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June 09, 2015

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus

sadistic baron.jpg

La mano de un hombre muerto / Le Sadique Baron von Klaus
Jesus Franco - 1962
Redemption Films BD Region A

In the opening credits, The Sadistic Baron von Klaus is credited as an adaptation of a novel by David Kuhne. As pointed out by Antonio Lazaro-Reboll in his extensively researched book, Spanish Horror Film, there is no indication that Jesus Franco actually wrote any published pulp novels prior to filmmaking. The existence of David Kuhne and his novel, with the title translated as "Hand of a Dead Man" are as fictional as the baron.

One of two films made in 1962, along with The Awful Dr. Orloff, we have the earliest Franco film in the horror genre, starring frequent Franco stock company player, Howard Vernon. And for the most part, Baron von Klaus looks like a gothic horror movie from the early Sixties, albeit one in a contemporary setting. There are mysterious deaths of young women, attributed to the ghost of the original Baron, who died about five-hundred years ago. There is the young descendant of the Baron, Ludwig, who may possibly inherited madness that has infected the men of the family. Ludwig shows up just in time to see his mother taker her last breath, though not before she hands over the key to the forbidden cellar. Could Uncle Max be the killer? Howard Vernon looks creepy enough to be the probable killer. Ludwig seems like a nice, clean-cut kid, especially with his cute fiancee, Karine, but there is something odd about a guy who shows up at the family castle wearing a black leather coat and pants. Without giving too much away, there is no ghost, but the killer couldn't be more obvious than when he tells his lover, "I love you to death", and, "I'm crazy about you".

It's all fairly standard stuff until a little more than an hour in the the film when the restaurant proprietor, played by Ana Castor, gets ready to go the bed, letting the audience take a nice gander at her garters and stockings while she pulls her dress over her head. For SeƱor Jess, he's just warming up. Going beyond what was usually seen even in most "adult" films of the time, is a scene in the basement with near nudity, whipping, some mild sadomasochism, and the delight of a female treated to oral sex. In other words, the kind of stuff of the Jesus Franco we know and love.

Even without kink and eroticism, there is some very nice wide screen black and white imagery. At it's best Franco makes use of light and darkness, especially in a night time chase scene, where cinephile Jesus includes one canted angle, because he's probably seen The Third Man several times. There is also one very long shadow stretching across the screen, of a woman walking alone on the small town street at night.

I would have to assume that budgetary constraints kept Franco from matching shots. In one scene taking place out doors during a winter night, it's snowing on one character, but not on the other. The film was presumably shot with most of the actors speaking Spanish. The French dubbing of this version is most off-kilter in an early scene of singing revelers. Someone also misspelled the name on the family crypt as Klous. I wish Redemption had been able to port over some of the elements from the Image DVD - the English dubbing, as well as the collection of alternate shots and outtakes. What I got from revisiting The Sadistic Baron von Klaus on blu-ray was a greater visual sense of the textures of stone walls, wooden floors, and the leaf covered swamp, said to be the home of the first, cursed, baron.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 9, 2015 08:15 AM