Welcome to October! We have arrived at National Scary Movie month! The Halloween playlist is made and the movie collection has been rearranged to allow for easy access to the greatest hits of horror. Please tell me I’m not the only one to do this. So, how do you begin? What is your first movie to screen during this joyous month? We all have our go to’s but let me ask you this, are any of these movies made by Italian director, Mario Bava? Now I realize that if you are on this particular site, you know who I am talking about. But for those who don’t know. Mario Bava was one of the first horror “Directors”. The Classic Universal Monster and Hammer Horror movies had various directors and while they are fantastic movies, they lack that feel, or vision that an auteur would bring. Mario Bava had that vision. Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace, Kill, Baby…Kill and A Bay of Blood are just some (of many) fantastic entries in his enduring legacy. However, his masterpiece was his first film. Where other directors needed a few pictures under their belt before their magnum opus, Mario Bava knocked it out of the park on his first feature film. That film was La Maschera Del Demonio or The Mask of Satan. For us American audiences it’s known as Black Sunday. The Mask of Satan is a more fitting title as far as story is concerned, but a bit too intense for the public. It was initially banned in the U.K upon its release in 1960 for eight years only to see the light of day with heavy cuts. Its uncut form remained unleashed until 1992. It was a film far ahead of its time with occult themes, eroticism and at the time graphic violence. How many movies begin with an iron maiden-like mask hammered onto a woman after just being branded? Seriously, I would like to know. But, what a beginning it is! The first 6 minutes of this movie are among the greatest openings in all horror movies and maybe all films period. Shot in glorious black and white this opening setting was a source of inspiration for Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. An opening narrator informs us of vampires and practitioners of witchcraft being the servants of Satan and the ritual of divine judgement. Fog covers the ground with dread amidst dead trees and scores of men in foreboding black robes with ominous torches. Barbara Steele (dead ringer for Krysten Ritter) with piercing, fantastic, beautiful, frightened eyes proclaims “I repudiate you! And in the name of Satan I place a curse upon you…. you will never escape my hunger, nor that of Satan!” Creative lighting highlights the ominous mask to be hammered down. Few black and white movies have an eruption of blood such as this, when a massive executioner thunders down the face of doom. As the camera zooms in to the tortured body, the title card races towards us with pulsing music. That is how you open a movie! And, that is how you start October! Mario Bava’s earliest work and experience came as a cinematographer and special effects technician working for The Istituto Luce. His skills as cinematographer led to not only a career as director of photography, but him do-directing several features. His first solo directorial effort was La Maschera Del Demonio. Mario Bava’s skills as cinematographer, special effects man and artist are what make Black Sunday his masterpiece. It’s one of those movies you can pause at any time and can imagine as a framed work of art. This is one of the greatest examples of a horror movie to make the best use of chiaroscuro, a look that is tailor made for a gothic scary movie. Mario Bava continued to grow the world of horror. His films The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace are considered forerunners of the Giallo sub-genre. Without which we would not have fantastic films by Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento including his masterpiece Suspiria. Even slasher films have drawn inspiration from Mario Bava. Jason Voorhees himself must have seen A Bay of Blood (or Twitch of The Death Nerve), when in Friday the 13th Part 2 he decided to spear the two counsellors while having sex. Or when he made effective use of the machete across the face. For me though, nothing beats Black Sunday. I only spoke at length on the beginning of the film because you should seek out and watch the rest. It a wonderful movie with the most amazing use of cinematography, special effects and acting. Black Sunday made a genre star and one of the earliest scream queens out of Barbara Steele, who takes on double acting duty as Princess Katya and Asa The Witch. I cannot stress enough how beautiful most of the shots are in this film: A witch burning at a massive pyre, or a resurrected vampire emerging from his grave both contribute to a true work of art, one I assure you is worth a look. Here at Psycho Drive-In, you are going to get treated to some fine reading for this wonderful month about some of our favorite directors and actors. My hope is that your interest has been piqued by this influential movie and one of my favorite directors, Mario Bava. See larger image Black Sunday: Remastered Edition [Blu-ray] In Mario Bava’s gothic horror masterpiece steeped in rich atmosphere, condemned witch Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) returns from the dead two centuries after her execution and wreaks vengeance on her killers’ family. Possessing the body of a descendant who happens to look just like her, Asa pulls out all the stops to exact her revenge. This is Bava’s credited directorial debut, and it catapulted Steele and him to stardom New From: $15.51 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.