131 user 126 critic

Black Sunday (1960)

La maschera del demonio (original title)
Not Rated | | Horror | 15 February 1961 (USA)
3:27 | Trailer
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.


Mario Bava


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





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 ... 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 ... Boris - Stablehand
Germana Dominici Germana Dominici ... Sonya - 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 »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Mario Bava was a big fan of Nikolay 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. Andre Gorobec: You must always have faith, in yourself, in life.
Princess Asa Vajda: In life? What is my life? Sadness and grief. Something that destroys itself day by day, and no one can rebuild it. Here is the very image of my life. Look at it. It's being consumed hour by hour like this garden, abandoned to a purposeless existence.
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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

This film has been shown in the United States in four (five counting the TV version) different versions.
  • BLACK SUNDAY (84 minutes)distributed by American International Pictures. This U.S. version features a more dramatic dubbing job recorded in the U.S. and a new score by Les Baxter to replace the original score. Further edits to this version were used to create the 16mm U.S. television syndication version.
  • REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE The long delayed British version is a different cut that features the original English language dubbing recorded in Italy and the original Italian score by Roberto Nicolosi.
  • THE MASK OF SATAN (87 minutes) The complete version of the film featuring the original English language dubbing recorded in Italy and the original Italian score by Roberto Nicolosi. This is usually referred to as the "European Version."
  • LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (85 minutes) Not the original Italian version as you might expect from the title. The main title is video generated (in bright red) and superimposed over the black and white film. The film uses the original English language dubbing recored in Italy. The score is a mixture of both the original Italian (Roberto Nicolosi) and U. S. (Les Baxter) scores.
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Referenced in Scream Greats, Vol. 2: Satanism and Witchcraft (1986) See more »

User Reviews

Succeeds because of Bava's B&W artistry
28 July 2010 | by mhesseliusSee all my reviews

A ruined abbey; Gothic interiors of a medieval crypt and castle; a matte painting of the moon illuminating the castle's exterior; a deep pit, the stonework glistening with moisture; claw-like branches against the white mist, all beautifully photographed for shadowy effect by master cinematographer Mario Bava, make this film worth watching. The thin plot involves two incestuous siblings, Asa and Javutich Vajda, executed for witchcraft in the Balkan kingdom of Moldavia, who return from the grave on Walpurgis night two centuries later to reek supernatural vengeance on their descendants.

Unfortunately the B&W beauty of this movie is compromised somewhat by Bava's awkward direction of actors whose performances range from adequate (Andrea Checci as Dr. Kruvaijan, and Ivo Garrani as Prince Vajda) to inept (Barbara Steele as both Princess Katia Vajda and Asa Vajda), to awful (John Richardson as Dr. Gorobec). The writing is likewise sub-par, and seems to borrow elements from the vintage American films "Mark of the Vampire" and "The Black Room," which Bava may have seen.

Plot holes are numerous and obvious. For instance, after draining the life from Katia's father, how does the vampire form of Dr. Kruvaijan find a ready-made coffin, and how does he bury himself? How does Katia's brother Constantine survive a fall down a deep pit to come back and destroy Javutich? The schmaltzy piano love theme is distracting, beginning immediately after Katia's first meeting with Gorobec. Nevertheless, camera poetry abounds. The slow-motion vision of the phantom coach driven by Javutich is a stunner. All of the genuinely unsettling moments are the result of Bava's uncanny use of lighting, shadow, and perspective; not the poor use of artificial-looking wax figures and lens filters to create the effects of aging on Katia's and Asa's face.

Austensibly based upon Nikolai Gogol's short story "Viy," there is only one scene in the film that is recognizable from the source material. The scene in the crypt when Krubaian is alone with, and trying to escape from the reanimated Asa, parallels the attempts of Gogol's protagonist to escape from a witch who has arisen from her coffin. Barbara Steele's makeup, the spike holes left in Asa's face by the mask of Satan, is very effective here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Italian | English

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


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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