What (1963) Poster

What (1963)

  • Rate: 6.8/10 total 1,392 votes 
  • Genre: Horror | Mystery
  • Release Date: 10 December 1965 (USA)
  • Runtime: France:85 min | Italy:91 min | UK:78 min | USA:87 min | West Germany:86 min
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What (1963)


What 1963tt0057078.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: What (1963)
  • Rate: 6.8/10 total 1,392 votes 
  • Genre: Horror | Mystery
  • Release Date: 10 December 1965 (USA)
  • Runtime: France:85 min | Italy:91 min | UK:78 min | USA:87 min | West Germany:86 min
  • Filming Location: Tor Caldara, Lazio, Italy
  • Budget: $66,500 (estimated)
  • Director: Mario Bava
  • Stars: Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, Tony Kendall | See full cast and crew
  • Original Music By: Carlo Rustichelli  (as Jim Murphy) 
  • Sound Mix: Mono
  • Plot Keyword: Castle | Ghost | Gothic Horror | Funeral | Beyond The Grave

Writing Credits By:

    (in alphabetical order)

  • Ernesto Gastaldi  screenplay and dialogue (as Julian Berry)
  • Ugo Guerra  screenplay and dialogue (as Robert Hugo)
  • Luciano Martino  screenplay and dialogue (as Martin Hardy)

Known Trivia

  • Christopher Lee’s voice was dubbed by another actor even though the film was shot in English.

Plot: In the 19th century, a sadistic nobleman terrorizes the members of his family. He is found dead, but his ghost soon returns to haunt the residents of his castle. Full summary »  »

Story: Kurt Menliff is a ruthless and sadistic 19th Century nobleman who returns to his seafront castle home after years of wondering. He finds himself immediately at odds with his invalid father, a Count, as well as Kurt’s spineless younger brother Christian, whom is married to Kurt’s cousin and former lover Nevenka. When Kurt is found in his room on the next night, murdered, suspicion falls on everyone which gets more complicated when Nevenka begins seeing his ghost (real or imaginary?) haunting the castle supposedly wanting revenge against his killers. Written byMatt Patay


Synopsis: In a nameless Baltic country in the 19th Century, Kurt Menliff (Christopher Lee) arrives at his seaside castle after many years of wondering through Europe. But he is not warmly received for everyone knows that he is a sadist who gets sexual gratification from whipping his lovers. His former lover is Nevenka Menliff (Daliah Lavi), who is now married to Kurt’s spineless younger brother Christian (Luciano Stella). Kurt and Christian’s father, an invalid Count (Gustavo De Nardo) has never forgiven Kurt for leaving in the first place. The maid, Giorgia (Harriet White Medin) is anxious to get back at him for causing the suicide of her daughter who stabbed herself in the throat after Kurt walked out on her years ago. Nevertheless, Kurt is allowed to stay because he is family.

The following morning, Kurt confronts his other cousin Katia (Ida Galli) whom he knows to be secretly in love with Christian. He smugly assures her that he feels her pain, as he is interested in Nevenka. Katia flees from this unwanted revelation. Kurt next enters the large, cavernous living room where his father spends most of the time. Kurt explains that now he has returned home, he feels that he deserves to be next in line to inherit the family estate. But the Count assures him that there is no chance of that happening. "Everything you were to inherit, you forfeited forever", he tells Kurt. "You did it yourself, with your infamy!" Angered, Kurt storms out of the living room.

Embittered by this personal defeat, Kurt goes to the beach where he sees Nevenka sitting pensively by the water. He approaches her, and reminds her their past liaisons. They kiss, and then Nevenka recoils, striking Kurt across the face wit her riding crop. He then calmly takes it out of her hand and pushes her to the ground. Cracking the riding crop across her back, he sneers: "You haven’t changed, I see. You’ve always loved violence". He then proceeds to strike her again and again. Nevenka’s reactions to being beaten are very subdued and the expression her face suggests sexual excitement. After striking her several more times, Kurt tosses the riding crop aside and proceeds to rape her.

After finishing with Nevenka, Kurt returns to the castle where he is confronted by Katia and Christian who ask him where Nevenka is, to which Kurt replies that he has no idea. They immediately know that Kurt is lying when they see him holding Nevenka’s riding crop. As it is getting dark, Katia and Christian head out to look for Nevenka, as Kurt retires to his bedroom. Soon after, he is killed when an unseen person stabs him in the throat with a dagger.

