The Haunted Film of Mario Bava: Kill, Baby, Kill

Released in 1966 by Mario Bava, Kill, Baby, Kill, is a fantastic horror set in a Carpathian village.  Despite its ridiculous American title (the original being, Operazione paura) which conjures images of a c-grade slasher, the film is a surprising mix of an old-fashioned ghost story with dashes of surrealism.

The film begins as a woman leaps to her death onto a spiked fence.  Then a child’s mocking laughter is heard as the opening credits roll.

 An outsider, Dr. Paul Eswai, is summoned to perform the autopsy.  He quickly befriends a young nurse, Monica Shuftan, who only recently arrived at the village, herself.   She reveals having been born there, but sent away when orphaned at two years.  “I came to visit my parents’ graves,” she tells him.


The two quickly learn that the villagers fear a ghost child named Melissa.   Legend goes that anyone who sees the malevolent spirit will kill themselves


 The scientifically-minded doctor scoffs at the notion of a curse, while the more emotional, but sensible Monica realizes that science can’t explain the odd deaths which have plagued the village for twenty years.

Along with the pile of bodies all found with coins in their hearts, is the mysterious presence of the black-robed Ruth.   

     When a teen-aged girl claims to have seen the ghost, her petrified mother cries for her husband to seek help from the witch.  But when he opens the door to do so, she is already standing at the threshold.   “We know when someone is in harm’s way.”

 When Paul arrives, he is aghast to witness what he considers Ruth’s arcane healing methods.  And further, he ignores her warnings to leave the village.   Instead, he continues to search for rational answers and save the ailing Nadienne.

 Meanwhile, Monica is plagued by a doll-filled nightmare that suggests there’s more to her past in connection with the village than even she is aware..   

 As the plot deepens, Monica, Paul, and Ruth find their way to the home of the Baroness Graps, the reclusive mother of the ghost child.  Two are seeking the truth.  One, is looking for retribution.


Not as well known as Bava’s sublime, Black Sunday, this film is every bit as worth a view.   Interesting camera angles and dazzling colors create a highly atmospheric mood.   An intelligent script converts some of the genre’s even by then tired clichés.   Giacomo Rossi-Stuart displays solid acting as Paul, though he lacks the charisma necessary to elevate the role from merely the “good guy”. 

     It is the women of this film that the camera loves.  Erika Blanc is effective as Monica, and even drab clothes can’t hide her charms.  The haunting Fabienne Dali (Ruth) steals every scene she’s in.  And of course, there’s always Melissa and her devoted mother…

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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I LOVE this film. There’s a really beautiful sense of space in the cinematography – not quite as prominent as in his early films, where the camera would seem to float around, but truly a master at work. The bit about women being focused on is important, as Bava really did love his actresses.

  2. This sounds really good, and far better than would normally be seen in horror/ghost movies of the time. I had the strangest sense of deja vu when I saw the photo of the little blond girl, I feel like I saw it somewhere else just recently but now I can’t remember where. :-/

  3. Oh this sounds interesting. I’m going to ask Hubby to put it on his Netflix queu

  4. Hey BigWords, so nice to hear from someone else who loves this film. I’d seen Black Sunday and Black Sabbath as a kid, but it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered his other films and have become a big fan. There’s a unique touch to his work.

    And yes, I’ve noticed that with his female characters. They don’t seem to exist in the films merely to kill or be killed.

  5. I do think you might like it, DD. While not as sharply written as I think it would be today, it’s a smart film especially for its time. And has some nifty, unique features. Another thing I love is that the dark-haired, black-robed Witch is *good*. That was so rare back then, so muchly appreciated by me. 🙂

  6. Lyra, it’s in the public domaine, so you can watch it for free. 🙂

    here’s a link:

  7. I’ll have to go what this now

  8. Hey there Mr. Knowledge,

    let me know what you think of it.

  9. Hi Tasha, the way you have describe this film now make me want to watch it if I can get a hold of it, because you truly pull me in!

    The title I had to smile when reading it but I like it, lol. It tells me already it will be lot of blood and perhaps screaming. Also I had to smile because of the doctor. It is so typical of a man to want to just believe in science and not into any type of supernatural reason. Great post!

  10. Haha, I just seen you posted the link above in a comment. I am going to watch this later today!

  11. Hey Lpra!

    Love your new avatar. 🙂

    And thank you! Glad you liked the post.

    My problem with the title is that it’s actually not bloody or gory at all. So someone expecting a gore film might be very disappoined, and someone who hates gore might mistakenly avoid it.

    I laughed at your comment. Yeah,, there’s always the chatacter who just won’t believe, no matter what kookoo for cocoa puffs is going on around them. And that character does tend to be a male one, though sometimes they do switch it around like on the X-files.

  12. Thanks, I ain’t no baby no more, LOL 😀
    Yes I see now what you meant by the title. I watched most of the film yesterday and finish it up this morning. Your definitely right. Barely any blood but tons of screaming, lol.

    LOL, I love the X-file. Molar believed and Scully did not than toward the ending of the season she believed. I miss that show. Molar was one of my husband back than even though I am sure I am saying and spelling his name wrong, LOL.

    Is this film originated language German? It reminds me of watching some German movies and English words are thrown in. I heard Herr and Burgermeister and started to laugh to myself. I had to rewind to make sure my brain did not switch to German mode on it own, LOL.

    The film was nice though, not too bad. I just thought the witch knew the person who aid in causing the death and did not stop it until someone who she was close to died. Yes, I understand a promise but sometime promise need to be broken when it arms another. Overall good movie and nice to see Youtube have some nice movies to watch.

  13. I think too fast and fingers are too slow to catch up. Above last paragraph should say: I just thought it was a bit dissappointed that the witch knew the person who aid in causing the death and did not stop all the killing until someone who she was close to died.

  14. Well to be fair, the other woman was the stronger of the two. I think it was only towards the end that the Witch realized or accepted what she would have to do to defeat her.

    *giggle* That happens to me, too. The whole, “is this German or English” that I’m listening to? It’s weird how that happens.

    The film was originally in Italian. I think they used some German words for atmosphere.

  15. But was she really;)

  16. Sounds just like my cup of tea! Thanks for the rec and the link.

  17. You’re very welcome, Diane. 🙂

  18. Lantern jaw heroes. Can’t have a Hollywood classic without it.

  19. Hee hee. I like that description, Ralfast. 🙂

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