“Black Sunday” aka “The Mask Of Satan” (1960)

black-sunday-barbara-steele-italian-poster

There is no other director is history who has contributed more to horror than the late Mario Bava. A career expanding almost four decades,Some of his best known films are “Black Sabbath”, “The Girl Who Knew To Much”,”Shock”,”Kill,Baby,Kill”, and “Bay Of Blood”, I should note here that the first “Friday The Thirteenth” borrowed so much of its material from “Bay Of Blood”, that its downright laughable.

My personal favorite of his is without a doubt “Black Sunday”.This film is also known for making a star out of British born actress Barbara Steele, And If you know me personally you know how much I fawn over her.All silly film-crush’s aside though, It’s very easy to see why this film propelled her to the cult status she endures to this day.

Steele, who was just around the age of 18 at the time, had to play two roles on screen, Asa Vajda, a witch who was mercilessly condemned to death for practicing Witchcraft, and her descendant Princess Katia Vajda. Playing dual roles could be a challenge for any young actor, especially when both characters look virtually identical in hair,make up and often times how they’re dressed.So Steele accomplished this by making subtle differences in her dialogue and performance.Asa’s lines are spoken almost snake like, with an occasional post-production touch of reverb to make her voice seem more ominous, her whole demeanor is vindictive,cold and cunning.Her performance as Asa’s Descendant Katia however, is befitting for the young princess she’s playing, she’s caring, and at many times vulnerable at the first sign of trouble.She speaks with with a very soft feminine tone in her voice,Steele brought a natural grace to Katia to create a strong contrast between the two characters,and executed it very well.Even now, well into her 70’s Steele brings a very unique presence to evry film she is involved with.

Considering this was filmed in 1960 and on 35mm black and white film, Bava had to resort to a lot of subtle tricks to make up for the lack of special effects that were available at the time.Relying on camera angles and cleverly placed lighting,With a score comprised almost entirely of Violin, He was able to build the films atmosphere to a fever pitch. It’s no wonder that Dario Argento would ask him to direct the infamous underwater scene in “Inferno” 20 years later.

I’ve taken the liberty of barely touching on the plot.This is a film that’s standard viewing.Give it a watch and see for yourself.

“You too can find the joy and happiness of Hades!”

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