Meanwhile, Christian discovers Nevenka on the beach, her back covered with welts. After putting Nevenka to bed, Christian sends out for Kurt. The family butler, Losat (Luciano Pigozzi), goes to fetch Kurt, only to discover his dead body on the floor, with the dagger lying beside him. Losat’s screams bring the others into the room, where Giorgia is hysterical with joy to see him dead, killed by the same dagger her daughter used to commit suicide.

After Kurt’s funeral, Christian timidly asks his father if he was responsible for the killing. The Count is enraged by these accusations, and tells his son to leave the living room. Soon after, the entire family unit begins to unravel. The marriage between Christian and Nevenka becomes more strained. Nevenka starts to see visions of Kurt. At one point, his ghost visits her in the middle of the night, whipping her more ferocious than ever.

Soon afterwards, the Count is found murdered in the living room in the same fashion as Kurt, with the same weapon. Christian vows to find the killer, and Katia accuses Giorgia, pointing out that she had every motive to kill Kurt. Giorgia admits that she wanted to kill Kurt, but assures everybody that her love for the Count would have made it impossible for her to kill him. Elsewhere, Nevenka’s mind becomes more unhinged and each nightmarish vision of Kurt unsettles her ever further. After explaining everything to Christian, even he comes to believe that Kurt may have been behind the murder of their father, and that his ghost is doing all the killing.

Christian and Loast unearth Kurt’s decaying dead body from the family crypt and burn the remains to try to put Kurt to rest. As they watch Kurt’s remains burn, the dead man’s sinister laughter rings out. Following a cloaked figured dressed as Kurt, Christian and Loast follow it to the castle where Christian pulls off the hood to reveals none other than Nevenka. At last the terrible truth comes out: Nevenka was the one who murdered Kurt after sneaking back into the castle and sneaking out through hidden passageways. But at her remorse over the crime, coupled by the realization that she really did love Kurt, compelled her to act out as if he is still alive, by dressing in his clothes to complement the illusion. Nevenka even went as far as to whip her self during those nights, and murdered her father as revenge for his ostracizing her love.

Nevenka escapes from her husband, stabbing him in the arm in the process, and makes her way back to the crypt. Now really believing that Kurt is alive, Nevenka decides to put a stop to it all by killing him again. Kurt appears to her for a final time where in their final ’embrace’ she stabs him, but instead stabs herself in the chest with the dagger, and she falls dead.


FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Ferdinando Baldi known as associate producer (as Free Baldwin)
  • Federico Magnaghi known as producer (as Tom Rhodes)
  • Elio Scardamaglia known as supervising producer (as John Oscar)

FullCast & Crew:

  • Daliah Lavi known as Nevenka Menliff
  • Christopher Lee known as Kurt Menliff
  • Tony Kendall known as Christian Menliff
  • Ida Galli known as Katia (as Isli Oberon)
  • Harriet Medin known as Giorgia (as Harriet White)
  • Gustavo De Nardo known as Count Menliff (as Dean Ardow)
  • Luciano Pigozzi known as Losat (as Alan Collins)
  • Jacques Herlin known as Priest



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:

  • Raffaele Cristini known as assistant makeup artist (as Raf Christie)
  • Franco Freda known as makeup artist (as Frank Field)




Production Companies:

  • Francinor-PIP
  • Leone Film
  • Titanus

Other Companies:

  • Digitmovies Alternative Entertainment  soundtrack


  • Cinépix Film Properties (CFP) (1967) (Canada) (theatrical) (dubbed)
  • Big Sky Video (2009) (Australia) (DVD)
  • Epoca (????) (Argentina) (VHS)
  • Futuramic Releasing (1965) (USA) (dubbed)
  • Midnight Choir (2009) (USA) (DVD)
  • VCI Entertainment (2011) (USA) (all media)
  • VCI Home Video (2000) (USA) (DVD) (widescreen)
  • e-m-s the DVD-Company (2005) (Germany) (DVD)



Other Stuff

Release Date:

