112 of 1001 Movies: Black Sunday (1960)

If the thought of holes being punctured into your face is terrifying then the movie succeeds in the first few scenes. There is something a lot more fun about classic horror though up until about the 90s. It seems it didn’t take itself as seriously, and somehow this does make things oddly more eerie, which is how Black Sunday works. Mario Bavo himself is a classic director even credited with inspiring Tim Burton’s work, and getting mention from Martin Scorsese. With Black Sunday it is easy to see why he has become such a legendary director.

Princess Asa is discovered to be a witch, and along with her accomplice, Prince Vajda, they are both burned at the stake. Two centuries later though two travelers discover her grave, and decide to tamper with it by pulling off the mask of Satan that was drove into her face, and taking an inscription. Not long after Princess Asa begins raising herself from the dead, by taking blood from the descendants of those that killed her. Her ultimate goal is to take the body of her look-alike, Katia Vajda.

When knowing I would be watching a horror movie from the 1960s I already had high hopes, as so far it’s proven to be really good. While Alfred Hitchcok and Mario Bavo depict two different types of horror they both seem to be very meticulous about how they portray it, and put a lot of attention into the detail of trying to not make it look too outdated. Bavo was really good with the special effects available to him to use at the time. He has some characters fade in and out of walls, and makes the bat attack that happens early on the movie frighteningly real. There is also the effect where the character is being drained of life, and he portrays it well as the character appears to be aging very fast.

Barbara Steele is the main lead in the movie, and she does a good job with portraying two people by giving them vastly two different personalities. Princess Asa is more dominating, and has a lot of attitude to go along with her reach for power, where as Princess Katia is more calm, docile, and caring toward others. While those seem like very easy words used to describe a character she does it well by going back and forth between the two. There are some moments that are sort of typical of that time where the characters get very dramatic, and almost seem to be overacting, and it doesn’t always fit in with he horror setting that Bavo has established as dark.

The ending also throws the whole movie off, because it ends very likely. When watching The Birds the ending seemed fitting to the whole vibe because it ended on an ominous note, but this one ends a little too neatly, and nicely for what the characters have just endured. Even though it’s always nice to see the characters okay with horror you just always feel there is another twist, and when it doesn’t happen it can be disappointing.

Black Sunday is probably one of the top horror movies in time though as you can still see much of the inspiration for it in cinema today. The director knew how to create suspense, and uses the shadows well in the black and white movie to do it. The characters also do a good job of being creepy to play up their parts as well.

Rating 7 of 10.

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