There must be a better way to pick up women...


Saturday, March 5, 2005


I have recently had the pleasure (and I use the word in its alternate definition of, "You have GOT to be kidding me; why the hell did I waste my time on this?") of watching a movie called Baba Yaga.

First off, let me say that I went into this fully aware that I wasn't going to be seeing a Russian witch who lives in a hut with chicken legs and flies around in a cauldron - no, dear friends, I went ahead and checked out the movie after reading the following synopsis:

Legendary sex symbol Carroll Baker stars as a mysterious sorceress with an undying hunger for sensual ecstasy and unspeakable torture. But when she casts a spell over a beautiful young fashion photographer, Milan's most luscious models are sucked into a nightmare world of lesbian seduction and shocking sadism. Are these carnal crimes the result of one woman's forbidden fantasies or is this the depraved curse of the devil witch known as Baba Yaga?

Hmm, let's see - sensual ecstasy, lesbian seduction and unspeakable sadism...no, Mom, I only read Playboy for the articles - honest!

Ahem...but I digress. Let me give you a running summary of how this movie plays out and you decide if it lives up to the synopsis.

First, we're introduced to Valentina, a famous photographer. How famous is she? Why, she's so famous that she publishes under the pseudonym of "Cartier-Bresson!" Of course, this could have been an in-joke on the part of the people who dubbed this dreck into English.

While Valentina is walking home (alone...late at night...along darkened streets...) after a party she happens across a puppy in the road, surrounded by parking cones. Since these "cones" are smudge pots with flames coming out of their tops I was expecting some sort of Satanic ritual sacrifice (we are supposed to be dealing with witchcraft, after all) but instead, she is nearly run down by a car driven by none other than the infamous Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga proceeds to show her mastery of the occult by making cryptic comments about Valentina and then, in order to divine more details, proceeds to remove a clip from Valentina's garter belt after promising to return it.

For my female readers (okay, you men too) who wear garter belts, I have to ask: would you let a total stranger who'd almost run you over stick her hand up your skirt and play with your garter belt? Not only does Valentina allow this, she also accepts a ride to her apartment/studio.

Cue the really strange dream sequence involving WWI-era uniforms, bottomless pits, and topless women being shot in the back as they walk into the surf. The fuh?

New scene, next morning; Valentina (hereafter called V) wakes up and gets dressed...does the fact that I can't even appreciate the brief nude scene give you an idea of how wretched this film is?

A model friend of V's comes by for a photo shoot (Ah, the joys of working from home); we're treated to the typical photo shoot montage -- which, to be honest, was done better in the Austin Powers movies. Baba Yaga stops by to return the garter clip; when she tries to put it back on the belt V freaks out and yells, "NO!" Does she have something against lesbian witches? No, it's just that she isn't wearing the garter belt right then (sure, V, that's why you freaked out...). Baba Yaga looks at the camera that V is using and after confirming that this is the one she uses the most, Does Something To It - we know this by the eerie music that plays in the background.

Another evening, another party; V finally succumbs to the advances of Arno, a fellow artist who directs commercials and who has been trying to get into her underwear since the first few scenes of the movie. Personally, I could never make love to a man that wears such a tacky-looking coat with that suspiciously fake-looking fur collar, but maybe that's just me.

Next morning we find the two cuddling in post-coital bliss, at least until V gets up because she has another photo shoot to do. The model/friend from the previous shoot arrives and gets (un)dressed in her cowboy outfit (I have no idea what the pictures are for and they never tell us) and when V uses the Cursed Camera of DOOM! (hereafter referred to as the CCoD), the model starts to have problems breathing. Ooh, scary!

That evening, V drives over to visit Baba Yaga (hereafter called BY), supposedly on the pretext of wanting to take pictures of necklaces in the funky old house that BY lives in; BY tells her to feel free to wander around; since she's tired she's just going to sit in her rocking chair with her cat (hereafter called Cat). While taking her pictures, V nearly falls through a hole in the living room floor that's covered by a rug; she drops something into the hole to listen for how deep it is but hears nothing, and BY tells her to watch her step (gee, nice of you to mention this after the near accident!). V goes upstairs to the bedroom where she finds, among other things, a bed...and while the bed has no mattress, it does have manacles and chains, which means it's just right for V to nap on after taking some more pictures.

More crazy visions ensue. Is this part of the script, or were they added because somebody thought the movie was running short?

V wakes up and gets ready to leave; BY gives her a gift of a red-haired doll dressed in leather S&M-type clothing (why do I never get gifts like that?).

Back at V's studio, we watch V start to develop her film. It becomes clear that Something Funny Is Going On because some of the photos show the doll wearing a dress; there appear to be some other funky things in the pictures since we keep showing V looking between them but since I must be too stupid to figure them out for myself (and I'm too numb at this point to want to scroll back), I'm not sure what they are.

