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  Baba Yaga Can You See The Witch?
Year: 1973
Director: Corrada Farina
Stars: Carroll Baker, George Eastman, Isabelle De Funès, Ely Galleani, Daniela Balzaretti, Mario M. Giorgetti, Sergio Masieri, Angela Covello, Cesarina Amendola, Mario Paolo Giordani, Carla Mancini, Giorgio Pellizone, Lorenzo Piani, Natalie E. Spelptzow
Genre: Horror, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: An American Indian girl is fleeing from some cowboys through a graveyard, and as they are about to strike their leader is gunned down by her countrymen. But this is no flashback to the days of the Wild West, it is a student demonstration which is broken up by the arrival of the police, and trendy photographer Valentina Rosselli (Isabelle De Funès) is there to snap a few pictures before they flee. They split up and some end up at one apartment with her, though after a while she grows impatient to go home to her apartment and studio, in spite of the protests of Arno Treves (George Eastman) - but she might have been better to stay with him...

Especially with a witch stalking the night, the sorceress of the title, Baba Yaga. Drawn from the adult comic strip by Guido Crepax, who had fashioned the character around a Russian folk tale, this was only one of two narrative feature films made by director Corrada Farina, who feeling as he did like a hip and happening chap in the early seventies, saw this effort as a ringing endorsement of feminism. Certainly Valentina was a modern woman with her own job, apartment and pick of the men who crossed her path, but there was rather too much of the exploitation of her character to be wholly convincing as a striking a blow for womankind.

That's not to say that Farina did not include much in the way of politics, because there is an element of that, mostly of the conversational kind though nothing too heavy, which may or may not be a disappointment depending on your interest in the social climate of the age. We can tell that Valentina is a consciousness-raised type of girl, but along comes someone to stop her in her tracks and it's not some boorish male, it's the mystery woman she meets in the night. She is Baba Yaga, played by Carroll Baker, who may have been getting on a bit in the sexpot starlet stakes, but that did not stop her disrobing for a surprising full frontal in one seduction sequence late on.

Actually, Baker did not appear that much, relegated to a sinister figure seen in dreams - or nightmares - and occasionally showing up in Valentina's real life as well, to offer her the odd gift. Very odd, as she gives her a doll dressed up in fetish gear and apparently curses her camera, which when it takes a photo of someone the person in the picture keels over dead or at least not feeling very well. The doll has a sercet of its own, as when strange things have been happening for a couple of days, Valentina discovers that some of the images she has captured show the doll is in fact a woman, Annette (Ely Galleani), who appears when nobody is looking. Well, not until the grand finale, at any rate.

All the while commercials director Arno attempts to become the shutterbug's boyfriend, and it was nice to see Eastman play the dashing hero for a change, even if he was second banana for most of the running time. The film's view of lesbianism was not quite as advanced as its view of feminism, as Baba Yaga has sexual designs on Valentina which prove more twisted than wholesome, and by the end has been equated with sadomasochism, with only the love of a good man able to guide her back to the straight and narrow. In truth, before the villainess finally gets her claws into the heroine the film is a shapeless affair, dragging in apparently whatever Farina thought was relevant - including Nazis, a boxing match and a firing squad - without offering up much for the audience to focus on. As a curio from changing times, it's intriguing enough. Music by Piero Umiliani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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