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Thursday, August 18, 2011
Black Sunday:A review
Black Sunday also known as The Devil's Mask,Revenge of the Vampire Woman,House of Fright, and Mask of the Demon is an Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava and was the film debut of the beautiful Barbara Steele. There is much that can be said about this 1960 film, but luckily there are more positive things that can be said about it rather than negative.
The first three to four minutes of the film are without a doubt one of the greatest openings in classic horror or for horror films in general. In a dark moonlight grove we see a group of hooded men surrounding a beautiful woman who has been tied to a stake. We soon find out that this woman is Princess Asa who has been accused of witch craft and has been condemned by her brother to wear the spike-lined devil's mask, bringing her death, but before her fateful end she receipts a curse that lets her killers know that she will return one day and she will have her revenge. Two-hundred years later (1860) Princess Asa's body is disturbed by the descendants of her brother and is accidentally brought back to life. Thus, the plot of the witch's revenge is set in motion.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is without a doubt the cinematography. I'll be honest when it comes horror films and their over all look it just does not get better than this. Mario Bava was not afraid to use sweeping camera angles and moody settings in Black Sunday. In fact much of his camera work went on to inspire other filmmakers.For example Francis Ford Coppola recreated many scenes from Black Sunday in his 1992 film Dracula. Tim Burton also took a great deal of inspiration from the film when it came to his film Sleepy Hallow. One of my favorite camera angles in the film is when we go into first person mode and see the terror through the victims eyes.
The music is another thing that can be praised about this film. Unlike most horror films where the music seems to blend in the background, the music in Black Sunday seems to be a driving force in the film. Now, mind you there is no memorable theme song that you'd see in Psycho or Rosemary's Baby,but you'll be sure to enjoy it when it is present and might even remember certain scenes just because of how well the music adds to the film.
There is a very limited amount of gore shown within in the film, but the little bit of blood that is present was considered to be terribly radical in 1960. When the film was first released it was banned in the United Kingdom due to the gruesome opening scene where the witch is killed by a spiked mask. In all honesty the most violence you see in this film are at the very beginning and the rest of the film is pretty tame when it comes to any action present.
Plot-wise the film seems to suffer a bit, there is nothing that really stands out. In Black Sunday you have your standard 1930/40s horror fair such as a cursed supernatural that is after the damsel in distress, which the hero of the tale tries to save, but he fails so it's up to the angry mob with torches and pitchforks to save the day. The plot is not bad it was just terribly cliche by the time it came out.
Never send a man to a mob's job.
The acting is another drawback in the film. No one is exactly terrible, but no one is exactly good. Everyone's performances is just so-so and the only person in the film who even slightly stands out from the rest of the cast is Barbara Steel and that mostly due to her unique fascicle expressions. Throughout most of the film she either plays an evil madwoman or a feeble frightened female. It was reported that while shooting the actors never saw a completed script. Barbara Steele states "We were given the pages day to day. We had hardly
any idea what was going down on that film. We had no idea of the end,
or the beginning, either, not at all." This would of course make it terribly difficult for the actors in the film to really get into their roles.
This film is an absolute must for any horror film fan, especially for those who enjoy classic 1930s/1940s horror. It is a foreign Italian film, so you can either watch it in Italian or dubbed English. The dubbed version is a bit odd in some aspects, but the voices with the lip movements seem natural and even not noticeable in some scenes. I think even a few contemporary horror fans might be able to enjoy this
film due to its rich cinematography. The first three to four minutes of
the film is a must for anyone who appreciates cinema. You can watch the film for free on YouTube.
Rated: Not Rated (By modern standards it's probably around a PG.)