HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Western Stars
League of Gentlemen, The
Higher Power
Shinsengumi
IT Chapter Two
Rich Kids
Arena
Glory Guys, The
Serial Killer's Guide to Life, A
Lovers and Other Strangers
Shiny Shrimps, The
Good Woman is Hard to Find, A
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Doctor at Sea
Spear
Death Cheaters
Wild Rose
Streetwalkin'
Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Devil's Playground, The
Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Hustlers
Mega Time Squad
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Souvenir, The
Birds of Passage
Ma
Woman at War
Happy as Lazzaro
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Marriage Story
Santa Claus is a Bastard
Star, The
Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale
Shadow
Christmas Carol, A
Legend of the Demon Cat
Adventures of Sinbad, The
Wounds
Love & Peace
   
 
Newest Articles
Bash Street Kid: Cosh Boy on Blu-ray
Seeing is Believing: Being There on Blu-ray
Top Thirty Best (and Ten Worst) Films of the 2010s by Andrew Pragasam
Top of the Tens: The Best Films of the Decade by Graeme Clark
Terrorvision: A Ghost Story for Christmas in the 1970s
Memories Are Made of This: La Jetee and Sans Soleil on Blu-ray
Step Back in Time: The Amazing Mr. Blunden on Blu-ray
Crazy Cats and Kittens: What's New Pussycat on Blu-ray
No Place Like Home Guard: Dad's Army - The Lost Episodes on Blu-ray
A Real-Life Pixie: A Tribute to Michael J. Pollard in Four Roles
We're All In This Together: The Halfway House on Blu-ray
Please Yourselves: Frankie Howerd and The House in Nightmare Park on Blu-ray
Cleesed Off: Clockwise on Blu-ray
Sorry I Missed You: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort on Blu-ray
Silliest of the Silly: Monty Python's Flying Circus Series 1 on Blu-ray
Protest Songs: Hair on Blu-ray
Peak 80s Schwarzenegger: The Running Man and Red Heat
Rock On: That'll Be the Day and Stardust on Blu-ray
Growing Up in Public: 7-63 Up on Blu-ray
Learn Your Craft: Legend of the Witches and Secret Rites on Blu-ray
70s Psycho-Thrillers! And Soon the Darkness and Fright on Blu-ray
Split: Stephen King and George A. Romero's The Dark Half on Blu-ray
Disney Post-Walt: Three Gamechangers
But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci: Tony Hancock's The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man on Blu-ray
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood: Interview with Director Rene Perez
   
 
  Black Sunday Buy this film here.
Year: 1960
Director: Mario Bava
Stars: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri, Antonio Pierfederici, Tino Bianchi, Clara Bindi
Genre: Horror, Historical
Rating:  8 (from 5 votes)
Review: One of Italian horror’s most celebrated titles, Mario Bava’s directorial debut still stands as one of the most influential and important post-war genre works and despite its age, stands up well to repeat viewings, even over forty years after its release.

The film opens with Princess Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her brother Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani), being found guilty of witchcraft and conspiring with Satan. As a result they are punished by having a mask of steel spikes hammered into their faces. Centuries later the Princess’ body is disturbed and resurrected to reap revenge on a distant relative (also played by Barbara Steele) and her family.

A mixture of folk-lore, traditional superstition, and genre convention such as the creepy crypt, the fog bound forest, and carriages driven by cloaked strangers, Bava creates a poetic world that reminds the viewer of Universal’s horror films from the thirties and forties and injects it with a streak of sadistic violence and cinematic style that would come to signify Italian horror cinema for the next thirty years. In fact the film still seems pretty shocking today, particularly in the opening scene of the “mask of satan” being hammered onto Barbara Steele’s face.

An established cinematographer who was renowned for making a film look much better than its meagre budget would anticipate, Bava’s sense of the visual really comes to the fore with his crisp use of black and white photography and use of various cinematic tricks such as the dream-like use of slow-motion in the carriage ride sequence. Every frame is carefully composed, with Bava’s smooth use of tracking shots really making the most of what must have been fairly basic sets. In comparison to the fairly static use of camera in early gothics from the same period such as those by Hammer Films or the work of Roger Corman, Black Sunday really stands out as an incredibly modern piece of film-making.

The film also introduced the world to Barbara Steele, an actress who’s gothic black hair and saucer-like dark eyes made her born to play umpteen evil temptress’ in various genre movies of variable quality for the rest of her career. In fact Steele’s performance is easily the best in the movie; With the rest of the cast largely comprised of square-jawed rent-a-hero types, Steele’s eerie grace as she glides around the castle is as much an indelible image as anything in contemporary horror cinema.

While Bava went on to make better films (Blood and Black Lace, Twitch of the Death Nerve), the impact of Black Sunday on the Italian industry should not be underestimated. It made Italian horror a viable financial option that travelled well internationally (although the film was banned in the UK until the late 1960s) and without Black Sunday it’s possible that much of the genre cinema made in Italy since would simply not have existed.

Aka: The Mask of Satan, La Maschera del Demonio
Reviewer:

 

This review has been viewed 11678 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Mario Bava  (1914 - 1980)

Italian director/writer/cinematographer and one of the few Italian genre film-makers who influenced, rather than imitated. Worked as a cinematographer until the late 1950s, during which time he gained a reputation as a hugely talented director of photography, particularly in the use of optical effects.

Bava made his feature debut in 1960 with Black Sunday/The Mask of Satan, a richly-shot black and white Gothic gem. From then on Bava worked in various genres – spaghetti western, sci-fi, action, peplum, sex – but it was in the horror genre that Bava made his legacy. His sumptuously filmed, tightly plotted giallo thrillers (Blood and Black Lace, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bay of Blood) and supernatural horrors (Lisa and the Devil, Baron Blood, Kill, Baby...Kill!) influenced an entire generation of Italian film-makers (and beyond) – never had horror looked so good. Bava’s penultimate picture was the harrowing thriller Rabid Dogs, while his last film, Shock, was one his very scariest. Died of a heart attack in 1980.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
  Rachel Franke
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Paul Shrimpton
  Desbris M
   

 

Last Updated: