BABA YAGA (1973) (Blu-ray)
Director: Corrado Farina
Blue Underground

Based on a popular adult comic strip by Milan artist Guido Crepax, BABA YAGA attempted to bring his popular creation – the character of Valentina – to the big screen. Director Corrado Farina did numerous short films and documentaries, but only did one other feature besides this one; 1971's THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR FACE with Adolfo Celi as a corporate vampire.

Valentina (French actress Isabelle De Funès) is a fashion photographer who one night in the street meets a mysterious woman named Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker). Valentina seems frightened by her, but at the same time is fascinated with Baba who visits her apartment the next morning and puts her predatory mark on her camera by caressing it. Valentina then stops by the woman's antique house to take photos, discovering such oddities as a large whole in the floor covered only by a rug. Baba gives the girl a disturbing baby doll of a woman dressed in fetish S&M gear, and when she takes it home, strange things occur. Every time Valentina snaps a pic, people end up hurt in some fashion, and the little doll periodically becomes a full-size living woman.

BABA YAGA is indeed a bizarre, trippy film which is very Avant Garde in its ideals. Director Farina takes inspiration from the comic original by making the actors look like their illustrated characters (Valentina was originally modeled after silent movie star Louise Brooks), using comic book frame art and other innovative editing techniques as well. Veteran star Baker (who had already done a number of Italian erotic thrillers for Umberto Lenzi) plays it unglamorous for a change, with the modern witch Baba Yaga appearing thin, pale and ghost-like, and she yields a very understated performance. Italian horror regular George Eastman (who here looks amazingly like a 1970s era John Entwistle from The Who) is Valentina's adoring love interest, a television commercial director. Somewhat a throwback to 1960s pop art mod, BABA YAGA is a visually superior, but sometimes pretentious film filled with eroticism and odd dreams featuring Nazis, lesbianism, and kinky sadism.

Previously issued on DVD by Blue Underground in 2003, they are now revisiting the title with this Blu-ray release. The film has been newly transferred from pristine vault materials and in High Definition, thus delivering a scrumptious presentation. The 1080p HD resolution transfer is anamorphic and in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The source element is in remarkable shape with excellent detail and mostly brilliant colors (only hints of film grain in dark scenes). The DTS-HD mono soundtrack is smooth and free of any problems, and it’s playable in either English or Italian (both post-synced affairs). Optional subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish and English for the Italian language version.

The featurettes from the 2003 DVD have been carried over here, including a 22-minute video interview with director Farina that's in Italian with English subtitles. Obviously enthusiastic about this project, he explains how he made the film after his dissatisfaction with other big screen comic adaptations of the time. He also gives us tidbits about the production, including the fact that Anne Heywood was originally cast in the lead, but quickly exited to be in TRADER HORN. There is also 10 minutes of deleted/alternate footage (featuring a whacked-out graveyard scene and brief full-frontal shots from Baker and De Funés), an international theatrical trailer, a poster/still gallery, and "Freud in Color" – a short documentary on Guido Crepax and comic art. The last supplement lets you view a comic book-to-film comparison. (George R. Reis)