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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRAVO BAVA AND STEELE
If you are a true horror connoseur of great horror films, BLACK SUNDAY or THE MASK OF SATAN, belongs in your repertoire of those films which defined what "horror" movies should be about.
Mario Bava's first film is full of eloquent imagery, darkly atmospheric sets and lighting, and an almost palpable sense of doom. Barbara Steele, who went on with Hazel...
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Michael Butts

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The heavenly totality of Asa Vadya's eyes
(...)
This is certainly a minor stylistic masterpiece. It creates atmosphere that is thick, foreboding, and claustrophobic. The story, however, is not worthy of such a lush, lavish treatment. It just doesn't possess any emotional depth. The whole film is Barbara Steele's eyes. They possess power that the film as a whole simply does not. The fog the film is...
Published on June 9 2004 by Curt Surly


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The heavenly totality of Asa Vadya's eyes, June 9 2004
By 
Curt Surly (Bellingham, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black Sunday (VHS Tape)
(...)
This is certainly a minor stylistic masterpiece. It creates atmosphere that is thick, foreboding, and claustrophobic. The story, however, is not worthy of such a lush, lavish treatment. It just doesn't possess any emotional depth. The whole film is Barbara Steele's eyes. They possess power that the film as a whole simply does not. The fog the film is enveloped in is not pervasive enough to mask the bitter emptiness of the tale being conveyed. It is difficult to criticize the film on its cinematic qualities. Nevertheless, the story does not mesmerize, tantalize or excite beyond those moments when Asa is moaning in her blood ecstasy. Indeed, my grandest (futile) wish was for Asa to slaughter them all and then to hit the road looking for more victims to prey upon.
Barbara Steele weeps, shrieks, sighs, faints, screams, moans, gasps, and is undeniably fascinating to watch. She is far more interesting as Asa. As Katia, she is a cipher. She's drained of life and hysterical to boot. Asa has activated her will (if the undead can even be said to possess a will--the will of Satan?). Katia is receptive, helpless and boring. She's just a lonely princess longing for her prince (yawn). It isn't Ms. Steele's fault--the character is simply dismal. She's the "good" girl--she doesn't have to do anything, except mope about in a perfectly awful hairdo. The rest of the cast are perfectly plastic--save for Arturo Dominici as Javutich. He's a fine match for Ms. Steele and wondefully terrible. He has presence that the others lack.
Still, the film is simply gorgeous. The story might not be my glass of Absinthe, but the film is still visually stunning. It lacks emotion and depth--but it makes up for it somewhat in the sheer power of its images. Obvious films that clearly map out the binary opposites at play are just not that intriguing. When you know from the start that virtue will win and evil will be destroyed, it kind of takes the thrill out of the whole thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRAVO BAVA AND STEELE, Feb. 3 2004
By 
Michael Butts (Berkeley Springs, WV USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you are a true horror connoseur of great horror films, BLACK SUNDAY or THE MASK OF SATAN, belongs in your repertoire of those films which defined what "horror" movies should be about.
Mario Bava's first film is full of eloquent imagery, darkly atmospheric sets and lighting, and an almost palpable sense of doom. Barbara Steele, who went on with Hazel Court, to be the true scream queens of the sixties, is perfect in the dual role of the witch and her descendant; Bava knew that Steele's beauty is not of the usual kind and he used his lens to soften some of her harshness, but yet to ignite those gorgeous eyes. Steele also knew how to handle the camera, how to peer not only into the eyes of her fellow actors, but into your eyes as well.
John Richardson's boyish handsomeness is a perfect contrast to Steele's dark beauty. (Only complaint about DVD is the obvious dubbing, with "radio dj" voices that at times lessened the impact of the movie). The silent stagecoach ride is as many readers have commented one of the eeriest scenes captured on celluloid.
This is a frightening movie, way ahead of its time, and maintains a crude brilliance that is still penetrating today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bava Lives!, Jan. 18 2004
By 
Daniel Kepley (Viola, DE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Witches and masks and vampires, oh my!, Feb. 22 2014
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
Vampires, witches, gothic castles, crumbling crypts and the odd dead body. If this movie had werewolves, it would be the perfect Halloween movie.

But even without lycanthropes, "Black Sunday" is a brilliant little chunk of gothic horror. Mario Bava's solo directorial debut is rich in atmosphere and beautifully filmed, and it has plenty of very-graphic-for-1960 violence that is genuinely disturbing. The only problem is that the English language dub is... AWFUL.

In the 1600s, the Inquisition condemned the evil witch Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her brother/lover Javuto (Arturo Dominici). They were both executed with iron devil masks nailed into their faces, but not before Asa curses her brother (the grand Inquisitor) and vows to return.

Two hundred years later, a carriage breaks down outside her crypt, and Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) wander in. Wouldn't you know, Kruvajan accidentally cuts his finger and the drop of blood revives Asa's corpse. And fortunately for her revenge scheme, her brother's descendants still live nearby.

Before long, she has sicced the undead Javuto on the family of the fearful Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani), particularly his daughter Katia (Steele again). Oh, and shes turned Kruvajan into her vampire slave. Gorobec must join forces with the local priest to stop the witch and her minions before she can use Katia's blood to fully resurrect herself.

