Black Sabbath (1964)

Black Sabbath (1964)

“There’s no fooling around with ghosts, because they take revenge!”

Boris Karloff introduces a trio of horror stories about a woman (Michele Mercier) seeking solace from an estranged friend (Lydia Alfonsi) while she’s menaced by an ex-lover threatening to kill her; a patriarch (Boris Karloff) returning to his family home and bringing a dreaded curse with him; and a nurse (Jacqueline Pierreux) who foolishly steals a special ring from a corpse.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Boris Karloff Films
  • Episodic Films
  • Horror Films
  • Mario Bava Films
  • Vampires

Mario Bava’s seventh credited directorial effort was this omnibus of horror shorts, retitled from “The Three Faces of Fear” for American audiences to bank on his beloved debut film Black Sunday (1960). Black Sabbath (yes, the band took direct naming inspiration from this movie) offers plenty of spooky, atmospheric visuals tied to simple yet tight storylines that serve their purpose — but it’s the visuals that really linger. DVD Savant, a huge Bava fan, describes the unique quality of Bava’s lighting style:

It’s difficult to properly express the ‘special’ quality of Mario Bava’s artistic lighting… Favoring bright primary hues, sets are bathed in washes of color that can only be called hallucinatory. Electric greens and crimson reds, steely blues and deep purples give the screen depth and character. The heroines are bathed in warm golds and lit in non-traditional ways that make them look lusciously alive (Mercier) or nervously cold (Pierreux)… The fact that Bava’s lighting makes frequent use of unmotivated, un-sourced colored lights only adds to the feeling of fantasy. Images disturb precisely because their lighting is so ‘impossible’.

Film fanatics should enjoy checking out this cult favorite, though it’s only must-see for Bava fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Highly atmospheric cinematography and sets

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look as a solid set of short films by a master director.


2 thoughts on “Black Sabbath (1964)

  1. Not must-see, but Bava fans (and perhaps some other horror fans) will take to it.

    As is hinted at in my response to my rewatch of ‘Black Sunday’, I’m not a Bava fan. I’m actually not a fan of Italian horror in general. I just don’t seem to respond much to the Italian take on the genre.

    It’s rather common for reviewers and fans to go on in detail about Bava’s visual sense (his use of color, lighting, etc.) – the same is true of Argento and maybe the others in this group – but I tend to not find the narratives themselves compelling. They seem subpar to me (likewise the direction of the casts and the casts themselves).

    To me, this kind of horror film has dated rather badly.

    Karloff has a rather unintentionally funny line in his story – when he says, “What’s the matter, woman? Can’t I fondle my own grandson?” …’Fondle’??? Um, no, grandpa, you can’t. 😉

  2. It was first released and copyrighted in 1963. The proper title in Italy is The Three Faces of Fear.

    A wonderful horror portmanteau and for fans of horror cinema, director Bava and fans of Italian cinema a must see without a shadow of a doubt.

    However, for general film buffs it’s not a major entry in the horror field and as thus not must see.

    It remains a beautifully made, stunningly shot slice of gothic horror with impeccable production design and wonderful production values. I much prefer the Italian edit which is more risqué and adult. A classic of Italian horror.

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