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Published by David Carter on 2015/8/16 (616 reads)
Directed by Jess Franco
Review by David Carter

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Released by Redemption/Kino Lorber
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Black & White
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Mono French/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: None
Trailer Online: Yes

Jess Franco had over two hundred films under his belt before he passed away in 2013. This body of work spanned several decades and genres and, even his fans will admit, displayed widely varying degrees of quality. Among these there are several films which are milestones of both his career and cult cinema in general and Franco has a number of films that are considered “must see” for any serious student of outré cinema. THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF, SUCCUBUS, VENUS IN FURS, and VAMPYROS LESBOS are masterpieces that blend surrealism, euro-horror, and exploitation in ways that are unforgettable.

Redemption/Kino Lorber’s latest Jess Franco Blu Ray is perhaps a lesser known Franco but one that is of particular importance in the trajectory of his career. THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS was his follow-up to ORLOFF and his second film with long-time collaborator Howard Vernon. The film can be seen as a precursor to much of his later work as it builds upon the (more tame) eroticism of ORLOFF to present a level of transgressive sexuality for which 1962 audiences would have been completely unprepared.

When a murdered girl is found in the tiny village of Holfen, the villagers’ thoughts immediately return to a similar situation in the 17th century. Baron Von Klaus had a penchant for torturing young girls from the village, so the state of the corpse leads their superstitious minds to believe the village is cursed by long-dead Baron. Detective Boro takes a far more reasonable approach to the case, and suspects that the Baron’s descendent – Max Von Klaus – knows something about the crimes. Max’s more handsome and charming brother Ludwig is lodging with him in their imposing castle and both men cooperate with Boro and snooping journalist Karl. When Max is cleared of the crime, the Von Klauses join forces with the police to root out the killer once and for all.

BARON VON KLAUS is a mixture of the high gothic genre and a modern crime film; a format Franco would return to frequently. It features the ambivalent approach to the supernatural seen in many of his films which helps further the tension since the possibility of curse is never ruled out by the film. The main reason this is an important film in Franco’s oeuvre is the torture sequence that occurs when the killer is revealed. A nude woman is whipped in graphic fashion in a way that would have unheard of in 1962 but would become Franco’s calling card in the years that followed. KLAUS’ blend of horror and eroticism was groundbreaking and it would take years for the rest of Euro-horror to catch up.

Redemption’s Franco Blu Rays have been outstanding thus far and the disc for KLAUS is no exception. They are no bonus features to speak of, but the gorgeous, uncut print of this film is strong enough to stand on its own. THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS is also notable for being the first collaboration between Franco and music director Daniel White. White’s jazzy/gothic score fits Franco’s style perfectly, and they would continue collaborating for decades.
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