A Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril) Movie Review

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus

Reviewed by Yik Yakker

OK, it's about time I did something constructive around here, so below is my last GIMP movie review for 2009.

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus

This early Jess Franco work (1962) was banned or heavily edited in many countries, so when it was restored to its entirety and released on DVD, I looked into it. Stills from the flick promised at least one naked woman whipped and hung AOH in a castle dungeon, so I gave it a try.

Plot: Villagers in the modern-day hamlet of Holfen, Germany, believe a centuries-old curse hangs over the men of the aristocratic von Klaus lineage. They are thought to have been responsible for the capture and murder of many young female residents. So when naked dead women start to appear, the cops suspect the current Baron (played by Franco stalwart Howard Vernon) is the killer. But could it be the heir-apparent, his prissy-faced nephew and internationally renowned pianist, newly arrived in town with his fiance to visit his dying mother? Or someone else altogether? And what about that dungeon in the castle basement?

This is the first Franco movie I've seen that is not beset by weird camera work and artsy-fartsy crap; it’s a conventional mystery/thriller. But GIMPwise, it doesn't deliver the goods. One problem is that to preserve the mystery until late in the movie, Franco hides the villain in the shadows. We never see any villain/victim interaction (such as torture or nastiness), just the bodies piling up. It’s well past the one-hour mark before anything happens in the dungeon, and even that’s disappointing.

The younger von Klaus has a night-time rendezvous with his secret lover, a voluptuous tavern wench (Gogo Robins). He chloroforms her, takes her to the dungeon, lays her on a bed and strips her down to the panties. Maybe it’s the chloroform talking, but the damsel offers feeble resistance when she awakens. “You're the killer,” she moans, and he says “No, I don't think so – I don't know”. She half believes him, and offers little resistance to his amorous groping. He then grabs a bullwhip and flails away as she squirms on the bed.

All the while, a furiously loud piano piece is playing in the background, drowning out the sounds of the whipping and any screaming that might be occurring. Even when he shackles her face-down on the bed, she does not make any attempt to escape. Finally he ties her wrists AOH to a pillar, with her feet untied. Only the bottom part of her legs and bare feet are shown as he apparently stabs her with a long blade. The rest of the flick involves the discovery of the barmaid’s body, the chase and final scene in the swamps.

Movie pluses: Not a bad murder-mystery flick. Robins has a near-perfect, natural body and her squirming looks very nice while she’s being whipped.

Movie minuses: Not very sadistic. Only one GIMP scene, spoiled by an intrusive soundtrack and a victim who seems unable to decide how to react to having been chloroformed, taken to a dungeon and stripped by a guy who can't decide if he’s a serial killer or not. Probably best viewed with the sound off and an active imagination.

Apparently this was salacious stuff in 1962. But unless you're a film student or a Franco zealot, you would do better with any number of flicks mentioned in the GIMP review section.

My Grade: D+


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