"Black Sunday" is absolutely soaked in gothic atmosphere -- black leafless trees, vast shadowy castles, ruined crypts with eyeless corpses, and a perpetually stormy night. Mario Bava takes full advantage of this, crafting beautifully eerie scenes with his use of light and shadow. The film is absolutely beautiful.

It's also pretty disturbing. Granted, the gore isn't much compared to the "Saws" and "Hostels" of cinema, but they're still pretty disturbing (burnings, eye-stakings and iron masks hammered into faces). And there's a vampiric element in this story, but Bava doesn't overplay it with cheesy fangs or other cliches -- it feels more like Eastern European folklore than Hollywood.

But there is one big problem: the dialogue tends to be cheesy and clunky, especially during big dramatic scenes ("You too can find the joy and happiness of hating!").

This was actress Barbara Steele's breakthrough role, and she's quite good (if a bit hammy) in the dual role of the innocent Katia and the malevolent Asa. The other actors do good (if a bit hammy) jobs as well, particularly Dominici's silent blank-faced menace, Enrico Oliveiri, and Andrea Checchi as an inquisitive man of science.

"Black Sunday" is the ideal Halloween movie for people who are tired of the same ol' Hollywood horror -- an eerie movie about witches, curses and vampires.
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2.0 out of 5 stars I kept waiting for the "masterpiece" part., Dec 22 2003
Black Sunday (Mario Bava, 1960)
Black Sunday is the movie Ed Wood always wanted to make. A four-cheese pizza with extra provolone is still not nearly as cheesy as this "horror" film, from which the only horror can be gleaned at the unintentional humor to be found throughout. But still, for the fan of Italian horror cinema, Black Sunday (as many of Bava's films) is a must-see, simply because Bava was the man who inspired giallo, and the tangents off giallo which gave rise to the films of the great triumvirate of Italian horror directors (Argento, Fulci, and Lenzi).
If you can piece together a plot summary for this movie, you're a better man than I. But I'll give it a shot: in the 1700s, a witch (Barbara Steele, recently of the ill-fated attempt to remake the ark Shadows TV series) is executed by the Inquisition (weren't they gone by then?) in a startlingly brutal manner: they hammer a spiked mask over her face. Two hundred years later, a professor of history (Andrea Checchi) and his eager assistant Dr. Gorobec (John Richardson) stumble upon her tomb and remove the mask, freeing her spirit. Now, it just so happens that her many-times-great granddaughter Katja (also played by Steele) is still living in the witch's house with her family, and the two of them happen to look remarkably alike... you can see where this is going, no?
Fans of the Italian horror masters will find the geneses of such things as Fulci's obsession with "eye shots," Argento's sweeping cinematographic spectacles of murder, and Lenzi's brutal execution techniques. And some of the scenes do inspire the viewer to disgust, at least (when Checchi pulls the mask off the witch's face being a perfect example), but as a horror film, it falls pretty flat. The later Italian directors refined the style into something better. **
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Brilliant Bava, Oct. 26 2003
By 
Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Italian director Mario Bava exploded onto the horror scene with the wonderful black and white film "Black Sunday," also known as "The Mask of Satan" (a title I prefer because it does such a better job describing the movie). This picture borrows heavily from a Nikolai Gogol short story called "The Vij," and while I am not familiar with the story, the movie succeeds fantastically at conveying a bleak atmosphere of horror. "The Mask of Satan" was Bava's official directorial debut, giving viewers a chance to see the genius that was to come from this excellent filmmaker. Bava didn't merely direct films, however. He also worked on all aspects of movie making during his long career. The director even helped his son cut his teeth in the business immediately before his death in 1980. Fans will miss Bava terribly after viewing just a few of his films, as he was one of those rare Italian horror directors who could truly deliver the goods.
"Black Sunday," set in Romania, opens at an unspecified date in the seventeenth century. Some of the local nobles decide to get together and roast a couple of Satan's followers, but this barbecue bears a special meaning for the House of Vajda because one of its own is on the spit. The beautiful Princess Asa Vajda fell under the evil spell of the dark one, along with her unseemly lover Javutich, and both now face a painful execution. In order to insure that these two sullied creatures wear the mark of their crimes, Asa's own brother orders a metal mask of Satan nailed to their faces. Unfortunately for the Vajda family, Asa casts a curse on the family immediately before her execution, promising to come back from the dead and plague her relatives throughout the centuries. After carrying out this sordid task, the people present attempt to burn the corpses, but a rainstorm conveniently whips up and prevents the destruction of the bodies of these two satanic worshippers. In order to rid themselves of the bodies, the House of Vajda orders Asa interred in the family crypt with a few conditions: a glass pane and a cross must be placed on the sarcophagus in order to keep Asa firmly in her coffin. Javutich's corpse doesn't fare as well; his body ends up in a grave in the cemetery. All's well that end's well after this incident, as Asa and Javutich waste away the centuries in their tombs.
