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Black Sunday (1960)

La maschera del demonio (original title)
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A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch's beautiful look-alike descendant. Only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor stand in her way.



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Complete credited cast:
Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda (as Barbara Steel)
Andrea Checchi ...
Ivo Garrani ...
Arturo Dominici ...
Igor Javutich / Javuto
Enrico Olivieri ...
Prince Constantine Vajda
Antonio Pierfederici ...
Tino Bianchi ...
Clara Bindi ...
Inn Keeper
Nikita, the Coachman
Renato Terra ...
Germana Dominici ...
Sonya, the Innkeeper's Daughter


In the Seventeenth Century, in Maldavia, Princess Asa Vajda and her lover Javutich (Arturo Dominici) are killed by the local population, accused of witchcraft. A mask of Satan is attached to their faces. Princess Asa curses her brother, promising revenge to his descents. The body of Javutich is buried outside the cemetery, and the coffin of Princess Asa is placed in the family's tomb with a cross over it for protection. Two hundred years later, Professor Thomas Kruvajan and his assistant, Dr. Andre Gorobec, are going to a congress in Russia and they accidentally find the tomb. Dr. Thomas breaks the cross, releasing the evil witch. When they are leaving the place, Dr. Andre meets Princess Katia Vajda, descendant of Princess Asa, and falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Katia is threatened by the witch, who wants to use her body to live again. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


STARE INTO THESE EYES... discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY... it will paralyze you with fright! See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

15 February 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Sunday  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mario Bava was a big fan of Nikolai Gogol's short story, "Viy," on which this film's plot and characters are based. Bava recounted that he often used to read the story to his children and that the tale scared them so much that they insisted on sleeping in bed with their father. Bava so admired the horror elements of "Viy" that when was given the chance to choose the material for a film he was to direct, he immediately selected Gogol's story in order to make this film. See more »


Andre and the priest struggle to open the graveyard gate, when they could have just gotten in by the barn where there was no fence. See more »


Dr. Thomas Kruvajan: You have no reason to fear the dead. They sleep very soundly.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For "The Mask of Satan," the English language version prepared in Italy, Barbara Steele's name is listed as "Barbara Steel" on the trailer and on the credits of the film itself. See more »


Referenced in The Grapes of Death (1978) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Sparkeling Debut
13 September 2001 | by (Boston, MA) – See all my reviews

La Maschera del Demonio/The Mask of Satan(1960) is the film that introduced audiences around the world to the cinema of Mario Bava. Responsible for being the first horror film to have a formidable evil female villain. Its about a dead witch who returns from the dead with her lover to terrorize the descendents of their executioners. Translitional picture that predates the broodish and moody style of Night of the Living Dead(1968). Tim Burton has cited this movie as one of his favorites.

After years as Assistent Director and Director of Photography, Bava was rewarded with his first full directorial assignment and the results are impressive. Mario Bava was a talented filmmaker with a love for the fine arts of Europe and Russian literature. He didn't direct full time until he was in his late 40s. Mario Bava's influences as a film director were Riccardo Freda and Freda and Fritz Lang. Nikolai Gogol is a writer that along with Edgar Allen Poe played a major influence on Bava's supernatural tales.

One theme that is present in The Mask of Satan(1960) is the decay and decline of a once happy and powerful family{more fully explored in Bava's later films of Black Sabbath(1963), Whip and the Body(1964), Lisa and the Devil(1974), and Shock(1977)}. Deals with the notion of the inescapability of fate that is an important theme in Bava's work. An example of this motif comes from Barbara Stelle with her line:"Here is the Very image of my life". Mario Bava was a fatalistic filmmaker who used imagery to convey his beliefs in destiny or fate. Part of his fatalistic style comes from him experiences and memories of WW2.

Some of the special effects are amazing for a film of this caliber. Mario Bava was a genius in creating special effects with only his creative soul and imagination. Makes one wonder what great special effects he could create with a modest budget. The gore effects although spread out in small pieces are gruesome for 1960. Proves that great special effects don't necessarily have to be done with mega dollars.

The opening scene of the execution of Asa is a stunning combination of atmosphere and violent imagery. Barbara Stelle along with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price are some of the greatest icons in 1960s to 1970s horror films. Many movie makers in horror films were influenced by the opening scene. Certain parts of the atmospheric opening can be seen as one inspiration for the prologue of Lucio Fulci's L'Aldila/The Beyond(1981). A special moment in horror cinema.

The Mask of Satan(1960) came about as a result of the success of the Curse of Frankenstein(1957) and Horror of Dracula(1958) in Italy. Mixes the old fashion horror of Univerisal Studios with the graphic violence of Hammer horror. The Hammer and Universal horror films are responsible for the birth of horror in Post war Italian cinema. There are a couple of scenes that are obviously influenced by Horror of Dracula(1958). The fact that Mario Bava did this based on the success of Horror of Dracula(1958) must have influenced Terence Fisher to respond to directing Dracula:Prince of Darkness(1966).

The Mask of Satan(1960) isn't interested in plot and story as much as atmosphere and painting style visuals. Mario Bava took the barebones material of the film and turned it into something magnificent. Mario Bava's direction has the look of a great artist. Setting up atmosphere, dread, mood, and terror were some of Bava's strengths. His experiences as a cinematographer really pays dividends in Bava's direction.

A significant influence was placed on La Maschera del Demonio by the first Italian horror film of the sound era, I Vamipri(1956). A few references are made to I Vampiri(1956) especially in the discovery of a dead body near the river bank. Also, the aging effect in Mask of Satan(1960) comes from Bava's work on I Vampiri. Italian filmmaker, Riccardo Freda was the major influence behind Bava's films and the main directorial mentor of Mario Bava. The romantic subplot of The Mask of Satan(1960) also derieves from I Vampiri(1956).

Has some of the best set designs in a low budget horror film. Mario Bava would use some of the set for his late 1960s horror classic Kill Baby Kill(1967). Amazing that Mario Bava could put together grandeur looking art and set designs with so little. He also contributed to the dazzling cinematography. Mario Bava used many of the film's motifs and themes for The Whip and the Body(1964).

La Maschera del Demonio/The Mask of Satan(1960) is based loosely on a short story by Gogol called the Viy. An interesting note on the making of The Mask of Satan(1960) is that Bava made changes thoughout production because of uncertainities about the screenplay. Its one of the best horror films of the last fifty years. The camera moves with a smooth feel typical of a Mario Bava phtographed feature. This is an item that many aspiring horror filmmakers should watch in order to see how a great horror film should be done.

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