La maschera del demonio (The Mask of Satan) AKA Black Sunday (1960)
Mario Bava‘s directorial feature film debut “Black Sunday” is a masterpiece of Gothic Horror. He was also the cinematographer and the film is in black and white.
Just to let you know, there are NTSC versions of this film on Blu-Ray and DVD but the version I want to deal with is the recently released Blu-Ray Region B three disc set which has at its first disc the Blu-Ray region B European version (The Mask of Satan) and the re-dubbed and re-edited AIP version re-titled “Black Sunday.” Also included is “I Vampiri” (1956). “I Vampiri” was originally directed by Riccardo Freda but at the last minute Mario Bava had to jump in to finish the film. But Black Sunday is still technically his first true directing job. This first Blu-Ray disc also contains commentary by Bava aficionado Tim Lucas, an introduction with Alan Jones, an interview with the films star Barbara Steele, trailers and a deleted scene. Because this is Region B you will need a special Blu-Ray player, it won‘t play in most North American players.
The second disc is pretty much the same except it does not have “I Vampiri” on it and is PAL region 2.
Disc 3 is the PAL region 2 version of “I Vampiri.” Again you also need a PAL to NTSC coverting region free DVD player to play the second and third discs. But there are NTSC (North American) version of both “Black Sunday” and “I Vampiri” (which is the first Italian Horror film to have sound).
Two centuries ago, the year 1630 in Moldovia, Russia-witch and vampire Princess Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) is tortured, and has “the mask of Satan” (A metal mask with spikes supposedly representing Satan) hammered into her face and burned at the stake along with her servant Igor Javutich for witchcraft by her brother the lead official of the Inquisition. Before she dies she puts a curse on all of her future relatives.
Two centuries later two doctors come across her tomb and accidentally bring her back to life. With a single kiss she can enchant people and control them especially Javutich who she brings back from the dead to help her and use others to help her in her quest to find Katia Vajda her descendant (Also played by Barbara Steele) so she can possess her body, killing people along the way in her pursuit for revenge and immortality. In order to kill the enthralled they must be stabbed but not in the heart as you might think. They must be stabbed in their left eye
Obviously influenced by Universal horror films and absolutely stunning in black and white. You can tell that Mario Bava is an artist painting his way from scene to scene creating a bleak atmosphere of horror and dread.
There are multiple tracks: The film can be listened to in English and Italian with English subtitles for both the English and Italian audio tracks. There is also a card with the art work to one of my favorites by Bava “Bahia De Sangre” (“Bay of Blood” also know as “Twitch of the Death Nerve.” I prefer the “Bay of Blood” title because it fits the film better). Along with everything else, there is a fabulous booklet that comes with it. This release of “Black Sunday/Mask of Satan” is from “Arrow Video”. Who have made some great releases including movies by Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and more.
If you have the equipment then I highly suggest this set from Arrow for it is beautiful in every way as far as I am concerned but like I wrote before, there are North American releases as well on DVD and Blu-Ray. This is an iconic film that has influenced many. And don’t forget: I has the beautiful Barbara Steele in it.