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…

Novel Update: Finished!

music playing:  Dvorak’s New World Symphony

The last few days I’ve been mostly offline as I revised (again!) and edited the last fifty-odd pages of my novel.   

 Now I can officially announce that on July 1, 2009  at 22:52 ,  I typed the words:  The End.  (I never typed those words on any of the drafts.  I wanted to save them for the final one)

Then I nearly fainted.  

This novel that I’ve been working on for so long- endless drafts, revisions, editing- is done.   Now all I have to do is wait to get feedback from my betas on these final chapters.  Meanwhile,  I’ll be working on my query letter and researching agents.

The realization that it was truly done,  hit when I took  my evening bath.  The last few weeks, no matter how nice and comfy I might have been soaking in the hot bubbles, I’d hear my characters screaming,  “Hurry up!  Get out of there and come finish writing our story!   You know you need to write more before we’ll let you go to sleep!”

Well, tonight- everything was eerily quiet.  (my mind isn’t used to quiet)  None of my characters called to me.  They’re satisfied.  Their story is done.

Portraits of the Living: A Ghost Story




Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 1:16 am  Comments (29)  
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Editing: Oh, those Goofy Goofs

music playing: Loreena Mckennitt’s, “The Highwayman”

For the last couple of weeks I have been fully occupied with editing my novel, “Portraits of the Living:  A Ghost Story”.   This has mostly entailed me studying every line with the scrutiny of Holmes with his magnifying glass, sending chapters to my wonderful betas, and fixing any typos  that they found.

Which brings me to the reason of this post: those goofs you discover in your manuscript that leave you shaking your head, wondering what planet your brain had vacationed to.

Example?  In chapter five when Anne is being hypnotized by Mr. Raferat, he tells her to shut her eyes and relax.  Okay.  But then he proceeded to take out a pocket watch and tell her to follow it with her eyes.  Hmm. . .

Oh, but there’s more!  My beta (who totally rocks!  waves pompoms back at her)  alerted me to the fact that in chapter one, the servant says goodnight to Anne and turns to leave.  Anne stops her, asks her a question, and then the servant takes a key out of her apron pocket and unlocks the guest room for  Anne.   As my beta put it,  “why did she start to walk away if she had to unlock the door for Anne?”  Uhm, uh yeah.  Very good question.

Okay.  Fess up.  What goofy goofs have you, or someone else, discovered in one of your manuscripts?

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 11:46 pm  Comments (22)  
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The Innocents: A Masterwork of Psychological Horror

  The Innocents   (1961)

The Innocents is a near-faithful adaption of Henry James’s classic Victorian ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.    Intelligently directed by Jack Clayton, the film boasts  exquisite black&white cinematography, a haunting musical score, subtle chills, and sensitive acting.  

 Deborah Kerr stars as the repressed spinster Miss Giddons, who is hired by The Uncle (Michael Redgrave) to care for his young nephew and niece at an isolated country mansion while he remains in London.  Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin portray the eerily charming children, Miles and Flora, who may, or may not be, possessed by the malevolent spirits of Miss Jessel and Quint.

Darkly lit and filled with fleeting images- memorable scenes include: Flora waltzing in the gazebo as Miss Jessel watches from the middle of the lake where she floats upon lily pads.   The ghost of Quint terrorizing Miss Giddons during a game of hide and seek.  And never was a child more chilling than Miles with  his simple words,  “It was only the wind, my dear.”