Operazione paura (1966)

Italy, 1966
75m (USA – 1972 re-release); 83m (USA); 85m<
35mm film, Eastmancolor, 1.85:1
mono, Italian

An Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava.

Plot Summary

Dr Eswai is called to a small village to help with the autopsy of a young woman who has been found impaled in some fencing. Eswai’s investigations suggest that the woman and several other villagers who have met sticky ends have fallen foul of the ghost of Melissa Graps, a young girl. Eswai and local nurse Monica wind up at the Villa Graps for a final confrontation with Melissa.

Credits

Crew
Director: Mario Bava
© [not given on screen]
FUL Films
Producers: Nando Pisani, Luciano Catenacci
Script: Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale, Mario Bava
Story: Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale
English Language Version Dialogue: John Hart
Directors of Photography: Antonio Rinaldi, Mario Bava *
Editor: Romana Fortini
Music: Carlo Rustichelli
Sound Recordists: Romano Pampaloni, Armando Tarzia
Wardrobe: Tina Grani
Make Up: Maurizio Giustini
Hair: Marisa Laganga
Set Decorator: Sandro Dell’Orco

Cast
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (Dr Paul Eswai)
Erika Blanc (Monica Schuftan)
Fabienne Dali’ (Ruth)
Piero Lulli (Inspector Kruger)
Luciano Catenacci [real name: Max Lawrence] (Karl)
Micaela Esdra (Nadienne)
Franca Dominici (Martha)
Giuseppe Addobbati (innkeeper)
Mirella Panfili (Irena Hollander)
Valerio Valeri (Melissa Graps)
Giana Vivaldi (Baroness Graps)

Alternative Titles

Curse of the Dead – UK title
Curse of the Living Dead – US re-release title
Don’t Walk in the Park
Kill, Baby… Kill!
– US title
Mata, Bebê, Mata
– Brazilian title
Operation Fear
Opération peur
– French title
Die Toten Augen des Dr Dracula
– West German title
Die Toten Augen
– West German video title

Extracts included in
Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell (1987)
Shiver and Shudder Show (2002)

Press

1967
Kinematograph Weekly no.3112 (3 June 1967) p.11
Films made by Mario Bava are never short of atmospheric trimmings, though they are often short on coherent or credible plot. This one is typical. Ninety per cent of it is shot in a dim light (but pretty colours); nearly all the interiors are gloomy and draped with cobwebs, while the exteriors present gaunt silhouettes of ruined or semi-ruined piles; and, of course, there is a decaying cemetery, wreathed permanently in a swirling ground mist. In addition, there are sudden, unexplainable gusts of wind and doors that open and close without human aid. These spooky manifestations in such bizarre trappings help to defeat criticism of a plot that brazenly flaunts its fringe of loose ends. Using a dubbed script of slightly above-average quality, the cast goes through the events, giving them all the small amount of acting that they require. – from a review by Graham Clarke

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.34 no.402 (July 1967) p.104
Narrative has never been Bava’s strong point, but with Operazione Paura he has happily found a story in which atmosphere is everything, and the result is even more splendid visually than Sei Donne per l’Assassino (the colour is exquisite throughout). Backed by dialogue which even in dubbed English retains a wonderfully sibylline ring (“Only with money in the heart will anyone who suffers a violent death rest in peace”), Bava’s cameraman’s eye prowls lovingly over the crumbling, moss-laden village, The swirling graveyard mists, and the echoing, desolate grandeur of the ghostly villa to produce a vision which is something like a cross between La Belle et la Bête and The Turn of the Screw as one imagines Franju might imagine it. – from a review by T.M.

1968
Variety 30 October 1968 p.26
Film demonstrates once again, as some European critics think, that in director Mario Bava lies one of Italy’s most important film talents though he specialises in genre product. Kill Baby Kill is a small masterpiece of its kind, comparing favorably with the late Val Lewton’s horror programmers of the ’40s. Every element of lighting and color has been carefully orchestrated by Bava to achieve a tantalizing and dramatic effect. Diffused, mysterious, frightening quality hypnotizes an audience. […] There’s no attempt to the especially original here – it’s just the same old Gothic elements, but handled so skilfully as to revitalize the genre. – from a review by Byro

References

Periodicals

  • Bianco e Nero vol.27 no.9/10 (September 1966) p.77 – credits
  • Kinematograph Weekly no.3112 (3 June 1967) p.7 – credits, review (by Graham Clarke)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.34 no.402 (July 1967) p.104 – credits, synopsis, review (by T.M.)
  • SFX no.292 (November 2017) p.99 – illustrated review (by Ian Berriman)
  • Variety 30 October 1968 p.26 – credits, review (Byro)

Books

  • The Haunted World of Mario Bava by Troy Howarth pp.98-107; 338-339 – illustrated review; credits
  • Italian Horror Films of the 1960s: A Critical Catalog of 62 Chillers by Lawrence McCallum pp.133-137 – illustrated credits, review
  • Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by Tim Lucas pp.663-687 – illustrated review, synopsis, production notes, credits
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.241 – credits
  • Unsung Horrors by Eric McNaughton & Darrell Buxton (eds) pp.188-189 – illustrated review (by Paul Sparrow-Cooke)