She’ll Cast a Spell on You – Baba Yaga (1973)

Baba Yaga is an Italian/French co-production released in 1973 based upon a comic book, namely Guido Crepax’s Valentina. Like all films based upon comic books, whether new or old, they never strictly adhere to the original material and nobody should ever expect them too. Some things simply do not translate to the screen as they should which will always call for changes and the fact that people get angry over such changes is really quite silly. That being said, Baba Yaga does a good job at what it sets out to do, blending horror and mystery together with a dash of sex here and there to tell a story of obsession and terror.

Valentina is a photographer who has a good life filled with the best of friends and satisfying work. One night, Valentina meets a mysterious old woman who goes by the name of Baba Yaga, not realizing that she is a witch, though how she would she know that is anyone’s guess. Baba Yaga soon becomes enamoured with Valentina and starts to meddle in her affairs by hexing her camera. Soon those who get their picture taken with said camera become injured and Baba Yaga’s attentions start to intensify, at first from what might be called simple interest to something much more. Factor in a strange looking doll who comes alive and things that cannot be explained, and soon Valentina finds herself in a confrontation with the old witch that she may not walk away from.

Written and directed by Corrado Farina, Baba Yaga is a surreal affair, where anything and everything tends to happen. It begins in a fairly typical manner, but soon after Valentina meets the witch, that is when Farina starts to come into his own, not only painting the film in that muted seventies style, but taking it where it needs to go with strangely atmospheric scenes that are both imaginative and fascinating. A few such scenes are where Valentina is having what can only be described as dreams, perhaps her mind trying to make sense of what is happening to her as best she can, and they provide some of the weirdest fare to be found within. Farina also strays from normality with certain scenes where sex or eroticism come into play, instead showing them as comic strips, as if they were lifted straight from Crepax’s work. It is different and overall, makes for an utterly compelling piece of film.

Isabelle De Funès stars as Valentina, with Carroll Baker playing Baba Yaga and the two make a good pair. Baker plays the witch with gusto, making the audience believe in her desire for Valentina while De Funès does a solid job as the slightly clueless photographer who eventually figures everything out. The movie and its cast are complemented by Piero Umiliani’s wonderful score, adding to not only that surreal quality, but the horror of it all as well. It is, at the end of the day, a bizarre film, but it is a good one too and a picture that will make a person think and then want to watch it again.

3.5 out of 5

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