add to the surrealism and isn't as obnoxious is you might expect, even when it plays again later in the movie. Which isn't to say that it's a great track, but you'd really expect it to be a serious detriment, and once the movie's over you hardly even remember it. The rest of the soundtrack is done with a piano, and does help to create a bit of mood here and there. I'm not sure what the name of the piece they recycled multiple times was, but it sounded very similar to the tune Bruce Campbell plays on the piano during the opening flashback sequence in Evil Dead II. So the soundtrack is okay, but not really all that beneficial or detrimental. Most of the atmosphere is created by the acting/dialog of Carroll Baker anyway, so no harm, no foul. Overall, if you're looking for something a little different with a lot of melons and a complete lack of mutilation, you might try this one out. But if you're not into flicks hoping to dazzle you with attempted depth, I'd pass.