Baba Yaga (1973) from Johnny Web and Tuna


Contrary to your expectations, Baba Yaga is none of the following:

  • an exotic ice cream flavor
  • a guru who worked with the Beatles
  • a famous Beach Boys song
  • a cannibalistic witch in Russian children's folklore, like the evil witch in Hansel & Gretel

Well, actually it is the last one, sorta, at least that's where the name of the film came from. The Baba in this film is a witch, but doesn't appear to be either Russian or cannibalistic. This particular witch is a murderous lesbian American woman with a B&D fetish. The movie is based on a popular adult comic by the Milanese artist Guido Crepax, and I guess the comic could be considered an Italian version of Phoebe Zeitgeist. (One online source reports that Baba Yaga was a cannibal in the Crepax comics.)

The following plot summary can only be considered approximate since this is not one of those films which lends itself to an immediate grasp of its narrative. It's your basic supernatural horror film filled with dream sequences, laden with lesbian overtones and an overlaid murder mystery - pretty much like all Italian movies, except for the ones which are murder mysteries filled with dream sequences, laden with lesbian overtones and an overlay of supernatural horror.

In the first scene, a fashion photographer named Valentina (Isabelle de Funes) leaves a glamorous party. For reasons unclear to anyone but the scriptwriter, she asks her friend to drop her off about a half hour's walk from her apartment, even though it is three A.M. and she's walking through downtown Milan. This gives the director plenty of chances to shoot various Milanese street scenes of eerie nighttime beauty. More important, it gives Valentina a chance to meet Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker). Baba almost runs over a cute street puppy, but Valentina saves the puppy. Cheated of her puppy kill, Baba Yaga insists on ripping off Valentina's garter.

As near as I can determine, Baba Yaga's magical touch can create some kind of curse on an object, because when Baba comes to Valentina's apartment to return the garter and give her a doll, she seems to create some evil havoc by touching Valentina's camera. From that point on, Valentina's models start being murdered as soon as the cameras point at them. It turns out that the accursed camera took pictures of the murders, revealing that the murderess is the doll, which is capable of transforming back-and-forth from doll form to human form.

Since the police are not likely to arrest a doll and send it to the Big (Doll) House, Valentina has to take matters into her own hands, a procedure which basically consists of going over to Baba Yaga's apartment so she can be stripped, chained and whipped as a preliminary to lesbian sex with Baba and the doll/human. Baba Yaga has quite a place, fully equipped with a medieval torture chamber, an evil sewing machine, evil bric-a-brac, plenty of unreturned evil deposit bottles, and some carved wooden artifacts which appear to be evil salt-and-pepper shakers made in her childhood days at Witch Summer Camp. The relatively tiny apartment really creates an illusion of size by adding a bottomless pit which is a direct portal to hell. That really opens the place up. I have to say that in all my years of apartment and house hunting, I have never seen a listing with its own direct portal to hell, but I'm guessing it would add about the same value as direct beach access. I don't think Baba Yaga's portal is worth as much as it could be, however, since her apartment seems to be on the second floor. You'd think the apartment below hers would actually have the greater value, since it has actual hellfront property.

During the time when her relationship with Baba is blooming, Valentina keeps having dreams in which she is a lesbian Nazi, or an American Indian fighting against General Custer in an Italian graveyard (the Custer scene goes on forever in the deleted scenes, but they wisely truncated it in the theatrical release). There are also the usual phony-baloney symbolism scenes which can be found in all Eurocrap movies, like Nazis in women's clothing sitting at stodgy oaken desks in knee-deep water at a public beach, or even women in Nazi clothing sitting at stodgy oaken desks in knee-deep water at a public beach (a bold reversal!), or people in period costumes running through 20th century streets.


The set and production design are pure 70s: lava-lamps, colorful polyesters, pure white apartments with bright purple and orange furniture, free-form jazz as background music, and black light posters of Che Guevara. In an interview on the DVD, the director says that the movie is now becoming quite popular as a time capsule of the styles and fashions of Italy in the 70s.

You'll be hooting out loud at the dialogue.

Baba Yaga: I'll be sure to return it ... (apparently forgot her line) ... tomorrow ... You just ... um ... remember my name ... my name is (very dramatic soap-opera style pause) ... Baba Yaga.

People who saw this in the theaters claim that the audiences roared with laughter every time the name Baba Yaga was mentioned, but I'll be willing to bet that the one quoted above got much bigger laughs than the others.


Carroll Baker and Isabelle de Funes do full frontal nudity in the deleted scenes.

