The Whip and the Body (1963) – By Duane L. Martin

Ok, I don’t often do this, but I’m going to use the description from Kino to describe the story in the film, because it says it better than I could.

Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) stars as Kirt Menliff, the sadistic son of a wealthy Count, who returns to the family castle, much to the dismay of his family, their servants, and the beautiful woman with whom he shares a fondness for the lash (Daliah Lavi). When Kurt is found murdered, it brings no peace to those who had feared him, as his vengeful spirit cannot be contained by the grave, and he returns to torment those unfortunate enough to remain within Menliff Manor.

Ok, so that’s the story. Now on to the review…

I know that some people may think of this as sacrillege, but I’m just not a fan of Mario Bava’s films. At least, not in general. There have been a few that I found pretty decent, but in general, I’m just not a fan, and this film is a perfect example of why.

87 minutes. That’s how long this film is, but it feels a lot longer. Redd Foxx had a joke in his stand up act years ago that said that his wife’s cooking was so bland, that after you ate it, you burp and it "don’t taste like nothin’". That’s how I feel after I watch most Mario Bava films. I forget about them as soon as they’re over, because he puts so much work into the look and style of them, that he forgets to make the characters people you can actually care about, and to put them in a story that’ll be memorable and draw the viewer in.

That’s really the biggest problem with this film. It’s so slow and boring that it feels like it’s twice as long as it actually is, and the story, as it’s portrayed, is just so unrealistic as to be laughable. Christopher Lee is a great actor, but even he couldn’t save this one, and the fact that it was all in Italian didn’t help matters. There’s an English dub as well, but I figured that for the review, I should watch it the way it was released, which was with the Italian language track. That was dubbed as well however, which only served to mask the quality of the performances even more.

One of the most ridiculous things in the film is how Christopher Lee’s character dies. He gets wrapped up in some big drapery he’s standing next to, and then suddenly he’s got a dagger in his throat. There wasn’t even anyone there! The dagger was the one he used to kill the servant’s daugher, so it was apparently some sort of a revenge thing, but the girl’s mother didn’t do it. Was it supposed to be the ghost of the girl? I have no idea. The whole thing just didn’t make any sense. Then all of a sudden, his ghost is coming back to torture people. It’s just all a mess. A slow, plodding mess.

The one good thing I can say about this film is that the sets and set design really created the proper atmosphere. Everything felt dark and gritty, and even day felt like night in that place. Creating the proper atmostphere for the story is SO important in this type of a film, and that’s the one thing it really got right.

This new release from Kino Lorber was mastered in HD from an original 35mm print. It’s default language is Italian with English subtitles, but it also comes with an English dubbed version, and a French language dub with English subtitles. There’s also audio commentary with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, the original theatrical trailer and original trailers of other Bava films.

Yes, I am completely aware that I’m probably in the minority with my feelings about this film, but I can’t help it. I went into it wanting to like it. I wasn’t looking for things to complain about, but in the end, I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. Again, there are some films from Mario Bava that I thought weren’t that bad, but this just isn’t one of them.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out the film’s page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.