I have waited so long to watch this movie… whenever I could find it. Magically, Shudder has acquired some Mario Bava films, including two that I will be reviewing this week. I saw one on Sunday (11/29) and one the previous week which will be talked about on Saturday’s post but today, we will discuss a Bava classic… Black Sunday.
Or The Mask of Satan, whichever one.
I was super excited to watch this, like I mentioned. I remember seeing this movie featured in 100 Scariest Movie Moments on Bravo and it seemed so bizarre and so not like something I had seen prior to. This was also before streaming and you kinda had to luck out with finding a lot of foreign horror films on your own and this was one of those movies. And the more I dove deeper into the genre with the blog on tumblr, researching, you start to learn more about directors, writers, etc., and thankfully we are at a time where we have easier access to finding these pieces of media.
Shudder has plenty of Bava’s works available but first, let’s talk about Black Sunday, shall we? Black Sunday was definitely an interesting watch. Prior to watching this film, I had only seen Blood and Black Lace and Shock. Not a whole lot but two very different films at the end of the spectrum. One film is in his hayday (BBL) and the other was his last film that was theatrically released before his passing. So I didn’t have much to go off of but they were enough inklings of what he had to offer. Black Sunday is about a witch found and condemned for witchcraft and vowed to get revenge on her descendants. The plot is quite simple but what makes this film work is one person: Barbara Steele.
Gorgeous, she reminds me of a Vampira or a Morticia Addams, the jawline and cheekbone but she is playing dual roles and she does a great job.
What I liked about the movie was the overall gothic, or even high gothic nature of the film. There was always this sense of danger at every turn, very ominous and tense that something, anything can jump out of the darkness and strike! Another thing I enjoyed were the special effects. They were just creepy enough to be effective. Steele’s face was disfigured from the lovely iron mask of Satan (with spike inside) that punctured through her face multiple times and the end result is quite eerie.
The only downside to the film is the dubbing and it’s quite obvious and distracting at times. I’m used to dubbing or subtitles, that has never bothered me but I kept finding myself looking at their mouths and then seeing if the words matched up and sometimes it seemed like they were speaking English but then it was dubbed in Italian and then into English or dubbed English badly. I couldn’t focus on anything else at times. It was an interesting watch from that perspective.
Black Sunday is available on Shudder and stars Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici and Enrico Olivieri. It was directed by Mario Bava and I give this movie a 4 out of 5.