  • Italy 29 August 1963
  • Japan 1964
  • Denmark 26 November 1964
  • UK February 1965
  • USA 10 December 1965
  • France 26 January 1966
  • Austria 1967
  • West Germany 9 June 1967



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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Posted on February 22, 2013 by Movies DVD New Releases Blu-ray in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    Irresistible and genuine Gothic scares, combined with atmosphericcamera-work and breath-taking scenery… Welcome to yet another visualmasterpiece directed by the greatest horror genius of all time: MarioBava! "The Whip and the Body" isn’t the man’s most mentionedachievement, it’s not even in my personal Bava-top 3 and yet I stillrated it a solid 9 out of 10. That should give you somewhat an idea ofhow excellent his total repertoire in fact is. "The Whip and the Body"is a unique film in many ways, but particularly because of thecontroversial substance it dared to bring forward. Don’t forget thatthe year of release was 1963 and Mario Bava unscrupulously introducescharacters with taboo-fetishes like S & M. The story is terrificallyset in the 19th century, where Kurt Menliff returns to his eminentfamily after being banished for several years. The family’s hatetowards Kurt’s vile behavior is only surpassed by their fear and onlythe gorgeous Nevenka has a secret desire towards his wicked sexualpreferences. In a particularly astonishing sequence, he whips herrepeatedly (and roughly…) before continuing with making love. Terrorovercomes the Menliff family when Kurt is found murdered in his roomand when the tormented Nevenka begins to see his appearance in nearlyevery chamber of the castle. As it usually is the case in Bava’s films,the plot contains quite a few holes and illogical moments, but they’retotally forgivable if you acknowledge the intensity and power of thewholesome. Especially praiseworthy is Mario Bava’s unequaled talent toturn totally natural things into terrifying atmosphere-elements…Blowing wind, pouring rain, footprints covered in mud…all theseordinary things turn into suspicious omens in the hands of thismasterful filmmaker. With his skilled cinematographic eye, Bavaperfectly knows how to raise an unbearable tension that grabs you bythe neck immediately and it doesn’t let go until the very last scenefades away. All the other typical Bava-trademarks are clearly presentas well, namely an authentically creepy score, a minimum of stylishgore (burning, rotting corpses!!) and – last but not least – a stunninguse of color shades. Mario plays with colors like he invented them andthis emphasizes the spook-effect even more. "The Whip and the Body" isa more than just a shocking horror film. It’s an offbeat love-story, aGothic poem AND an unsettling horror tale all in one! If you lovebeautiful cinema, don’t miss "The Whip and the Body".

  2. Jay Fenton (jjfenton@nb.net) from Pittsburgh, PA
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    Kurt Menliff (Cristopher Lee) returns home to his ancestral castlewhich he was forced to leave after he whipped a village girl nearly todeath. He finds that his fiance (Daliah Lavi) has married his brother, aswell as having become the mistress of his father. (Don’t panic, there’sworse to come). He follows her to the beach and whips her savagely. Sheloves it and they end the session making love. The next day Kurt is founddead and Daliah soon begins experiencing nightly flagellations at the handsof his ghost.Christopher Lee has stated that this is one of his best films. It iscertainly one of the most brilliantly bizarre horror films ever made.Directed by cult icon Mario Bava, Italy’s finest cinematographer (if not oneof their finest directors), it rises as far above an S & M fantasy as can beimagined. It was censored in every country in the world for its sexualviolence and what remained was almost incoherent for most audiences andre-released under various titles: WHAT! in the US; NIGHT IS THE PHANTOM inthe UK, etc. Until video (with somewhat faded color) it was impossible tosee in its original form. Even now it remains a profoundly misunderstoodfilm and should be seen in a theater in its complete form instead of onvideo.


  3. Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    After the announcement of the servant Losat (Alan Collins), thenobleman Kurt Menliff (Christopher Lee) returns to the castle of hisfamily at the seaside to congratulate his brother Christian Menliff(Tony Kendall) for his marriage with his former lover Nevenka (DaliahLavi). Kurt feels the hatred and the fear of his father Count Menliff(Dean Ardow) and the servant Giorgia (Harriet White), who blames himfor seducing and killing her daughter, and indifference from his cousinKatia (Isli Oberon). On the next afternoon, the sadistic Kurt meetsNevenka riding a horse alone on the beach and whips the masochisticwoman and makes love with her. Late night, Nevenka is missing andeverybody is seeking her while Kurt is stabbed in the neck with thesame dagger that Giorgia's daughter was murdered. On the next days, themembers of the family suspects of each other while Nevenka is hauntedby the ghost of Kurt.

