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| 7 October 2015 | Reply

Directed by Mario Bava
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
9 /10

Black Sunday - Cinema Cult cover

Some two centuries after Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) and her brother Javutich (Arturo Dominci) are executed brutally for witchcraft and vampirism, with an Iron Maiden-mask (the medieval torture device, not the British heavy metal band) hammered onto their faces, a pair of travelling doctors stumble upon their crypt and unwittingly break the spell keeping them imprisoned in death.

Asa focusses her revenge fantasies on her identical descendant Princess Katia (also played by Steele) to provide the blood which will fully revive her, and the bodies mount up as she gathers strength and momentum.

There is some confusion whether Asa & Juvato were lovers or siblings, and whether they were vampires or witches: blood revives the pair, but apparently the actors were originally fitted for vampire fangs, which were then unused in the final film (despite some promo pics existing of them). Filmic lore also tells us that Steele and Bava did not get along, Steele struggling with Bava & his crew’s Italian, and paranoid that she would be made to display more cleavage than she would like, or even be forced to go topless. These small niggles don’t detract from the overall effect of the film, though.

Aside from the ahead-of-its-time brutal horror and glorification of the evil of the long-undead Princess Asa, Black Sunday is notable as the official directorial debut of master-cinematographer Mario Bava, and the result is a film stylish far beyond its horrific subject matter. His work with light and shadows (Bava notoriously turned down a lucrative offer to remake the movie in colour), set dressings and creepy angles all add up to ensure Black Sunday remains to this day a cult classic.


Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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