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Image Entertainment presents
The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (Le Sadique Baron Von Klaus) (1962)

"I saw that the shadow from the swamps had started killing again--killing and torturing!"
- Elisa Von Klaus (Maria Frances)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 16, 2001

Stars: Howard Vernon, Anne Astor, Gogo Robins
Other Stars: Turia Nelson, Georges Rolin, Paula Martel, Fernando Delgado
Director: Jess Franco

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, sadomasochistic abuse, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:35m:12s
Release Date: October 30, 2001
UPC: 014381910629
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+B+D+ C-

DVD Review

Shortly after completing his first notable horror picture, The Awful Dr. Orloff, Jess Franco turned to a more extreme subject, involving misogyny and cruelty to an even greater extent. The film is, according to the credits, based upon a story by David Khune, but that is just one of the dozens of Franco pseudonyms, and no such story actually exists.

Elisa Von Klaus (Maria Frances) lays dying in the family castle, attended by her brother, Max (Howard Vernon). Her son Ludwig (Hugo Blanco) returns home and is informed of the family curse: 500 years earlier, the first Baron Von Klaus had been a deranged sadistic killer, and his characteristics have run in the family. Already, young women have turned up mutilated by an ancient curved dagger of Damascus steel. Working to solve the crimes are Commissioner Borowsky (Georges Rollin) and journalist Karl Steiner (Fernando Delgado). But can they find the killer before the death toll mounts? Has the curse returned to the family, or is someone else using the legend to hide their own guilt?

Although much of the early part of the film is rather talky and uneventful, Franco makes up for it with a nasty and chilling dungeon sequence in the final third of the picture. Containing nudity, whipping, chains and torture, this scene never could have played in the US in 1962, and this DVD marks the picture's first release in America. Misogynistic and nasty, Klaus also has an eerie Gothic air that will appeal to fans of more traditional horror.

As the keepcase notes, there are a number of elements of the Italian giallo present here, such as the killer seen only by fedora and a pair of black leather gloves. The key points of psychosexual derangement and serial murder and mutilation are also present here. Franco also leavens the mix with some slightly coarse humor, such as a comic concierge who stammers uncontrollably through his police interview, or Karl's clumsy attempts to evade Max while breaking into the Von Klaus castle. These moments are not quite overdone, and help keep the proceedings from getting too heavy.

Howard Vernon is intense as usual, with those large and expressive eyes giving him an air of utter menace. Delgado does a good job as the cynical reporter for Maidens & Murderers Weekly Magazine, playing nicely off Georges Rollin's rumpled police commissioner. The women are mostly ciphers, however, around to look good and be killed.

Franco uses the entire 'scope frame much of the time; his compositions have characters at extreme ends on numerous occasions. This picture would have played horribly in a pan-and-scan version. As is typical in a Franco film, there are gorgeous moments amongst the mayhem. One of these is the shot of the police walking through the trees at the end; with the mist the scene appears quite otherworldly. The musical score features ample classical and jazz piano, as well as some unidentifiable sounds that evoke piano strings being played by a guitar pick. The music is highly effective and moody, rendering a great deal of the success that this picture holds.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen image looks fabulous for the most part. The black & white cinematography comes across nicely with strong blacks and a wide palette of grays. There are a few speckles and scratches at the reel changes, but overall this movie looks fabulous; it certainly doesn't look 40 years old. There was some visible ghosting that appears to be an interlacing artifact, which keeps this from an A- grade.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original French soundtrack is included in 1.0 mono. While the dialogue sounds fine, the track is plagued by crackle, noise and hiss. The music often sounds highly distorted, as if it were recorded at far too high a level. I would venture to guess that this is as good as this film is likely to sound without a major restoration effort.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Alternate footage of dungeon sequence
Extras Review: In addition to the French trailer (which unfortunately lacks English subtitles), there is a segment of a little under two minutes that features the cut version of the dungeon sequence. Although there is a little bit of nudity present, all of the violence is gone. Obviously, anyone who saw this version must have felt pretty cheated. Chaptering is good, with an ample 18 stops.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

A somewhat nasty little Eurohorror mystery, shot with style and with an intriguing score. Definitely worth a look for Eurohorror fans, but mainstream folks will probably want to steer clear of the subject matter. Given the title, that most likely will take care of itself.


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