    "The Whip and the Body" is a stylish and one of the best features ofMario Bava that uses a magnificent cinematography, lighting and shadowsand a classy soundtrack. The acting is great and the only problem isthat the DVD is awfully dubbed in English, without the synchrony of themovements of the lips with the speech. The truth about the supernaturalstory is not difficult to be guessed what is happening by an attentiveviewer. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): Not Available

  4. capkronos (capkronos00@hotmail.com) from Ohio, USA
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    Made around the same time as Mario's classic horror anthology BLACKSABBATH, this deserves the same accolades as his other more famouswork. Upon release, WHIP was unfairly neglected, hacked up, censoredand critically frowned upon for the subject matter (sexual violence).Next to RABID DOGS (1974), it was also the most difficult of Bava'sgenre films to acquire in America; I'm not even aware of an accessiblehome video release until just recently. All but forgotten for decades,but now finally available in a gorgeous restored cut on DVD fromSinister Cinema, WHIP is an absolute must see for Bava fans and veryhighly recommended for aficionados of Gothic horror. It is also a filmthat demands to be seen by any person interested in film-making as art- in set design, costume design, lighting schemes, color, shadow andmusic used for the creation of atmosphere and mood. Every single frameis composed with the utmost care and every inch of the screen exhibitssuch astonishing attention to detail that it almost begs to be watchedin slow motion to soak it all in. Bava is a rare cinematic artist; atrue visionary who uses celluloid as his palate; painting all thecolors of the dark on drab, dank and dreary castle walls and corridors.Even though the story slips into the routine at times, it also is aboveaverage; progressive, serious, entertaining and even extremely ballsyfor the 1960s in that it dares to romanticize sexual violence andsadomasochism.

    Christopher Lee (who considers this one of his best films) is perfectlyhateful as Kurt Menliff, a cold-eyed sadist who returns home to hisfamily's seaside castle after being banished years earlier. His ailingfather (Gustavo De Nardo as "Dean Ardow") calls him a serpent, hisbrother Christian (Tony Kendall aka Luciano Stella) has since marriedKurt's beautiful raven-haired ex-fiancé Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) and theloyal housekeeper Giorgia (Harriet Medin), whose daughter, Tanya, hadtaken her own life after being seduced and abandoned by Kurt, quietlyplots her revenge. Also in the house is a pretty, but plain, youngcousin named Katya (Ida Galli as "Isli Oberon"), who is actually inlove with Christian and would undoubtedly make a much better mate forhim. No one exactly welcomes Kurt home with open arms, so when he'sfound dead with a dagger driven into his neck (the same fashion Tanyaended her life) it isn't a surprise, though it does create a shroud ofsuspicion over every person in the castle. Even worse, Kurt seems tohave returned from the dead to haunt, terrorize and inflict damage viathe lash on poor, emotionally fragile Nevenka.

    The most interesting and complex character in the film turns out to beNevenka herself. Her love-hate relationship with Kurt is unique andmemorable. Though Christian is handsome, gentle and devoted to hisbride, she obviously has the strongest passion (and love) for the cruelKurt, who claims the reason he came back to the castle in the firstplace was that he heard his brother had married his former lover.Kurt's return has nothing to do with guilt over his immoral actions,but everything to do with control over Nevenka. It is made very clearduring a beach love scene right before Kurt is murdered that the two doshare a deep personal bond and a sexual secret. Right before his death,Nevenka is reminded by her former lover, "You haven't changed… Youalways loved violence!" before he alternates viciously whipping herwith his passionate kisses. And she likes it so much you get the strongfeeling that her 'straight' life with Christian was miserable for her.Kurt and Nevenka's love is a love of pain and mutual violence, but alsoof understanding that their mutual love for the sadism is a hard thingto come by. Their love is forbidden, but it is still distinctly,uniquely theirs… even into the grave.

