Based upon the erotic comics of Guido Crepax, the film focuses on Valentina (Isabelle De Funès), a nudie-art photographer/pixie whos almost run over late one night by a mysterious, black-veiled older woman (Carroll Baker, Giant, The Carpetbaggers), who claims their meeting is preordained, steals a garter clip for the day and warns her not to forget her name: Baba Yaga, which is either baby talk, a song by The Who or a Gilda Radner character.
Little does Valentina realize that Baba Yaga is a witch not even after visiting the womans multistoried home that comes complete with built-in pit and a creepy porcelain doll named Annette, decked out in S&M gear. While there, Valentina imagines that her nude body is being violated by a pinching scorpion and pecking crow. Her dreams become plagued by nightmares of Nazis, of boxing naked against Jesus.
Worse, after Baba Yaga touches it, her camera now has clicks that kill. The tool of the young womans livelihood now means death for others!
Valentinas boyfriend (Django sequels vet George Eastman) not only doesnt believe it, but doesnt want to hear it: Now, look, you meet an old lesbian, huh? And a friend of yours gets a headache. All of a sudden, it's sorcery and witches.
She's pale. Her hands are icy.
Listen, I have an old aunt in Treviso who has two teeth like that, huh? But that doesn't make her Dracula.
And writer/director Corrado Farinas supernatural sexual suspenser never made that much of an impact, but certainly is worthy viewer for horror fans, in particular those whose tastes smack of Italian spices.
Farina makes a number of interesting choices behind the camera that bring Baba Yaga up in quality from his own so-so script. One is that while Hollywood product would milk the killer doll, he employs it with subtlety, as Annette's expressions and positions change ever so slightly, and only between shots rather than during. Valentinas discovery of Annettes true nature while developing photos is a terrifying reveal.
For another, Valentinas love scene with her boyfriend is rendered mostly as fumetti panels using overexposed black-and-white photographs, sometimes with several panels appearing onscreen at once to mirror Crepaxs comics.
I first saw Baba Yaga more than a decade ago on one of Brentwood Home Videos then-popular 10-flick themed box sets among the budget bins, under the alternate title of Kiss Me, Kill Me. Its print was dark, muddy a real detriment to Farinas work. But its only by viewing Blue Undergrounds shiny new Blu-ray release that I was able to realize by just how much. It really is almost like seeing an entirely different film.
Plus, you get a yagas worth of extras, including:
a frank interview with Farina, in which he disses the other comics adaptations of that time: Roger Vadims Barbarella, Joseph Loseys Modesty Blaise and, to a lesser degree of harshness, Mario Bavas Danger: Diabolik;
a brief documentary on Crepax, a first-rate artist whose drawings have a decorative bent and cinematic foundation (I welcomed it, as the film made me want to know more about the man, whos all but obscure on these shores); and
10 minutes of scenes both deleted (more nightmares) and censored (more Baker, literally, as in all of her, if youre into that sort of thing, and something tells me you are). Rod Lott