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Black Sunday (1960)

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda (as Barbara Steel)
... Dr. Andre Gorobec
... Dr. Thomas Kruvajan
Ivo Garrani ... Prince Vajda
... Igor Javutich / Javuto
Enrico Olivieri ... Prince Constantine Vajda
Antonio Pierfederici ... Priest
Tino Bianchi ... Ivan
Clara Bindi ... Inn Keeper
... Nikita, the Coachman
Renato Terra ... Boris
Germana Dominici ... Sonya, the 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:

Once every 100 years the undead of hell terrorize the world in an orgy of stark horror See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

15 February 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Sunday  »

Filming Locations:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was rejected for UK cinema by the BBFC in 1961. The uncut version was released (as "Mask of Satan") with a 15 certificate on the UK Redemption video label in 1992. See more »

Goofs

When Princess Asa pauses by her fathers coffin, she is wearing black stockings and shoes under her dress. She then leaves the room to look for the others where she is seen running down the hall barefoot and without stockings. See more »

Quotes

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.
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 »

Connections

Referenced in The Hounslow Poltergeist (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Succeeds because of Bava's B&W artistry
28 July 2010 | by See 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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