The Whip and the Body (1963)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Horror, Gothic Film  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy, UK  |  
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Combining spooks, slayings, and sadomasochism, director Mario Bava's La Frusta E Il Corpo was a controversial film upon its release in 1963 and remains a disturbing, curious effort. Bava's exceptional visual style helps to lift an otherwise gloomy picture and makes its deliberate pacing easier to bear as the story of two families haunted by evil deeds plays out. Add in a strong, witty script and one of the finest casts the Italian director ever worked with, and the result is a solid horror film that works on multiple levels. Christopher Lee is highly effective in the role of a man so evil he manages to return from the grave to inflict his pain. In one memorable sequence, Lee's hands are used to terrifying effect as they appear out of the dark like spidery, ghostly claws leering towards his victim. The exquisite Daliah Lavi is solid opposite Lee as his ex-lover, a woman who married his brother (Tony Kendall) but still yearns for the whippings that Lee's character so gleefully doles out. Technically, the film crackles with Bava's signature style in everything from perfect lighting (notice the scene in which Lavi's frightened eyes are framed in moonlight as she hears footsteps heading toward her door) to creepy sound effects and brilliant camerawork that accentuates the performances of the cast. The haunting romantic soundtrack that fills the entire film was performed by Carlo Rustichelli, who scored other Bava films including Blood and Black Lace. To avoid tipping off American audiences to the film's Italian trappings, many of the cast and crew had to adopt American names, with Bava credited as "John M. Old."