When a young woman is found stabbed to death in the Austrian village of Holfen, an intrepid newshound (Blanco) is despatched from 'Maidens And Murderers' journal, hoping for a hot scoop. Superstitious locals believe the latest in a long line of slayings can be traced to a five hundred year-old curse, which states the spirit of Baron Von Klaus will live on through his male descendants. As his two surviving relatives both appear to have irrefutable alibis, it would seem the Baron may well have risen from the grave, eager to further reduce the female population of Holfen.
While the opening minutes of this film anticipate Mario Bava's Baron Blood, we quickly move into a giallo of sorts, as a black-gloved killer - in Blood And Black Lace garb, no less - leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. On the debit side, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus unfolds far too slowly, with mounting suspense often disipated by after-the-event pay-offs which fail to measure up to the demands of the storyline. Still, practically every Franco film I've clapped eyes on includes at least a couple of scenes which repay the time invested, and this is no exception: the scene where the killer gains entrance to the bedroom of a key witness and proceeds to ensure her silence is beautifully recorded by Godofredo Pachedo (Franco's DOP on The Awful Dr. Orlof); 15 years later and we'd all have been murmuring 'Argento-esque' in appreciation of this splendid suspense-driven sequence. There's also the infamous scene where Gogo Robins is stripped, licked and whipped, before being strung up for an appointment with a red hot poker. Widely held up to be cinema's first example of full-on erotic horror, this shocking spectacle is all present and correct on Image Entertainment's DVD, with the milder, alternate footage available as an optional extra feature.
Not a film, then, to convert Franco detractors but more than worthwhile for hardcore Jess freaks wishing to fill another gap in their collection.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.