Saturday, January 12, 2019

WTF Italy?!?: Baba Yaga (aka The Devil Witch)

At last, I get to explain what Fumetto is!  Today's Film is 1973's Baba Yaga, not to be confused with the about 20 Films with this Title.  Assuming you aren't Italian, this will probably news to you.  Fumetto is the Italian Version of Comic Books, only these are more marketed towards older readers and/or Adults.  Famous examples of Fumetto turned into Film include Satanik, Danger Diabolik and Barbarella.  This is based on one Story Arc in the Valentina 'Comics' from the time.  They ran from the early '60s up until 1996.  The Baba Yaga Story was released in 1971, so it was a quick turnaround to get this one into live-action.  If you don't know who Baba Yaga is, you've probably at least heard it mentioned as the nickname for John Wick in his Film.  She's actually a pretty famous witch from Slavic Folklore and very popular to adapt in that region.  There are literally TWO DIFFERENT Films about the Character set for release in Russia this Year!  This Plot involves our Heroine being targeted by the titular Witch and the chaos that unfolds.  In the whirlwind involved in getting this made, the Italian Photographer is played by a French Actress, a young woman plays the old Witch and the guy from Anthrophagus plays a romantic lead!  Yes, George Eastman- most famous for 'eating a fetus' as the Title Character- is the romantic lead here.  The guy from Porno Holocaust.  There's more insanity to share, so to find out, you must read on...
Valentina- our Title Character- is a Photographer from Milan who doesn't like Art Films, is a bit snooty in other ways and won't 'put out' for Eastman.
She runs across a dog and then a 'chance meeting' with Baba Yaga, who agrees to drive her home...and knows where her home is.

The biggest complaint is that she's miscast as 'Yaga,' but I still liked her.  No, she doesn't look much like the one in the picture above- I know.
That night, she dreams that she's forced to strip naked and jump in a hole by some Nazis...as you do.

The Director's Cameo(s) are as the SS Commander.  Yea?
She takes part in her day job- cultural appropriation.

Yes, I'm not going to get too hung up on it, given that the Film is older than me and Italian.  I still will point it out though...
Yaga starts to do weird stuff to our Heroine, for reasons that aren't clear.  She just wants her...I guess.

One method- cursing her camera to kill anyone/thing it photographs.  Sucks to be you, Hippie!
In one of the more inspired bits, she and Eastman hook up and it turns into panels right out of the Comic.  Points for that.
The Film moves at a slow and leisurely pace- even after Producers cut half an hour.

To sum up, she gets a weird doll from Baba Yaga's house and it apparently comes to life, killing her model friend.
It all leads to Valentina going to Yaga's place, agreeing to be whipped and then Eastman saving the day.  She does, at least, push Yaga into her Chekhov's Pit.
In the aftermath, none of this was real...or was it?!?  The End.
Considering all of the complexity and silliness, this one's...alright.  It's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it Film.  It's just pretentious enough to make Bob watch it, but with a bit too much nudity.  I draw the line for his stuff at boobs, as opposed to monkeys being crucified.  So here's what you need to know: this is an Adaptation of a strange, one-off story from Italy.  It's Director was not *that* experience.  It's Director was very ambitious.  It's Director had around 30 minutes cut from the Film- on the negative!  Yeah, you can't get that back!  From what I can tell, this is the ONLY Feature Film based on the Valentina Comics.  So, just imagine, a world where you only get one X-Men Film ever...and it's the one where they fight Dracula.  You only get one Superman Film and it's the one where his Robot Tutor from Krypton gets him laid (that happened).  You only get one Spider-Man Film and it stars Big Wheel!  So the Version I watched was dubbed.  I had no other option- to be clear.  As such, it's hard to truly rate the Acting.  I do kind of like the Valentina Actress, if only for her portraying wide-eyed shock and awe quite well.  The same goes for Baba Yaga, who one Critic said looked more like 'Ms. Havisham than a Witch.'  Harsh, but kind of fair.  It's definitely got its own pace and you may be bothered by that.  It also has a sweet Jazz Soundtrack and lovely views of Italy.  It's not a *great* Film, but it's a flawed attempt at brilliance.  That said, this is my best summary of the Film as a whole...
Next time, will an Oscar-winning Actor regret coming back for one Film.  Will this forgotten Film be a blessing or a sin?  Stay tuned...

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