    As he proved in THE HORROR OF Dracula (1958) and other horror films,Lee is a tall, towering, menacing figure, even when given little to nodialog. He's killed off fairly early here and appears sporadicallythroughout the film as a silent 'ghost,' but is all the more effectivein his elusiveness. Dark beauty Daliah Lavi, who was a former MissIran, is excellent in the role and should have gone on to a careersimilar to that of Barbara Steele, who in many ways she resembles. Bothladies are able to embody Gothic horror to a T. The entire supportingcast, especially Medin, is very good. And Bava's mastery of the medium,like I said, really make the film incomparably intoxicating. He offersup twisting doorknobs, disembodied voices, creaking floorboards, secretpassageways, muddy footprints, hands reaching out at you from thedarkness, horse rides along the beach and other Gothic trappings withhis exquisite flair for the visual, making this a painfully underratedgem of Euro-shock cinema.

    Some notes: * Bava used aliases all around – "John M. Old" for directorand "Dick Grey" and "David Hamilton" for his cinematography. * A sceneof Lavi moaning in ecstasy as she's being whipped by Lee was socontroversial that it was excised from most prints when originallyreleased * It was filmed on location in France * Co-writer ErnestoGastaldi also wrote THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK, THE SCORPION'S TAIL,TORSO and many other notable Italian horror films from the 60s, 70s and80s. The DVD comes with a few trailers for Bava films (including theFrench version of WHIP), four bios, photo and lobby card gallery,soundtrack access and the original U.S. main titles (under the nameWHAT!).

  5. Infofreak from Perth, Australia
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    As I slowly get to watch more Mario Bava movies my enthusiasm for hisextraordinary body of work grows and grows. I was already hooked afterwatching ‘Black Sunday’ for the first time, but after subsequently seeing’Kill, Baby…Kill!’, ‘Planet Of The Vampires’, ‘Black Sabbath’, ‘Diabolik’and ‘Lisa And The Devil’ (and others) I was convinced that he’s THE mostunderrated director of the Fantastic. Now I’ve watched ‘The Whip And TheBody’ three times and listened to Tim Lucas’ informative DVD commentary I’malmost ready to bow down and worship Bava like a god! This is such afascinating movie… Visually it’s stunning, as to be expected, Bava being atop cinematographer before turning to directing. The subject matter is stillprovocative, but forty years ago it must have been scandalous! In fact themovie was heavily censored and when eventually released in America given thelousy title ‘What’. Christopher Lee counts this among his favourite rolesand it is essential viewing for his fans. He plays Kurt Menliff, an evilsadistic nobleman returning to his family home after hearing his youngerbrother has wed. Lee’s family has disowned him after a scandal concerning aservant girl he seduced who subsequently suicided. His father the Countdespises him, the dead girl’s mother, who still works for the Count, curseshim, and his brother’s new bride Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) fears him. Kurt andNevenka have a past, not only that, a complicated sadomasochisticrelationship. The whipping scenes between the two actors were a bit too muchfor the censors to handle back in the day, and while they aren’t all thatexplicit, they are still unsettling even today. Lee and the stunning Lavi(best know to most people for her later appearance in the star-studded Bondspoof ‘Casino Royale’) make a truly unforgettable couple. Many people regard’The Whip And The Body’ as Bava’s single best movie. I wouldn’t go that farmyself, but it’s definitely one of his very best films, and is sure toimpress anyone who has enjoyed his other pictures. Ghost story, murdermystery, psychosexual character study, whatever you want to call it, it’s ahighly original movie that will stay with you for a long time. Newcomers toBava are still best to start with ‘Black Sunday’ in my opinion, but thismovie comes with my highest recommendation.

  6. zwolf from Mississippi
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    This unrelentingly-creepy tale of obsession and perversion plays like amore-horrific version of _Wuthering Heights_: cobwebbed crypts, darkcastles with secret passages, rotting bodies, muddy footprints, pale facesscowling through windows, love-hate relationships that continue beyond thegrave, sea cliffs, turbulent ocean, sunsets, and a very haunting musicscore. The sets are rich and the direction is moody, with lots ofbrilliantly-composed photography and a convincingly-cruel performance byChristopher Lee. This one does require some patience, but it’s one ofBava’s greatest masterpieces and deserves to be saved fromobscurity.

