Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
What's it about
Black Sabbath gives three tales of Italian horror that go from a modern phone torture, to farm zombie vampires, to wandering evil spirits.
Is it good movie?
You have to love a 1963 horror film that claims it set new standards for terror. Let’s face it. Terror 60’s style doesn’t exactly hold up with Saw around, but that does not mean people shouldn’t watch. Black Sabbath is an Italian version of the Roger Corman Vincent Price Poe movies of the same period. Dividing the film into three stories, it creates a trilogy of terror that for the most part still holds up today. That doesn’t mean modern audiences will watch and find themselves hiding behind the couch. No no. However, a piece like Black Sabbath becomes all about appreciation and allowing yourself to become sucked up with the story. While there is some minor gore, it’s the story the drives the film, not vise versa. And that’s something modern filmmakers could take a cue from.
The first story, entitled “The Telephone,” starts off with a good amount of tension as a woman home alone starts receiving threatening calls as she soon learns her murderous husband has escaped from prison. Obviously, this tale has been done a dozen times since the 60’s, but here it’s played correctly with effective twists that allow the characters to dictate the action as it becomes about lesbian obsession and, of course, murder. With only 30 minutes, director Mario Bava packs enough not only realistic characters, but excellent art direction and color schemes. The thing looks beautiful throughout.
The second tale in Black Sabbath, called “The Wurdalak,” has something to do with vampire zombies and a family lead by horror legend Boris Karloff. It’s Karloff’s time to shine as he’s the focal point while not only playing the creepy grandfather in this story, but he also serves as hosts from the entire production. He adds a necessary campy bookend introduction and conclusion that reminded of the old William Castle flicks. Of the three, I found Wurdalak the slowest of the bunch. It has its moments, but the pacing lacked and I started getting sleepy.
The final part of Black Sabbath is “The Drop of Water,” my favorite. It’s the cheesiest of the three as it revolves around a nurse who goes to check on a dead woman only to steal her beautiful ring. Once she does, a curse is placed on her and she’s immediately haunted. What’s great comes from the dead bodies, which look like waxy, bad mannequins with distorted faces. Its genuinely creepy despite the goofy ghost, but then again, the poor effects makes it work all the more better. There’s a great scene where a ghost hovers towards its victim. The ghost stiffly moves like someone took a dummy, dimmed the lights and moved it forward. Man, it’s bad. But fully worth your time.
Video / Audio
Video: A little grainy, but still looks good in 1.77:1 Widescreen.
Audio: Don’t expect this to sound like the new Die Hard. Original mono, baby.
A Life in Film: Interview With Mark Damon: A very interesting interview with actor Mark Damon, a name I didn’t recognize but someone who had a storied career in Hollywood. Worth your time.
Commentary with Author Tim Lucas: An informative commentary that goes into great detail, from the actors to the color contrasts to the set pieces. An excellent track for any true fans of the film.
Plus, there's your standard stock of trailer, pictures, and TV spots.
While dated at times, Black Sabbath remains effective and will come as a pleasant surprise from anyone who digs classic horror. Just be prepared to read subtitles.