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Black Sabbath/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Black Sabbath

Italian director Mario Bava (1914-1980) is one of the giants of the horror film genre. Bava's big break into the field came with his 1960 black and white classic Black Sunday starring Barbara Steele. This was only the beginning, as Bava churned out a series of gruesome shockers over the next seventeen years; his films always promised great style mixed with scenes of murder and mayhem. Perhaps Mario's biggest contribution to the horror genre was his 1972 picture Twitch Of The Death Nerve, also known as "Bay of Blood." It doesn't take too long to realize Friday The 13th shamelessly cribbed from this slasher bloodbath. At least two of the murders in the film appear almost unchanged in the first installment of the Jason Voorhees franchise. That's right-- Mario Bava gave birth to the modern slasher film. But he also dabbled in non-horror films with projects like Four Times That Night and the immensely entertaining peplum classic "Hercules in the Haunted World" starring Reg Park as the muscle bound hero.

After watching many of his films, I have to express further admiration for this amazing director; he could make an entertaining motion picture no matter what the subject.

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"I trevolti della paura" known on these shores as Black Sabbath is a great contribution to horror cinema. In 1963, Bava filmed three short stories and packaged them under one title with Boris Karloff introducing each segment. The first tale, "The Telephone," is a claustrophobic tale of horror that takes place in the apartment of Rosy (Michele Mercier). Strange and horrifying phone calls begin streaming into the apartment at the same time Rosy's ex-husband Frank leaves prison. Alarmed that her hubby will try to hurt her, she dials up her pal Mary (Lidia Alfonsi), asking her friend to come over and comfort her.

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The second story, "The Wurdulak," stars Boris Karloff as Gorca, the patriarch of a well to do Russian family in the eighteenth century. Wurdulaks, what we would call vampires, plague the countryside. Gorca sets out to slay one of them, a fellow named Alibeq, but leaves strict instructions to his family to destroy him, Gorca, if he returns any later than the stroke of midnight five days hence. Gorca reasons that he will be a vampire himself if he has not returned by that time, and his family agrees. Predictably, Gorca returns late and acts very, VERY weird. The family knows something is wrong but agonizes about doing what they know they must do. Their hesitancy has unfortunate results for several members of the family. This story is the best one on the disc; check out the scene where Karloff thunders around on a horse. Very creepy!

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The final tale of woe, called "The Drop of Water," finds Nurse Helen Corey (Jacqueline Pierreux) receiving a weird phone call late at night. It seems an old medium died and her servant is too scared to move the body. Corey agrees to help the superstitious assistant but makes the mistake of stealing a valuable ring off the corpse. What follows is classic chills and thrills as a fly follows Corey around wherever she goes, continually alighting on the ring on her finger. The nurse tries to hide in her house where the sound of dripping water drives her to the point of insanity. Again, no reason to spoil the film for you, but wait until you see what happens to Nurse Corey as the tale winds to a close. Note to self: never steal anything from a deceased psychic.

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All I can say here is that Mario Bava has done it again. While I still think Black Sunday is a better film, Black Sabbath nicely delivers the shocks. Getting Karloff to do double duty as the narrator and the star of one of the segments was a nice touch, too. Including this great actor in the project gives Black Sabbath a sort of homage feel, a nod to the earlier horror movies of the 1930s and 1940s. It's no mistake that Karloff's segment is the best one of the three. The weakest is "The Telephone," although even this tale works quite well in the suspense department. In "The Wurdulak," you know what's going to happen, but not so in "The Telephone." Plus, Michele Mercier is extremely easy on the eyes. I couldn't help but think of the seminal Black Christmas and "When a Stranger Calls" after watching "The Telephone." I wonder if Bob Clark and Fred Walton took Bava's creation as the inspiration for their own, later films. As for "The Drop of Water," well, it's a scary film that doubtless inspired its own imitators years later.

Reviewed by Biohazard

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