BLACK SUNDAY (aka THE MASK OF SATAN) marks the directorial debut of prolific horror director Mario Bava, and what a debut! The story, a Gothic masterpiece about vampirism being an extension of Satan worship, is quite interesting. Barbara Steel, the first horror starlet, or scream queen, is amazingly beautiful and quite good as the evil Princess Asa, who curses her family after being condemned as a witch, and Princess Katia, her ancestor. A chairjumper every five minutes! It lulls you asleep and then slaps you awake with the next scary moment. True suspense is being built up as the plot goes along nice and slow (even under an hour and a half!) The whole film is gorgeous and really showed me that a black-and-white movie can be just as scary and cringe-inducing as one in bright color.
Yes, Mario Bava is the founding father of Italian horror as we know it! Not only is he a great director, but he is an excellent cameraman and special effects artist, just to name a few other things he did in his movies. Thanks to Bava, we have masterpieces from other great directors as Dario Argento (SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED, TENEBRE, INFERNO), Lucio Fulci (DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING, ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND), and even Mario's own son Lamberto (MACABRE, A BLADE IN THE DARK, DEMONS 1 & 2). Hell, even the Bavas helped Argento on occasion (Mario directed that awesome underwater sequence in INFERNO, and Lamberto was assistant director on that and TENEBRE). So remember, when you think about how awesome Italian horror movies were back in the day and all the masterpieces that came out of that country, remember Mario Bava. And watch BLACK SUNDAY and all of his other movies!