BLACK SUNDAY (The Mask of Satan)-Italy-1960
Directed by Mario Bava
Screenplay by Ennio De Concini, Mario Sarandrei and Marcello Coscia
Based on the short story “The Viy” by Nikolai Gogol
Is “Black Sunday” a film about a witch and her illicit lover who vow vengeance on her brother’s descendants? Yes. Is “Black Sunday” a film about a vampire and her illicit lover who vow vengeance on her brother’s descendants? Again, yes. Are the witch and the vampire the same person as portrayed by the hauntingly beautiful Barbara Steele? Oh, hell yes. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this is Steele’s film in every way. The woman is so strikingly gorgeous that there is absolutely no way you can take your eyes off of her. Who better to portray not only the evil witch/vampire Asa Vajda and her descendant the innocent princess Katja Vajda? With one look into those eyes Steele can make your heart melt and you fall madly in love, or you will do her bidding on the path to your destruction. I have racked my brain trying to figure out a way to review this film and this is the only way I know how. This is Mario Bava’s debut film as a director and it would be the first in a long line of Italian horror classics that include “Black Sabbath”, “Blood and Black Lace” and “Planet of the Vampires.” But make no mistake about it, Bava’s name may be above the title but it is Barbara Steele and her raven beauty that is the star of “Black Sunday.”
In the October 17-23, 1998 edition of “TV Guide”, director Tim Burton says this is his favorite horror film.
Both Barbara Steele and Arturo Dominici were fitted with vampire fangs. Mario Bava decided against using them in the film. They can be seen in some of the publicity photos.
In the Italian language version Princess Asa and Javutich are brother and sister which hinted at an incestuous relationship. This relationship is not part of either English language version.
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