Oct. 6: Black Sunday (1960)
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 Today'92s movie introduces us to one of Italy'92s greatest horror directors, and perhaps one of the best visual stylists of all time, Mario Bava. His skills behind the camera make Black Sunday one of the creepiest cinematic experiences you'92ll ever see.
'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0 The movie has an incredible first scene. A witch (the gorgeous, unsettling Barbara Steele) is tied to a stake, about to be burned alive. Bava'92s glorious black-and-white cinematography makes it an incredibly eerie scene, with backlit smoke swirling around and deep shadows threatening to envelop the actors.
An inquisitor says the witch will be sentenced to death, but not before she wears the Mask of Satan. The witch curses the inquisitor and his family, and then a hooded executioner comes out with the mask, a hideous object with long spikes jutting from the inside. He approaches Steele ever so slowly, places it over her face and pounds it home.
Cut to 200 years later, when a couple of doctors stumble over the witch'92s tomb and, through a rather unlikely series of events, manage to resurrect her. Slowly regaining her power, the witch tries to possess her look-alike descendant Princess Asa (also Steele), while the doctors and the princess'92 brother struggle to save her.
Of course, with all that being said, Black Sunday really isn'92t about the plot. It'92s all about Bava'92s amazing visuals. He did some uncredited work on other films before, but this was Bava'92s official directorial debut, and he already knew what he was doing. The film is dripping in shadows and smoke. Bava really manages to create atmosphere and dread with his cinematography. His painterly visuals are really what make the movie.
The film'92s look was so effective that it has obviously influenced quite a few filmmakers over the years. Just watch a Tim Burton film or two after seeing this and try not to notice the influence.
Other than Bava'92s work, Black Sunday is also notable for introducing Steele to the world. She is beautiful, but man, she is creepy! Her huge eyes are enough to make you hide under the covers. Despite the power of Bava'92s visuals, the image that may stick with you from this movie is Steele'92s accusing eyes peering out from behind the Mask of Satan.
If you liked this, then check out:
'97'a0'a0'a0 Black Sabbath (1963): Another Bava frightfest, this one is in color, and it tells three frightening stories hosted by Boris Karloff. The first features a young woman harassed by phone calls telling her she will die by dawn. The second, featuring Karloff, features a man who comes home to his family a changed man. And what'92s with the holes on his neck? The third features a nurse who steals a ring from a dead old lady, and almost lives to regret it.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Kill, Baby, Kill (1967): More Bava, this time the tale of a village haunted by the vengeful ghost of a young girl. These three movies, and many others, are available on DVD in two Bava boxed sets.