Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme


Whilst working in Milan, fashion photographer Valentina Rosselli (Isabelle De Funès) finds herself drawn into the dark realm of an aristocratic lesbian witch called Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker). Baba Yaga puts a hex on Valentina’s camera which results in models snapped through its lens dying. Valentina is also given a semi-naked S&M doll clad in leather and chains, which is brought to life via Valentina’s eroticised fantasies. Pretty soon Valentina is experiencing a number of hallucinatory daydreams that involve German military officers from WWI and WWII, (a scene involving a US Union cavalry’s pursuit of a semi-clad squaw in a cemetary was deleted but is included as an extra, lesbianism, and a whipping at the hands of the resurrected doll (Ely Galleani). Based upon the fetishistic S&M adventures of "Valentina" by Guido Crepax in the 60s, BABA YAGA is, perhaps, the closest a film has come to capturing the aura of an adult comic strip, sans animation. Director Corrado Farina transposes overexposed photographs of the actors for comic book illustrations to give the impression of dual realities in several scenes, and utilizes jump cuts, close-ups, and soft-focus backgrounds to concentrate on the subjects that add to its comic-book feel.

Fans of the original strip may feel that Valentina isn’t as sexually empowered as the comic book original, and in an accompanying interview on the DVD Farina admits that Elsa Martinelli (BLOOD AND ROSES and HATARI!) was the original choice for the role. Nevertheless, this particular tale involving the attempted seduction of a virginal-like Valentina would appear more suited to a younger actress, and adds emphasis to the power balance between the two protagonists. Equally apt is the casting of Carroll Baker as Baba Yaga, who manages to convey both the essence of a conniving crone and sensual seducer rather well. A censored scene (included on the DVD as an extra, together with interview comments from the director) shows a 42 year old Baker disrobing in front of her young protégé confirming her sexuality was anything but latent, and her performance possibly inspired Radley Metzger’s casting of the aristocratic dominatrix Claire (Marilyn Roberts) in THE IMAGE (1975).

It’s interesting to note that the name Baba Yaga comes from Russian folklore, and refers to the Crone, or Hag aspect of the triple goddess, (Crone, Mother, and, Maiden). Neither good nor especially evil the Crone aspect typifies the darker, dominant form of nature. Bearing that in mind it can be argued that the sexually magnetic S&M doll that Baba Yaga brings to life represents the Mother aspect, and that Valentina is the Maiden/virgin. Baba Yaga certainly wants to teach Valentina her magic and, to quote the director, “Join her as her accomplice in the underground world”.

Featuring an array of sexy costumes, beautiful models, fetishized fantasies, and power play subtexts BABA YAGA is undoubtedly more accessible in today’s enlightened world where aspects of S&M creep into almost every relationship, and Blue Underground’s release of this 1973 classic is a justifiable inclusion on the DVD shelf of every serious collector of erotic/fantasy/horror.

Carl T. Ford

 
Directed by Corrado Farina

English language
Italy / 1973 / 83 minutes
Colour

SPECIAL FEATURES
Farina and Valentina – Interview with Director Corrado Farina
Freud in Color – Guido Crepax Documentary
Theatrical Trailer
Poster & Still Gallery
Deleted and Censored Scenes
Comic Book-to-Film Comparison

A Blue Underground DVD Release
All Region / NTSC / Dolby Digital Mono / Widescreen 1.85:1 / 16/9

BABA YAGA

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