The next day, V is getting ready to take some pictures of a protest; since I don't read Italian I don't know what is being protested but since the "mob" is dressed in typical 60's hippie garb (FYI, the movie was released in '73), it must be very important. When V takes a picture of a protestor with the CCoD, he drops dead in his tracks.

Later, V is going to do yet another photo shoot in her studio but, amazingly, starts to put two and two together so she uses a different camera; things go well but after the shoot the light go out and in the darkness, the female model is stuck with something - why, it's a foot-long hairpin from the red-haired doll! V has no idea how the hairpin got from where the doll was sitting to where the model was (and I have no idea why a 2-foot tall doll needs a hairpin half its size) but hey, it's not as if she model is going to die or anything!

Oh, wait...thanks to Arno we find out that a couple of hours after she left V's studio, she did.

More dream sequences, with V in a boxing ring with the protestor as her opponent and BY as her trainer; V drops the protestor with one blow. Take that, Hilary Swank!

Later, V notices that the shutter on the CCoD has been tripped and all the film has been exposed (though nobody heard the constant clicking), so she develops it to find that not only did the doll cross the floor to attack the model, but during the process turned into a Real Live Topless Girl (hereafter known as RLTG) who wears a Playtex Cross-Your-Heart leather harness and leather panties! Um, ooookay

More weird hallucinations, culminating with the RLTG picking up the camera and running off to BY's house. V then gets a phone call from BY telling her to come get her camera.

V drives over to BY's place; BY tells her to go upstairs and wait in the bedroom. Is there a magic spell that BY casts to compel V to obey? Beats me; this movie makes about as much sense as Beyoncé singing 3 songs at this year's Oscars.

After a while BY and RLTG stop by the bedroom; RLTG clamps V into some manacles hanging from the ceiling and tears off her dress, then whips her back while BY watches. By this point in the movie I've completely given up on trying to understand what's going on (I refuse to refer to what's happening as a plot) and am just waiting to see how this turns out.

Fortunately for V, Arno stops by her place and finds the piece of paper that V used to write down BY's address; he dashes off to rescue her. We're then treated to a shot of him outside the fence trying to figure out how to get in (and sweetie, that "fur" collar looks even worse when it's soaking wet!) and happens to see RLTG on the balcony, illuminated by a flash of lightningbut when the next flash happens, she's gone! Wow, folks, the suspense is really ramping up now!

Arno finds a way over the fence and, picking up a handy club-sized piece of wood along the way, enters the house. As he faces away from the stairs, RLTG comes down them ready to stab him with her hairpin - however V, who is now free of the manacles (I don't recall if they released her or if she broke free and quite frankly, Gentle Readers, right now I don't think it really matters), calls out to him to warn him.

Now if this were a typical slasher movie he'd turn around just in time to watch RLTG shove the hairpin into his chest/ear/eye/scrotum but since we're approaching the end of the movie (praise Jebus), he has the presence of mind to swing his club and bash RLTG in the head; she falls down the stairs and in a shocking development becomes a doll again (although a dismembered one).

BY sees that RLTG is now dead and, picking up the doll's head, starts walking backward - and of course, she would happen to be next to that hole in the floor that's covered by the rug. She falls into the bottomless pit, never to be seen again

And this is when the cops burst onto the scene, accompanied by the Italian version of Agnes Kravitz. Agnes asks them what they're doing there and during the exposition we find out that the house has been abandoned for some time and is in the process of being sold to be torn down. One of the cops jumps down into the hole (causing V to scream) to look around; it turns out that now the hole just goes into some sort of crawlspace and all that's there is a doll's head!

V and Arno make up some BS (hereafter known as bullshit) story about taking pictures there for the atmosphere; Agnes doesn't really buy it but the cops just tell them to stop by the police station in the morning and let them go; afterward, the cops chuckle to themselves that they know what was really going on there, snicker snicker chortle chortle.

The final shot of the movie is of Cat sitting in the rocking chair, looking slightly pissed off - doubtless because there's nobody there to pour the Tender Vittles.

And that is Baba Yaga. I hope that the erotic comic it was based on is better than the movie, but I'm too scared of what I might find to look into it.

I watched the deleted scenes on the DVD in the hope that they'd shed some light on the subject, but since the longest scene showed a bunch of actors (I think) re-enacting how the white man slaughtered the Indians (I never knew that the U.S. Cavalry wore football helmets) in a graveyard, only to run away when the police showed up, I'm thinking this is one movie where scenes were deleted not just to pick up the pace, but because they made even less sense than the rest of the movie.

Frankly, after watching Baba Yaga, I didn't think that was possible.