From the Mario Bava Collection comes his most frightening masterpiece, a tribute to the classic horror of Universal Pictures. In 17th Century Moldavia, the evil Princess Asa is condemned to death for witchcraft and vampiri... more »sm, along with her brother, Prince Igor Javutich. Two hundred years later, two doctors en route to a medical convention discover her crypt and accidentally set her resurrection in motion! With the help of Javutich and others whom she enthralls with her cold, dead kiss, Asa sets her sights on her ultimate victim--Princess Katia, her own twin descendant. Filmed in gorgeous black & white by the director himself, "Black Sunday" is a stylish and relentlessly visual film of undiluted violence starring cult film star Barbara Steele (Shivers, 8 1/2). The uncut European version--first time on video in the United States!« less
"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."
This deluxe DVD is a must for any serious collector
Paul Kesler | 02/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Black Sunday is an engrossing, well-crafted, and suprisingly beautiful horror film. This DVD is testament to that fact and a sharp back-handed slap at those who automatically dismiss genre movies as trash. The respect Black Sunday and director Mario Bava are given is long overdue. I won't bore you with tedious plot summarys. All I will tell you is that if you haven't seen Black Sunday, you must, and that if you have seen it, you must see it again in this presentation (because you've been missing plenty both in content and quality).Presented in its origanal 1:66:1 theatrical aspect ratio, viewers for the first time can see this classic in ALL its macabre glory. The image quality is absolutely astounding when one compares it to the VHS editions floating around. The audio is also presented in pristine condition gaurenteed to sound excellent in any stereo thanks to the various formats.All this makes one wonder exactly how much time went into this? If Video Watchdog editor/publisher Tim Lucas's liner notes and commentary are any indication, then the answer has to be a lot! Both are well-informed and thorougly entertaining. It is a wonderful feeling to know that someone took the time to give you your money's worth -- that is exactly what the people behind this gorgeous DVD have done. As an avid fan of the writings of Tim Lucas, I would like to strongly encourage fans of Mario Bava and like-minded artists to check out his magazine, Video Watchdog and his post-modernistic vampire novel, Throat Sprockets."
Best-ever transfer (but....)
Paul Kesler | Bridgeport, PA United States | 05/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Actually, my rating for this DVD version of "Black Sunday" would be 5 stars for the video transfer, 5 stars for Bava's cinematography (seen here like never before), 2 stars for the audio transfer, and 3 stars for the overall quality of the film itself. Bava was not a great director, and didn't like to be called a "cinematographer," but this film really is a painting in motion: every scene is a paradigm of Gothicism -- the cinematic equivalent of Gustave Dore. Like otherreviewers, I was floored by the print used for this disc: it looks, almost literally, like it was shot yesterday, and it's almost impossible to believe the film is almost 40 years old. If there are other films from this era that look this pristine, I haven't seen them. My only quarrel with the disc has to do with the dubbing. In all honesty, I feel this film sports one of the worst American dubbing jobs ever performed on a film, and the big question (which neither Tim Lucas nor anyone else seems to have raised)is this: WHERE is the original Italian-language version of "Black Sunday," and why wasn't an attempt made to give us the original dialogue with OPTIONAL English subtitles? Mr. Lucas would have us believe that this DVD was the original version, but obviously the entire cast is speaking Italian (duhhh - why else would you have to dub in English?). So, yes, I'm thrilled to have this beautiful print, but hopefully in the future we'll get the original Italian dialogue and not have to endure the abominable dubbing..."
The Mask of Satan
Paul Kesler | 12/27/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't really know if I would say this was a great movie, but it is a fascinating movie. Even more fascinating if you watch it with the audio commentary. Normally I'm not too keen on that audio commentary stuff, but in this case I was intrigued because of a scene in which Barbara Steele the witch/vampire sucks the life energy (or something like that) out of Barbara Steele the love interest/mortal. In the course of this transformation their (her) makeup changes so that one character appears to age while the other appears to grow younger. (Now, this wasn't a Wolfman kind of thing, where the camera dissolves between a series of makeup applications and you can clearly see the dissolves between separate shots. I mean, Barbarba was doing some serious writhing while those age lines were appearing and disappearing on her face, and there were no signs of cuts or dissolves! And this was in the days before computer morphing.) Anyway, I wondered, How the hell did they do that? So I enabled the audio commentary in the menu and sure enough the effect was explained (it was a pretty ingenious little effect too, I might add). Anyway, I ended up watching the whole movie with the commentary over it, because darned if all didn't turn out to pretty fascinating. The commentary was done by film historian/expert/possible OCD sufferer named Tim Lucas who seemed to know what he was talking about. Now, normally, there's something about those "The Making of" media specials/reports about Hollywood blockbusters--Titanic, for example--that just put me to sleep. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, you spend $100 million and have several dozen nerds slaving over computer keyboards for months, your effects better look pretty spiffy. But when you get impressive results when your using a child's wagon for your dolly shots and poached egges for eyeballs, that's when I get interested. Anyway, thumb's up from me on your job, Mr. Lucas. Apparently this same fellow provides audio commentary on Kill, Baby, Kill too. Which I'm thinking I might buy as well.I should add that the transfer for Black Sunday is pretty nice, and this is pretty important because the big thing this movie has going for it (as opposed to, say, great acting, brilliant dialogue, etc.) is its cinematography. And atmosphere. It's got that too."
The Best Italian Horror Film of the '60's.
chad edwards | cincinnati, ohio USA | 10/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Italy produced many creepy horror efforts of the '60's, but this is the most effective by far. From its ominous opening to its fiery finish, BLACK SUNDAY is a terrifying cinematic experience. The hauntingly beautiful Barbara Steele, who went on to become Italy's foremost Scream Queen, plays a dual role: a lovely virginal princess, and a wicked witch who returns from the grave to seek vengeance on the descendants of those who burned her at the stake over a hundred years before. Steele is strikingly effective in both roles, and the mysterious Gothic atmosphere is both sinister and beautiful. The film was shot in gorgeous black and white, and it just wouldn't look right any other way. This was also the directorial debut of Mario Bava who, like Steele, would become a crucial name in '60's Italian scare flicks. Horror fans just won't be able to do any better than this!"