Flash forward two hundred years. Two doctors traveling to a medical conference stumble upon the decaying Vajda crypt. In a fit of scientific defiance to peasant tradition, one of the doctors named Kruvajan bumbles around Asa's coffin and causes some damage to it. From this point on, Bava takes his viewers on a roller coaster ride of creepy imagery, walking corpses, vampiric transformations, and oppressive atmosphere rarely seen in even the best of horror films. As the horror of "The Mask of Satan" unfolds, we meet the various characters who will play witness to the resuscitated curse on the House of Vajda: Doctor Gorobec, the young, heroic companion of Kruvajan destined to save the day; Katia Vajda, the present princess of Vajda; and her fearful father and brother. Katia's father knows about the curse of Asa, and he spends a significant portion of his time worrying about it. Moreover, several people remark on the amazing resemblance between Asa and Katia Vajda as seen in an old portrait of the Satan worshipping princess. Does this similarity have anything to do with the Asa's seemingly renewed deathbed curse? Probably, and the fun comes from watching it unfold through Bava's masterful use of cinematography, sets, atmosphere, sound effects, and gruesome special effects.
That Universal horror films influenced "The Mask of Satan" is so obvious it really doesn't need mentioning in the editorial review on this site. Throughout the movie, I continually recognized these similarities. Perhaps the surprising revelation here is that Bava's film is markedly better than many of the influences he supposedly borrowed from. Check out the coach moving through the forest in complete silence, or the trip Javutich and the doctor take through the castle. These are superb effects accomplished without the benefit of CGI or fancy prosthetics. Additionally, every movement of each character seems choreographed for maximum creepy effect. I kept wondering how Bava managed to get his actors to move so SLOWLY while making it look so natural. Special mention goes to the eerily effective Barbara Steele, the actress who plays both Asa and Katia. I wouldn't go as far as a few horror fans and say that this woman is drop dead gorgeous, but she is pretty and the make-up effects used on her face give her a ultra creepy appearance when she is playing Asa. I could go on and on about the things I liked in this movie. Everything works masterfully, giving "The Mask of Satan" a classic feel right from the start.
The DVD version of the film I watched carries a "Special Edition" label, meaning that you get a Mario Bava biography and filmography, a trailer, a photo and poster gallery, and a commentary by Bava historian Tim Lucas. The package claims this is the uncut version of the film, always a good thing when you decide to watch a horror movie. Mario Bava went on to make a slew of films in a wide range of genres, but so far "The Mask of Satan" has been my most satisfying experience with this director. With Halloween right around the corner, this film would nicely fit the bill for a home horror movie marathon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mario Bava Scared The S**T Out Of Me, Aug. 1 2003
By A Customer
Black Sunday(The Mask of Satan) has all the elements of a great horror film. Good story, pacing, simple, but extremely effective special effects, gorgeous black and white photography and Barbara Steele. I saw the showing here in the cut, Les Baxter score, etc. etc. version which was great, I must admit, but seeing the uncut version was not so much an eyeopener as finally seeing a wonderful scarefest the way it should of been seen many years ago. If only current "horror" filmmakers could learn how to make a good horror film like Bava, then life would be "GOOD". It's not MONEY, expensive special effects, big names, or color, but IMAGINATION, a good sense of film composition and a sense of what makes a good story that count. Cut the budgets for some of these films like the remake of "The Haunting", all the Freddy-Jason films and make the directors use their brains and creative imagination and we might have some decent films to talk about 25 years from now. Black Sunday stands the test of time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BAVA - HAMMER : 1 - 0, June 17 2003
By 
Daniel S. "Daniel" (Geneva, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
At least, one scene of italian director Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY will haunt your memory for a long time : Javutich, played by a sepulchral Arturo Dominici, kidnaps a doctor and drives him to the castle's chapel in a diligence. The hellish trip is partly filmed in slow-motion without any sound. Astounding ! and a great homage to the german director F.-W. Murnau who shot the same scene in 1922 for his NOSFERATU but in a slightly different manner.
In 1961, the British Hammer Films reigned over the horror movies genre and the audience was accustomed to the Gothic made in England. So let's appreciate Bava's courage ; with a screenplay vaguely inspired by a story of Nicolaï Gogol, he was aiming at the same goal than Terence Fisher & Co. : frighten the audience !
In my opinion, Mario Bava is clearly the winner of this cinematographical battle. BLACK SUNDAY is the masterpiece of this director and deserves to stay in any curious movie lover's secret library.
An excellent copy and edifying bonus features will complete your pleasure.
A DVD dedicated to Tim Burton.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Black sunday, April 25 2003
By A Customer
Scary? No. Beautiful, well done black and white horror film? yes. This DVD was extremely well done for the movies time period. The effects used in the movie are wonderful, I especially liked the silent running horses and coach and the very beginning of the movie is really good. If you love black and white classics such as Dracula then you need to see this movie just for the visuals.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully atmospheric horror, April 10 2003
By A Customer
Not quite the classic some would have it (I prefer Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and KILL BABY KILL) but a beautifully atmospheric film, often very inventively shot with one great set piece after another. Scared me as a kid and really stuck with me for years.
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Black Sunday
Black Sunday by DVD (DVD - 2007)
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