The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962) from Tuna

The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962), originally La Mano de un hombre muerto, or Le Sadique Baron von Klaus in French, is a very early Jess Franco gothic horror in black and white. The plot is suggestive of a Giallo. A young baron is told by his mother to destroy his father's dungeon, and then to leave with his fiancée and escape the family curse. He instead falls victim to the curse, and begins torturing and killing young women.

The film achieved notoriety for what was then a very controversial dungeon scene featuring the torture of an actress named Gogó Rojo, who made her film debut by exposing her breasts and buttocks. Jess Franco was willing to show graphic nudity and violence even in 1962. IMDb lists this under the Spanish title and credits it as a Spanish film, but my guess is that Franco filmed it in Germany, partially with French money. The dungeon scene is far too explicit for 1962 Spain. If you want to see that scene, the French DVD release contains the entire uncut dungeon segment. (The English and Spanish versions were completely neutered, although the English release had an edited version of the dungeon scene in the deleted footage.)

Visually, the film was reminiscent of the work of Jean Rollin, with castles and dungeons, symbolic icons, and an unhurried pace. The acting and score feels more like a staged melodrama I found the score distracting (I was tempted to boo and hiss), and the French dubbing is not at all good. They even failed to synchronize a clock tick with a clock pendulum.

Scoop's comments:

I'd like to see an evil twin movie with Sadistic and his brother Santa von Klaus. Here's my treatment:

Sadistic seems to be the bad twin. People have always assumed he was evil. I mean if you name your kid "Sadistic Baron von Klaus", you have to think he has better than a 50/50 chance of developing an unfortunate reputation, whether deserved or not. The evil twin bumps off his mealy-mouthed do-gooder brother. As an identical twin, Sadistic takes Santa's place in the workshop, makes all the female elves wear dominatrix leather, molests all the reindeer, and creates evil sadistic toys ...

but wait!

... then it turns out that the dead one is really Sadistic, who was really the good twin, and Santa is the evil twin. All this time children thought they were waiting for Santa Klaus when they were really getting presents from the kindly but misnamed Sadistic Baron von Klaus. Oh, the delicious irony when Sadistic dies, and the children who want Santa Klaus get the REAL Santa - a demented serial torturer.

(Insert Twilight Zone theme here)

Jess Franco would be the perfect director, and I hope to God that Gogó Rojo is still alive, because she's my first choice for Mrs. Klaus.

  Note: this is NOT the DVD you want if you are interested in the uncensored dungeon scene. This is the Region 1 release.



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The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or 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. 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.

Based on this description, this film is a C-, chiefly of interest to Jess Franco fans, and Euro Shock completists.

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