Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (1963) movie poster

(1963) director Mario Bava
viewed: 10/31/10

The title of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath, as it is known in its English language release, served as a good inspiration for Ozzy Osborne to re-name his rock band, but the film’s original Italian title I Tre volti della paura, more literally The Three Faces of Fear in English, is perhaps a little more apt.  The film is a compendium of three short films, horror or thrillers, and there isn’t a witch’s meeting among them.

A few years back I watched Bava’s Black Sunday (The Mask of Satan) (1960), which had really impressed me.  But for whatever reason, it took me this long to get around to watching another of Bava’s horror films.  As it turned out, this was my Halloween night feature.

The first segment, “The Telephone”, is more of a thriller.  Shot in bright colors, it has a different feeling from the other two segments.  It’s setting and story are more modern, whereas the latter two stories are more gothic and classically in the horror style and genre.

Like Black Sunday, the second segment, “The Wurdalak”, is adapted from a story by Nikolai Gogol.  This segment stars the near-ubiquitous Boris Karloff, who also introduces and closes the film.  It’s a Russian vampire of sorts, and is probably the most effective of the sequences.

The final segment, “The Drop of Water” evoked Rod Serling’s Night Gallery perhaps (or perhaps vice versa).  Actually, the whole film had a little of Night Gallery about it.

I have the vaguest memory of having seen this film as a kid, but with no real memories, per se.  I recall not really enjoying it, which kind of makes sense.  It’s a more sustained and adult sort of film, with the horror more suggested and cumulative (and with the segments being short), the stories fly by a little quickly and don’t have the impact that they might in a fuller build and duration.

What’s interesting, though I don’t have much to derive from it, is the final shot, showing Karloff bidding the audience adieu as they head out into the spooky night.  He does this while “riding” a galloping horse, which the shot, as the camera pulls back, it’s revealed that the horse is not at all real, nor are the background.  The shot reveals the whole artifice of the cinema, and with the set decorators rotating as they hold branches of trees, it has a distinctly Fellini-esque sensibility to it.  It’s funny and playful, but it’s significance is hard to fully apply.

Still, some pretty good fun.

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