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Black Sunday (1960)

La maschera del demonio (original title)
Not Rated | | Horror | 15 February 1961 (USA)
Trailer
3:28 | Trailer

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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, with only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor standing in her way.

Director:

Mario Bava

Writers:

Ennio De Concini (screenplay), Mario Serandrei (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Barbara Steele ... Princess Asa Vajda / Katia Vajda (as Barbara Steel)
John Richardson ... Dr. Andrej Gorobec / Dr. Andreas Gorobec
Andrea Checchi ... Dr. Choma Kruvajan / Dr. Thomas Kruvajan
Ivo Garrani Ivo Garrani ... Prince Vajda
Arturo Dominici ... Igor Javutich / Javuto
Enrico Olivieri Enrico Olivieri ... Constantine Vajda
Antonio Pierfederici Antonio Pierfederici ... Priest
Tino Bianchi Tino Bianchi ... Ivan - Manservant
Clara Bindi Clara Bindi ... Innkeeper
Mario Passante ... Nikita - Coachman
Renato Terra Renato Terra ... Boris - Stablehand
Germana Dominici Germana Dominici ... Sonya - Innkeeper's Daughter
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Italy

Language:

Italian

Release Date:

15 February 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Sunday See more »

Filming Locations:

Rome, Lazio, Italy See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Galatea Film, Jolly Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was re-released in Barcelona in 2005 (Cinemes Meliés) and Madrid in 2014 (Artistic Metropol) -1 day-. Only in subtitled version. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[Andre expresses regret that he and superior, Dr. Kruvajan, will be late and miss the opening address at a medical conference in St. Petersburg]
Dr. Thomas Kruvajan: My son, how long have you been a doctor?
Dr. Andre Gorobec: Three years. I've been with you for two.
Dr. Thomas Kruvajan: When you've been in this business as long as I have, you'll learn to take the speeches at all of these medical conferences with a grain of salt.
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 »

Alternate Versions

La Maschera del Demonio in its Italian form has been shown on Italian television. This is the only complete, uncut version of the film which includes a scene between Ivo Garrani & Barbara Steele in an outdoor setting. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Blood and Black Lace (1964) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Vintage Bava
14 January 2007 | by Camera-ObscuraSee all my reviews

BLACK Sunday (Mario Bava - Italy 1960).

Mario Bava's first feature as a director (although he did uncredited directorial work before), this classic and extremely influential piece of Gothic horror really showed his cinematographic talent in creating a haunting and stylishly shot film. "Black Sunday" also catapulted Barbara Steele to horror stardom and would make her into the undisputed horror queen of the sixties. Bava based "Mask of Satan", as the film was originally titled, on the short story "Vij" by the Russian author Gogol, which he adapted into a homage to the early Universal horror pictures he loved so much. Barbara Steele is the beautiful 17th century witch princess Asa, who is a vampire, and her lover Juvato (Arturo Dominici), are put to death by her vengeful brother. He has iron masks with spikes on the inside placed on both their faces and then sledgehammered home (the brutal opening scene). Two hundred years later, blood is accidentally spilled on Asa's face and she rises from the dead along with Juvato to wreak revenge on the descendants of those who executed her - including her look-alike Katia, also played by Barbara Steele.

Beautifully shot in black and white by Bava himself, "Black Sunday" is a perfect showcase of his masterful control of light and shade, of colour and movement (yes, one can play with "shades of colour" in black and white) and playful camera angles, it's a feast for the eye. At heart Bava would always remain the cinematographer he always was and in all his films he took an active role in the design of each image by setting up the lighting, the optical effects, the filters etc. The film abounds in old-fashioned horror atmosphere and in that department, it even manages to top the atmosphere of the Universal horror classics it was based on with gnarled tree branches, fogbound sets, a decaying castle, a dark foreboding crypt and much more.

Of course, Bava's is well known for letting stylistic innovations take precedent over storytelling and most other things involved, like acting. Much of the script was reworked during shooting and even in post-production. Barbara Steele reportedly never even saw a script and got some pages every day of shooting. Variations of the story has been told many times in one way or another and there are more than a few echoes of Murnau's Nosferatu here. Much of the story is too derivative to begin with, and has become too formularised in subsequent years to retain much of its original power, just as the film's capacity to scare or excite audiences has probably worn out a little over the years. It doesn't really matter, because the film was chopped to pieces for over four decades and the habit of Italian filmmakers of post-synchronizing all the voices (even for Italian versions) made anything in that department a pretty dire affair anyway.

What Bava added however was some substantially more explicit violence and gore, laced with sexual connotations. The opening scene in which the mask is sledgehammered to Barbara Steele's face still packs quite a wallop, not to mention the effect it must have had on audiences back then. Still, horror fans can't really afford to miss this quintessential Bava piece, but watch it for the splendid cinematography and Bava's unique ways of visual wizardry.

Camera Obscura --- 7/10


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