Feb 1, 2015

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus

1962 Spain
Directed by: Jess Franco

The small German town of Holfen has a dark and shadowy past. A local legend tells of a sadistic Baron living outside the small town 500 years ago, killing, raping and torturing his female victims. The townspeople even say they can see the ghost of the long lost baron in the swamps surrounding the von Klaus mansion at night. The legend goes that the ancestors of von Klaus is cursed and will continue killing young women like their great grandfather.

When a young girl is found raped and murdered in their small town, and speculations quickly fall to the two remaining men of the von Klaus family; Max von Klaus and his young nephew Ludwig. The police are baffled by the sudden rash of murders and team up with Karl Steiner, an investigative reporter to track down and apprehend the deranged killer.

The film is one of the earliest outputs from director Jess Franco, most noted for his output during the 70s, for heavy surrealism and eroticism, this film is a pretty straightforward murder mystery.
The Sadistic Baron von Klaus was rather ahead of its time when it was made in 1962, showing off the classic whodunit giallo formula that would be extremely popular in Italy in the years to come.

Franco mainstay Howard Vernon stars as the titular Baron, and does a great job looking menacing through the film, though he is unfortunately underused here as his character ends up being played down in favor of the investigators. The score in the film is rather dull, standard eerie organ music and one or two more jazzy tunes pop up but on the whole the score is sadly rather unremarkable.

The film is rather tame for Franco up until the end when a rather explicit torture scene jogs the film into its final act. This final torture scene, where a young girl is graphically raped and murdered is easily the most effective scene in the film, foreshadowing Franco's later work, mixing sadistic violence with long shots of female nudity. As in many of his films, there are a lot of beautiful scenery, great sets and backdrops and the gothic shadowy atmosphere is very nice throughout the film.

Being a huge Franco fan, I rather enjoyed seeing one of his earlier films, and it's cool to see how his style evolved over the years. Nonetheless today the film is very slow paced and the plot twists seem to be very predictable and straightforward compared to more modern whodunit films.

Its a fascinating look at Franco's earlier work, but unless you're a Franco fan or avid filmbuff there is little of interest here for folks looking for slaughter and surreal eroticism ala later Franco features.

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