Black Sunday: Remastered Edition
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In Mario Bava's gothic horror masterpiece steeped in rich atmosphere, condemned witch Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) returns from the dead two centuries after her execution and wreaks vengeance on her killers' family. Possessing the body of a descendant who happens to look just like her, Asa pulls out all the stops to exact her revenge. This is Bava's credited directorial debut, and it catapulted Steele and him to stardom.
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Based on Gogol's story "The Vij," it is a tale of witchcraft and vampirism that transcends centuries. Steele plays two characters, not uncommon for her - an adulterous woman burned as a witch and then a more innocent damsel in distress in the "present." But the witch leveled a curse on those who killed her and two hundred years later, she is determined to seek revenge.
The black and white photography is lovely - a ghostly carriage in the woods surrounded by fog, the cobweb filled crypts, the dead strenuously coming back to life, and the entrance of characters from behind secret passages all give the illusion of a fairy tale. The opening sequence, where the villagers nail a spiked mask on Steele, is pretty intense for the period (the film is also titled "The Mask of the Demon").
The dubbing of this version of the film is not particularly good - hence the four stars instead of five - but the film itself is carefully paced to build excitement and the cinematography remains gorgeous. Like a number of films of the 1960's, "Black Sunday" helped move horror films away from the Universal classics approach and into what we consider modern horror. While not discussed as much as Psycho or the early Hammer films, this remains a classic and a must see for fans of the genre. While Bava and Steele did many other movies after this, they never topped their work on "Black Sunday."
This is a fabulous looking film, loaded with great black and white imagery. It’s moody and gloomy and not nearly as gory as claimed (by today’s standards at least). There’s something very grand about the way Mario Bava approached this well-worn subject. Masterful. Elegant. And fun!