In the theatrical cut:

  • Baker - see-through blouse
  • DeFunes - breasts and buns
  • Ely Galleani - breasts and buns in a thong
  • Daniela Balzaretti - breasts
  • some miscellaneous breasts


The real cream of the DVD is a group of deleted scenes featuring clear full-frontal nudity from the French actress Isabelle de Funes and the American actress Carroll Baker. 

Ms Baker first became famous in 1956 for her sexy Lolitaesque turn in a film called Baby Doll, which was written by the esteemed playwright Tennessee Williams and directed by Elia Kazan, who was a major force in film and theater in the early 50s, having co-founded the Actor's Studio with Lee Strasberg, and having directed his famous pupil Marlon Brando to his two greatest performances in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront. Warner Brothers also cast Ms Baker that same year in Giant, the last picture made by the legendary James Dean. In such esteemed company, Baker was on top of the word in 1956

She might have become a monster star if she had been a better team player, but she feuded constantly with Warner. She refused to act in a series of movies based on trashy books by Erskine Caldwell, and this caused Warner to punish her by refusing to lend her out for "The Three Faces of Eve" for 20th Century Fox, or for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "The Brothers Karamazov" for MGM. Later, when she refused to play a nymphomaniac in another sleazoid film called "Too Much, Too Soon", Warner wouldn't loan her out to work with Laurence Olivier, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in "The Devil's Disciple".

She reached the end of her Hollywood fame as one of the famous dueling Jean Harlows in 1965, when Hollywood released two biopics named "Harlow" within a couple of months. Jean Harlow was a famous platinum blonde 1930's screen vamp who was portrayed by Baker in one version, Carol Lynley in the other. I haven't seen the Harlow biopics in years, but as I recall, neither was much good. Baker's version is rated 4.6 at IMDb, Lynley's 4.4.

Although Baker came from Kazan's legendary Actor's Studio, she was not one of their most distinguished graduates. Oh, let's not mince words. Despite the fact that she came close to major stardom, the woman couldn't act at all. Baker's interpretation of Harlow was so universally reviled that it proved to be the last straw for her Hollywood career, which was already teetering on the edge of oblivion because of her reputation for being uncooperative. The Hollywood job offers dried up almost immediately after Harlow, and she had to spend the entire decade of the 70's making grade-B Eurocrap like Baba Yaga. It wasn't until the 80's that she was able to get another decent role in Hollywood, and by that time her vamp days were over and she was old enough to play moms. At age 52, for example, she played Dorothy Stratton's mom in 1983's Star 80, the film which featured Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts as the ill-fated Playmate and her sleazy boyfriend.

DVD info from Amazon

·         Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1. Excellent transfer of what must be an excellent source neg.

·         deleted and censored scenes (mastered from weak source material, but still fascinating)

·         interview with the director

·         comic-to-film comparison (DVD-rom)

·         documentary on Crepax, the creator of the characters in comic book form

Baker continued to work quite steadily through the 80s and 90s. Now about seventy years old, she appeared as recently as 2000 in a TV film called Another Woman's Husband.

Baker was no actress, but there was a reason why she was once in big demand. She was definitely a major babe. In this film, even at age 42, she still looked absolutely terrific standing there stark naked, and the director said in the accompanying interview that the nude scene was her idea. Good for her!

Tuna's thoughts in yellow:

Baba Yaga is based on a story in Italian comic books written by Guido Crepax. His stories are about a female photographer, her misadventures, and her dreams. In this one, she falls under the spell of a sadistic lesbian witch (Carroll Baker) who is named Baba Yaga after a famous Russian witch.

Crepax comics are very cinematic in the way they present the stories, and his art has been used to storyboard films. Director Corrado Farina wanted to make a film that was very faithful to the comic book structure. The film is packed with 70s Italian atmosphere and, like the comic book, is full of dream sequences with Nazi-clad characters and more. It is worth seeing for the imagery alone, but may keep you engaged trying to make sense of it.

The film is interesting enough, especially in the way it toys with reality, but it is the special features that make this a must-own DVD. In the deleted scenes, we see full frontal nudity from both Carroll Baker as Baba Yaga, and Isabelle De Funès as the heroine.

The Critics Vote

§         no major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this DVD package is a C+ (both reviewers), a must for genre fans. Although the plot is pure crap, this DVD is worth seeing for the following reasons (1) it is actually filmed very well, and is a real 70s time capsule (2) unintentional laughs (3) full-frontal nudity in the deleted scenes, including a clear frontal of Carroll Baker (4) an excellent interview with director Corrado Farina (5) first widescreen release of this film on home media, completely remastered from the negative. If only they had possessed better source material for the deleted scenes!

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