Sunday, October 14, 2012

REVIEW: Black Sunday

Black Sunday
Director: Mario Bava
Year 1960
Black Sunday, AKA The Mask of Satan, is a gothic masterpiece filled with wonderful cinematography and exceptionally epic atmosphere. Directed by the master of the macabre Mario Bava, this Italian horror gem is a must for anyone looking to put a little class into their Halloween movie watching. Shot in beautiful black & white and lensed in a haunting vein, Black Sunday is essential viewing for any lover of horror cinema and it is a perfect example of the striking quality that Bava brings to each work he creates.
The film opens in the year 1630 with the horrific persecution of a witch, Princess Asa Vajda, and her man servant, Igor, by the hands of an unruly mob. Condemned for their actions and punished by wearing a spike encrusted mask, the two are put to death and laid to rest. 200 years later, Asa Vajda rises from her tomb in order to posses her look-a-like descendant, the beautiful Katia, yet Princess Asa Vajda finds a few obstacles in the form of Katia’s brother Constantine and a handsome doctor, Andre Gorobec. With the sinister witch’s power growing stronger by the minute, can Constantine and Andre stop Asa’s plans or will she finally get her long sought after revenge?

Barbara Steele takes on the duel roles of Katia Vajda and Princess Asa Vajda. With her haunting beauty and poetic acting style, she definitely owns both characters, making her presence in the film an ethereal experience that ups the atmospheric potency of the movie tremendously. The legendary actress has starred in countless horror gems, with my favorites being Pit and the Pendulum, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Castle Blood, The Long Hair of Death, Nightmare Castle, She Beast, and An Angel for Satan, but her role in Black Sunday has to be her most accomplished of her career. In the film she portrays the dark and vengeful characteristics of Asa Vajda while at the same time she conjures up a sweet and innocent persona for Katia Vajda. Not many actresses can pull off that kind of contrasting performance, but Barbara Steele does it to perfection. Without a doubt, Barbara is the cream of the crop when it comes to imbuing that gothic tension and feel.
In the supporting roles we have John Richardson as Dr. Andre Gorobec, Andrea Checchi as Dr. Thomas Kruvajan, Ivo Garrani as Prince Vajda, Arturo Dominici as Igor, and Enrico Olivieri as Prince Constantine Vajda. The real stand out of the bunch is Richardson talking up the call as the hero of the film. He has the look and poise for the role and carries himself with a great deal of confidence that sells the part. Another memorable contributor to the film is Dominici’s Igor, the undead miscreant who does the bidding of the wicked Asa Vajda. Arturo’s presence in the film is sublimely macabre and he really delivers in portraying a walking corpse of a man. The sequence in which he rises from his grave is exceptionally creepy and wholly unsettling.

When it comes to Black Sunday though, the real star is Mario Bava and his eye for striking visuals and cinematic spectacles. His cinematography, provided with some exceptional work by Ubaldo Terzano, give way to some extremely picturesque visuals that recollect a nightmarish quality. Graveyards are lit with an abundance of care, letting shadows dip in and out through the fog covered air. The stillness of tombs can be felt throughout their collaborative efforts in maintaining that morbid atmosphere that is essential for telling such a storied tale of death, resurrection, and witchcraft. There is a hazy and cryptic nature to the look of the movie, and each location mirrors that same cinematic quality that was first presented to us in the opening moments of the film where we bare witness to Asa’s horrendous and savage demise at the hands of her prosecutors.
Aided in bringing this chilling visual palate to life is a plethora of outstanding locations and sets that serve to build the tension and history of the film. From expansive ancient mansions filled with secret passageways and hidden doors, to moon shrouded graveyards, to devilishly unsettling dead forests, to quaint gothic villages, this production is filled to the brim with genuinely creepy locations that do wonders in bringing this whole outlandish tale to life. Like something out of a waking dream, the film establishes all of the iconic imagery that you would come to expect from a story of this ilk, but it twists it in such a way that it comes off as a fantasy contorted nightmare that resembles visual poetry. Haunting in presentation and tremendously moody, Black Sunday is a pivotal achievement in atmospheric horror thanks to the legendary filmmakers at the helm and the quality of their acting cast.

Black Sunday is one of the most well established Italian horror entries of its time and it accomplishes this feat by the contributions of director Mario Bava and the excellent cast and crew that make up this powerful production. Barbara Steele gives a legendary performance as both Asa Vajda and Katia Vajda, and the sheer fact that the characters are total opposites is another glaring reason why Steele is such an iconic and beloved actress. Her hypnotic looks and mesmerizing presence is what makes this film such a haunting experience.
Add on top of that the cinematography by the master of visual splendors, Mario Bava, and you have yourself a recipe for an atmospheric cult hit. Drenched in gothic locations and oozing with evocative imagery, Black Sunday is a benchmark in horrific presentations that excel the boundaries of the genre and transform into something much more poetic and artistic. Laid out like a visual poem, this compelling tale unravels at a natural pace, letting the viewer soak up all the gothic wonder as we revel in the ghastly nature of it all. If you’re looking for a film that captures that Halloween spirit to perfection, then look no further than Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. This film is…..

Here, try on this kick ass Halloween mask. Noooooooo!

This is a 5-Star hotel? What a shithole!

Back you Devil!


Hi everyone! Enjoying the show?

The Trick R Treaters are getting better and better each year.

Dude you don't look so well.

What an awkward time to wet the bed.

Your pimp ass carriage has arrived.

The boys stumble onto an ancient porn stash. Awesome!

Looks like someone has a bad case of necrophilia.

Cool mask! Can I keep it?

Hey Katia, turn that frown upside down.

And that's why we don't put banana peels by the fireplace.

Igor likes what he sees.

Even Barbara Steele is hypnotized by her own cleavage!

Hang in there little buddy.

Don't do it you fool! Spare the cleavage and spoil the Steele!

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