Written by: John White on January 7th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1963
Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Christopher Lee, Daliah Lavi, Tony Kendall, Ida Galli, Harriet Medin, Gustavo De Nardo, Luciano Pigozzi
DVD released: September 29th, 2005
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono German
DVD Release: EMS
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (Germany)
Retail Price: EUR 14,99
Synopsis: Kurt Menliff (Lee) has returned to his family’s mansion after being thrown out and disinherited. He had loved and left a servant girl and reduced her to suicide. On his return he finds that his brother (Kendall) has taken his inheritance and is to marry his former wife to be, Nevenka (Lavi). Despite his promises to his father, Kurt hasn’t changed – he whips his husbands’ fiancée to sexual ecstasy and torments the servants (Medin, Pigozzi), the parents of the dead girl. A night comes and Kurt is found with a knife in his throat like his victim. There is no shortage of suspects and soon the guilty consciences start to notice strange noises and Nevenka becomes convinced Kurt has returned for sadistic revenge.
The Whip and the Body benefits from the twin presences of the towering Lee and the photogenic Lavi. It shows that Bava was a great cinematographer as it is nigh perfect in terms of lighting, composition and framing. Any frame of the Whip and the Body is a work of art with elegant darkness punctuated by saturated vivid colours. The film is one of Bava’s most passionate efforts with the revenge and ghost story elements allowing for a kind of twisted love story at its centre – Lavi as the Masochist and Lee as the Sadist.
More than a ghost story, the Whip and the Body is a dark Gothic romance where the good characters of Kendall, Galli, Medin and De Nardo are incidental to the sheer interest of the irredeemable Lee and the adulterous Lavi. The story itself is slight and the film succeeds in building up the anticipation of Lee’s re-appearance with the erotic longing of Lavi. Images are simultaneously scary and sexy – when a green hand reaches at Lavi from the dark it could kill or undress her.
I don’t know if Bava made a better film than the Whip and the Body, possibly only Lisa and the Devil is more beautiful and Blood and Black lace is more effective. A great film.
This release from German company E-M-S is a huge improvement on the old VCI disc. The picture is anamorphic and the film is no longer in two parts. The print is more vibrant and the transfer whilst not perfect is a huge improvement with all scenes being sharp and well defined. Some feel the colours could be more vivid and that the opening scene is clumsily cut together.
The sound has wide variation with four major pops and some distortion throughout. The disc boasts German, Italian and English sound with German subtitles. It is a good English dub and if it is not Lee’s voice it is someone doing a very good impersonation.
The disc carries the Tim Lucas commentary from the VCI disc, alternate titles, three trailers, biographies and filmographies. the disc comes with slipcase and liner notes in German on the film.
This is a marvellous improvement on the previous releases, the print will probably not be beaten although more continuous elements could be found to avoid the occasional jumpiness in the film. This is a must buy for Italian Horror fans.