‘The undead demons of Hell terrorize the world in an orgy of stark horror’
Black Sunday (original title: La maschera del demonio; also known as The Mask of Satan and, in the UK, as Revenge of the Vampire) is a 1960 Italian gothic horror film directed by Mario Bava, from a screenplay by Ennio de Concini, Mario Serandrei and Marcello Coscia (who was uncredited). The film stars Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Arturo Dominici and Ivo Garrani.
It was Bava’s official directorial debut, although he had completed several previous feature films without credit. Based very loosely on Nikolai Gogol’s short story “Viy”, the narrative concerns a vampire-witch who is put to death by her own brother, only to return 200 years later to feed on her descendants.
By the social standards of the 1960s, Black Sunday was considered unusually gruesome, and was banned in the UK until 1968 because of its violence. In the U.S., some of the gore was censored, in-house, by the distributor American International Pictures (AIP) before its theatrical release to the country’s cinemas.
Despite the censorship, Black Sunday was a worldwide critical and box office success, and launched the careers of director Mario Bava and movie star Barbara Steele. In 2004, one of its sequences was voted number 40 among the “100 Scariest Movie Moments” by the Bravo TV network.
In Moldavia, in the year 1630, beautiful witch Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her paramour Javuto (Arturo Dominici) are sentenced to death for sorcery by Asa’s brother. Before being burned at the stake, Asa vows revenge and puts a curse on her brother’s descendants. A metal mask with sharp spikes on the inside is placed over the witch’s face and hammered repeatedly into her flesh.
Two centuries later, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and his assistant Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson), are traveling through Moldavia en route to a medical conference when one of the wheels of their carriage is broken, requiring immediate repair. While waiting for their coachman to fix it, the two wander into a nearby ancient crypt and discover Asa’s tomb. Observing her death mask through a glass panel, Kruvajan breaks the panel (and the cross above it) by accident while striking a bat. He then removes Asa’s death mask revealing a partially preserved corpse that is visible underneath, her face staring out malevolently. He cuts his hand on the broken glass. Some of his blood drips onto Asa’s dead face…
“Asa’s masterfully-illuminated crypt is a moody accomplishment in itself, and the her vivid resurrection into this world — and the grand exploding coffin sequence that follows — is enough to bring chills to the spine of anyone with a flair for cinematic innovation. The same goes for Bava’s unparalleled real-time aging effects, which were accomplished by the simply usage of filters and lighting. Finally, Bava takes an unprecedented first in film by adding more blood and gore than most contemporary moviegoers were accustomed to seeing in 1960.” Luigi Bastardo, Blog Critics
“Here, the art house and horror meet seamlessly, creating a world that’s as beautiful and ethereal as it is haunting and atmospheric.”
Talk of Horrors
Buy Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on Kino Classics Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com
“Though nowhere near as intense as some of Bava’s later color giallos—he was partially responsible for inventing the genre—the black and white film is unusually gory for its time. One vamp is slowly dispatched with a stake through the eyeball. A man is burnt alive in a fireplace, his face melting spectacularly in the flames. Asa’s death shroud opens in the back to reveal her gross, decomposing ribcage. Grisly stuff. At the same time, Black Sunday is strikingly beautiful in its crumbling sets and stark, chiaroscuro lighting. Bava served as his own cinematographer, and the combination of his expert lensing and the suitably gloomy production design generates a sublime gothic mood. As for Barbara Stelle, well, death becomes her—she’s enchantingly wicked here.” Casey Broadwater, Blu-ray.com
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of two versions of the film; The Mask of Satan the European version with score by Roberto Nicolosi & Black Sunday the re-edited and re-dubbed AIP version with Les Baxter score, on home video for the first time
- Three audio versions: Optional Italian, European English and AIP English re-dub and re-score
- English SDH subtitles for both English versions and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian audio
- Audio Commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Introduction to the film by author and critic Alan Jones
- Interview with star and horror icon Barbara Steele
- Deleted Scene from the Italian version with notes by Tim Lucas
- International Trailer
- US Trailer
- Italian Trailer
- TV Spot
- I Vampiri (1956) Italy s first sound horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava
- US I Vampiri Trailer The Devil s Commandment
- Trailer reel trailers of all the major works by Mario Bava including rarities from the early part of his career
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Matt Bailey and Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
Buy Black Sunday + I Vampiri on Arrow Video Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk