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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘The Whip and the Body’

“Taste the whip, in love not given lightly . . .”

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

Mario Bava’s 1963 murder mystery The Whip and the Body is ahead of its time. Written by Ernesto Gastaldi, Ugo Guerra, and Luciano Martino, The Whip and the Body explores the furthest reaches of toxic behavior. Count Menliff’s first born son, Kurt, is banished from the family. To spite him, Count Menliff declares that Kurt’s title, inheritance, and girlfriend will go to his younger son Christian. This week’s strange and fantastic tale explores sadomasochism, self loathing, and ghosts. Check out the sex and violence and extreme pettiness of The Whip and the Body

Kurt (Christopher Lee) is engaged to Nevenka (Daliah Lavi), but this does not stop him from sleeping with Tania, the housekeeper’s daughter. Tania, disgraced by the incident, kills herself to escape her shame. Count Menliff decides that Kurt has got to go. Kurt’s kicked out and he must leave his title and fortune behind. His younger brother Christian, who is in love with the servant Katia, will now have to marry Nevenka.

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'The Whip and the Body'

Neither Christian or Nevenka are happy with this arrangement, but they are compelled to comply. However, this is not the only time Nevenka feels the urge to go along with something she’s against. When Kurt returns under the pretense of making amends with his family, we learn that he and Nevenka had a tumultuous relationship. 

“You always loved violence,” Kurt says as he stands over Nevenka. He whips her clothes off like in the Devo video and while she is clearly frightened, she is equally aroused. They get down on the beach and Nevenka hates herself. If you think Nevenka and Kurt will start sneaking around to whip each other and do it in the secret passageway think again. Kurt is found murdered by the same knife which killed Tania. 

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Trying to figure out who killed Kurt is like trying to figure out who killed Mr. Burns. The house is filled with axes to grind. What follows are some truly great scenes of Kurt’s ghost in the moonlight. His pale hand reaches for Nevenka as she writhes in her bed, waiting for his whip. There are dramatic shots of Nevenka in the hallway searching for the source of phantom whip sounds. 

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'The Whip and the Body'

Bava’s The Whip and the Body is visually impressive, but it’s the story that will really engage viewers. It gives a surprisingly nuanced look at addictive behaviors and unhealthy relationships. Nevenka never pretends to have warm feelings for Kurt. She declares that she has never loved Kurt and she means it. She is drawn to him and she may even love him, but she’s aware that she does not want to love him or his violence. Get your safe word ready and check out The Whip and the Body. 

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