Directors: Andrea Bianchi and Mario Bianchi [no relation]
Severin Films

Just when it looked like all hope was lost, that all of the sleazy bottom-of-the-barrel Eurocult exploitation relics had been unleashed on the digital world, Severin Films steps up to the plate and delivers one of the most anticipated trash titles of the genre, MALABIMBA, and its quite unnecessary remake, SATAN’S BABY DOLL. Unfortunately neither film really delivers its reputed goods, but of the pair, MALABIMBA is at least worth a look thanks to its director’s go-for-broke style; avoid SATAN’S BABY DOLL like the plague.

Following a séance in the decrepit family home of a wilting high society dame and her two sons (recently widowed Andrea and his paralyzed brother, confined to his bed while his sexpot wife Nais pursues any man in her path), the evil spirit of a long-dead relative possesses Andrea’s innocent daughter, Bimba. In the grand tradition of Linda Blair, Bimba develops a potty mouth, embarrasses her family at a party by flashing her naughty bits to the guests, and…well, perhaps not following in Blair’s footsteps, begins peeping on Nais’ sexual liaisons, dry humps her stuffed bear before stabbing its crotch out and replacing it with a phallic candle, and even becomes so horny she French kisses her father and gives a hummer to her shocked invalid uncle! It takes a while for the family to put the pieces together, but eventually Bimba’s resident tutor, Sister Sofia, must sacrifice her body and her soul to save her endangered ward.

Like many Italian directors of the 1970s, Andrea Bianchi started out relatively restrained in the exploitation industry. Debuting with a very good thriller, WHAT THE PEEPER SAW, and continuing with the rather average CRY OF A PROSTITUTE, it was with STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER that Bianchi began to show signs of a taste for nastiness in his films. Only a couple of years later, he made MALABIMBA, perhaps his most tantalizing and excessive trash classic. However, it’s really not as outrageous as many would have you believe. Sure, there is plenty of over-the-top dialogue, wanton sexuality in the form of bizarre-looking Patrizia Webley (with the best breasts in Italian erotic cinema), and surprising atmosphere in the crumbling castle location chosen for the film. But there are really only a few sequences in the film that will feed anyone’s craving for trashy delights, such as a violent sex scene between Webley and Giancarlo Del Duca and the forced lesbian scene between Bimba and Sister Sofia. All of the hardcore sex is of the insert variety, though star Katell Laennec (a strange and pretty unattractive choice for the lead) does appear in the same shot with a partially erect penis. In fact, said scene would probably be the film’s “highlight”, if you can call it that, as Bianchi, in typical fashion, pushes the envelope with how low he can go. MALABIMBA’s no Eurosleaze masterpiece, but has enough interesting moments worth renting to see. And if the music sounds familiar, you may be interested to know that composer Berto Pisano simply recycled his score from the infinitely better DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER.

Whether you like MALABIMBA or not, don’t even bother with SATAN’S BABY DOLL. What to say about this film? It’s a pretty close remake of MALABIMBA by the producer of that film, who for one reason or another thought the material was worth revisiting. Another kinda pretty girl is possessed, this time by the spirit of her murdered mother, and wreaks havoc on her household, including her sadistic father, her invalid uncle, and the resident nun, once again played by Mariangela Giordano (looking even better in her nude scenes here than several years earlier). Where MALABIMBA at least had a few memorable moments, all BABY DOLL has going for it is an atmospheric location and Giordano’s eye-popping nude scenes (possibly the best-looking 45-year-old woman to disrobe on-camera). Instantly forgettable and ridiculous to the extreme, there is little entertainment value to be found here, and it would be criminal to devote any more space here to it. Only the most die-hard bad movie connoisseurs need apply. The poster is easily more memorable than the film.

Never released in the U.S., theatrically or on video, both films have been remastered from original Italian vault materials to look their absolute best. SATAN’S BABY DOLL (anamorphic widescreen at 1.66:1) fares better, with a crisper overall image and little to no print damage. MALABIMBA (anamorphic widescreen at 1.85:1) features several sequences with white lines and print debris, but is for the most part sharp and colorful. Both films are presented in their original Italian language with English subtitles, and both tracks are defect-free.

Supplementary material for MALABIMBA includes an assortment of deleted scenes from a poor VHS source, which look to have been excised to make room for the tacky hardcore inserts in the present version. The most interesting are extended appearances by the psychic responsible for the spirit’s return (her lips look like earthworms!), and some are so brief that they really don’t have any effect on the finished film, but it’s good to have them here. Additionally, the viewer has the option to watch the film with these scenes incorporated back into the movie, called “the Integral Version”. It’s unfortunate that Severin thought that an Integral Version of MALABIMBA was a priority when the same concept wasn’t provided for their release of Fulci’s classic PERVERSION STORY, which could have integrated scenes missing from that version seamlessly as done here. “Malabimba Uncovered” is a brief documentary interviewing actress Mariangela Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa, discussing the film’s locations, working with Andrea Bianchi (strangely absent from the disc), Patrizia Webley, and Katell Laennec, the film being re-edited into a hardcore version, and some rather uncomfortable moments during shooting. A theatrical trailer does a good job pushing the sexually explicit aspects of the film.

Even a turd like SATAN’S BABY DOLL features some extras discussing the making of the movie. Director Mario Bianchi (no relation to Andrea) is interviewed in the featurette “Exorcism of Baby Doll”, and talks about his entry into the film business, being tapped by producer Gabriele Crisanti to shoot BABY DOLL, and his memories of actress Mariangela Giordano and Jacqueline Dupre.
(Casey Scott)