  7. The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    Mario Bava is often hailed as one of the true gods of horror cinema,and for good reason. His influence extends his filmography, and manyMario Bava films have gone on to have a big effect on the horror genreon the whole. Films such as Bay of Blood and Black Sunday are wellknown and have been seen by many serious film fanatics, but when youdelve deeper into the man’s list of directorial credits, his lesserknown films tend to be just as good as his major hits. The Whip and theBody is one such film, and after viewing it; I rate it among the verytop of the man’s movies. This Gothic horror romance features many ofMario Bava’s trademarks, which are the things that have won him suchhigh praise from a number of well-informed sources. The story followsNevenka, a young woman who is married to Christian, son of the lord ofthe castle in which the film takes place. However, things aren’t sosimple as Christian’s brother, Kurt, a sadistic nobleman is still inlove with his brother’s bride and has returned to the castle to reclaimhis girl. Things really get interesting when he is found dead, only forhis ghost to reappear inside the castle walls.

    One of things that Mario Bava is often highly praised for is his use oflighting, and this film features what is probably the best use oflighting ever seen in a Bava film. The lights give flair to thescenery, and help to give the film that picturesque cinematography thatthe former cinematographer creates so well. Despite being excellent,however, it’s not the lighting that is the main standout in this movie;it’s the soundtrack. Giving the film a tragic love story atmosphere,the powerful theme bodes with the lighting to help create a tense andpowerful atmosphere, in which Bava allows his actors to inhabit. Thisfilm represents the only pairing of Bava with British horror iconChristopher Lee, and as usual Lee lights up the screen with his personaand screen presence. The whipping scenes are what made this filmnotorious in the first place, and seeing Lee enjoying delivering thelashing is haunting and even quite frightening! The romance element ofthe story is wonderfully done, and it offsets the horror of the storywell, which ultimately brings the film into balance. I rate this Bavafilm as one of the best the great Italian ever made and it thereforecomes with a soaring recommendation.

  8. planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    "The Whip and the Body" is an amazingly kinky film–and it surprised mea bit in this regard. It has scenes of sado-masochism, as a femalecharacter in the film likes to be beaten before having sex. Because ofthis you MIGHT wanna think twice before showing this to your kids orgrandma.

    This is a Gothic horror film with a nice ambiance and excellentmusic–though the same tune is overused a bit through the course of thefilm. The fun begins when the long-disgraced older son (ChristopherLee) arrives after a long absence. Exactly what he'd done isn't spelledout all that clearly, but you know it resulted in the death of aservant and that he's been disinherited. Soon, Lee is off having fun,beating a member of the family and making love to her…and she likesit! Now you THINK Lee has returned to get some sort of revenge on hisfamily, so I was surprised he took out time for this kinky tryst. And,surprise, surprise, before he can start his plans of revenge, he'sstabbed to death! But, through the course of the film, it seems as ifhe's returned from the dead, and very bad things start tohappen…along with some more kinky whippings.

    The payoff for this tale is pretty good and it's a good film with anice print. But, it's also a bit uncomfortable watching the kinkystuff, so I certainly can't recommend it without some reservations.

    By the way, the DVD for this Italian film is dubbed, not subtitled.And, oddly, although you can tell that Lee was speaking English, it'sNOT his voice–it, along with the rest, have been dubbed. As for me, Ialways prefer subtitled.

  9. TheAliasWhoLovedMe from United States
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    They say that the most timeless cinema is that of the heart, and here,Italian horror maestro Mario Bava; a director famed for the elements ofGothic romance seen in his work; has crafted one of the world's moststrange and terrifying love stories.

    Yes, for that is what this film, so often called a horror film is atit's core: A love story.

    But that does not mean for a second that the 'love' it conveys is not aterrifying one. In fact, it may be the most disturbingly poignant ofall of Bava's films, as even today it recounts a lifestyle that puts toshame anything that can be accomplished in a giallo film in sending achill down one's spine, mostly because, it happens every day in reallife in some shape or form. Only the era is different.

    A film that describes something like that is truly timeless. But thatdoesn't mean it's touching like other love stories you see inheartbreak magazines, no, it's not touching; but it definitely isheartbreaking.

