Black Sunday (La maschera del demonio)
Film: Black Sunday (La maschera del demonio)
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Ennio De Concini and Mario Serandrei
Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checchi
This film begins informing us that we start in a time when Satan roamed the Earth and has blood thirsty disciples known as witches. We are at a cleansing of them. The narration informs us that it was man’s duty by God to rid the world and that they mixed their laws in it. We see a woman, played by Barbara Steele, being prepped to be executed for witchcraft. Nearby is a man that was her accomplice in these black arts. The man who is leading this is Steele’s brother, played by Arturo Dominici. Both witches have a mask of Satan nailed to their face. They go to burn them, but rains prevent this. Steele is buried in the family tomb while the man in a graveyard for murders and criminals.
We then shift two hundred years into the future. There is a coach with two doctors going to Moscow. There is a professor, played by Andrea Checchi, and his young assistant, played by John Richardson. They are going to the Russian congress. Their coach is driven by Mario Passante. He is scared as they are coming to a stretch where the local legend is of the witch. Their coach crashes. One of the wheels has come off right in front of a destroyed church.
The two doctors check it out. The reason being there is an odd sound coming from inside. It turns out to be the wind blowing through organ pipes. They venture farther in to find the tomb of Steele. Checchi explains that there is a window on the casket to show Steele a cross that will prevent her from returning to life. Richardson leaves to help Passante when a giant bat attacks Checchi. He does kill it, but also breaks the cross. He cuts his finger taking the mask off Steele’s corpse, dropping blood onto her. As they go to leave, they meet Steele’s ancestor, who is also played by Steele. Richardson is attracted to her.
The two doctors stay in town. The younger Steele is named Asa while the witch is named Katia. Asa lives with her father, played by Ivo Garrani and her brother, played by Enrico Olivieri. Garrani is on edge when he hears what sounds like wolves. We also learn there are two paintings in the room they spend their time. One is of Katia and one of her accomplice. Asa is bothered by the painting of Katia and believes something in it has moved or changed.
At the inn, the daughter is told to milk the cow. The girl is played by Germana Dominici and she is scared. She does as she is told, but a grave nearby opens. Katia is alive and has freed Arturo, who also plays her accomplice Javuto.
Garrani becomes ill when he is attacked by Javuto. He uses a cross to ward him away. His children check on him. They send their butler, played by Tino Bianchi, to the inn for one of the doctors. The male witch shows up first and collects Checchi. He is taken to Katia, who turns him into her servant. She sends him to the castle.
In the night Checchi kills Garrani and disappears. Richardson comes up to the castle to see what is going on. A worker played by Renato Terra turns up dead and the little girl claims she saw Javuto take Checchi. Richardson and Olivieri try to get to the bottom of this. They enlist the aid of a priest, played by Antonio Pierfederici.
It is this priest that tells them what the witches’ plans are. Can they stop Katia before she steals Asa life and returns to power? Can these witches be stopped and destroyed?
I have to say that this film is interesting. I personally thought the first time I saw it, without knowing what it was about, that it was vampires due to the opening narration. Now it is definitely witches. I thought the acting was good across the board. Steele has an interesting look and does come off as mean. I thought what the people did to them was harsh and don’t blame them for wanting revenge, but then again they worship Satan so they have it coming to them. Mario Bava was the director and he tends to go gory, but being from 1960, he was limited. He does have some violent images and blood.
I do have some issues with this film. The first is how Katia comes back. I mean I have trouble believing that Checchi would do some of the things he did. I get this is a movie so I do give it some leeway. I did think that the ending was a little too convenient and was very surprised that this is the route that Bava took. It comes off as being too Hollywood for me. The other thing is the film states that the painting of Steele changes, how is she the only one that notices it? Also why would the painting of the witches stay hung up in the room they are in?
Now with that said, this is not a bad film to view. It has some good acting and a decent story to go along with it. Some the concepts are really good though. It is a toned down film for Bava, but it does have some violently disturbing images along with some blood. Keep in mind that this film is in black and white, so if that’s an issue avoid this one. If not, this is a pretty good witch film involving revenge.
My Rating: 6 out of 10