    On an eerie twilight-lit coast somewhere in Italy, estranged aristocratKurt Menliff(Christopher Lee) returns to the family castle, whereseveral years earlier, he drove the daughter of the family maid; Tania,to suicide with a dagger. The details are never explicitly explained onhow Kurt's treatment drove her to suicide, but they become chillinglyclear quite soon. Of course, it's not just the maid who bears a grudgeagainst Kurt, but his entire family, his father has disowned him, hisbrother Christian despises him and his former betrothed can't wait todismiss him. However, his father agrees to let him stay, grudgingly.

    The Waltons they are not.

    However, when away from prying eyes, it turns out that family memberNevenka(Dahlia Lavi, playing pretty much the same type of role you'dexpect to see Barbara Steele in)is still very much in love with Kurt,so, alone on the beach, he expresses his gratitude the only way he can:He savagely attacks her and starts beating her senseless with awhip!!!!! This would be disturbing enough, except for the fact that,and this becomes clear quicker than you'd think; Nevenka LOVES it. Andas Kurt says 'You've always loved violence', it becomes clear this issomething Nevenka has had a fetish for for a long time and not justtolerance for an abusive man she thinks she can change; this is how shegets off, and Nevenka continues to fantasize about Kurt day and night.

    Even after he turns up dead with the same dagger Tania killed herselfwith jammed in his throat.

    Kurt's beatings were an addiction she can't live without, what will shedo now that he's dead? This is where the film's horror element comesinto play: What if Kurt isn't dead? And if he is, who stabbed him?Everyone in the household is a suspect. And things begin to get evenmore complicated when more and more members of the household turn updead. Is it Kurt? Tania's ghost? As Christian investigates, the answersbegin to grow more and more disturbing.

    'The Whip & The Body' is on the whole, a rather grim affair, with thetruly sordid subject matter contrasted with the beautiful coastalsetting and fairy tale castle. The fact that a truly beautiful romantictune(later re-used in several Bava films)plays during Nevenka'sfantasies makes for a morbid bit of humor. The film will also likelybore many viewers expecting a giallo-type of film(as I've seen thisreferred to as a giallo or proto-slasher in some circles since itinvolves a hidden killer using a knife) with it's long passages ofsilence and talkiness(not to mention that Christian is the blandesthero in a Bava film I've ever seen). Still, typical top-notch directionfrom Bava, the usual gorgeous cinematography and use of color, alongwith a moving performance by Lavi and a brief, but unforgettable turnby Lee as Kurt(dubbed in some scenes and not in others) make this morethan worth your time.

    But what gives the film it's lasting power is the disturbing fact thatthere are men like Kurt, and many women in positions likeNevenka(willingly or unwillingly)in real life who suffer and inflictsuffering daily, many of whom cannot even get out of the web of abusethey are in if they have the chance, and some of whom cling to it. Andknowing this goes on is more horrifying than anything in any of Bava'smore straightforward horror films.

    Truly ahead of it's time and certainly not for everyone, 'Whip' is agreat exploration of many of Bava's recurring themes like thedestruction of a family, deceptive appearances(Christopher Lee hasnever been more handsome), obsession, and ultimately, what Bava calledhis greatest fear: That of someone alone in a room confronting thedarkest aspects of themselves. It may not scare you, it may not evengrab your attention, but this film is one of the most haunting piecesof celluloid you will ever see.

    It's a strange mix of 'Psycho', 'Wuthering Heights' and therelationship between Kurt & Nevenka feels like a prequel to 'TheInnocents'. All in all, it's worth seeing.

    Enjoy, if you can.~

  10. marquis de cinema from Boston, MA
    22 Feb 2013, 12:16 am

    La Frusta E Il Corpo/The Whip & The Body(1963) is an excellent gothicmasterpiece that was ahead of its time in 1963 due to the strong imagery oferotic violence. Christopher Lee plays his most evil and sadistic characterup to date(I have not seen his film, The Bloody Judge(1969)). Hisperformance proves that he had an awesome presence within him. One themethat regularly occurs in many of Bava’s films is the notion of the doublethat is present in movies like The Mask of Satan(1960), Kill BabyKill(1967), and The Hatchet for the Honeymoon(1969). This is a great filmthat is overlooked by many Mario Bava supporters as it is also his best. The best parts of the film was the use of color and how he utizied color inthe beautiful film. This movie is one that hopefully in the near futurewill get the video treatment that it deserves.

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