Black Sunday

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 08, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Black Sunday


Mario Bava

Release Date(s)

1960 (September 18, 2012)


Kino Classics
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: C
  • Extras Grade: C+

Black Sunday (Blu-ray Disc)

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Ask horror aficionados to name a country other than America known for their genre movies and more often than not, they’ll immediately come up with Italy. The country that gave us Fellini and Antonioni also produced such masters of horror as Argento, Fulci and, of course, Mario Bava. Bava worked in a number of genres over the years but returned again and again to terrifying audiences. His signature style was apparent from his first official film as director, the 1960 classic Black Sunday (or The Mask Of Satan).

Barbara Steele became a horror icon for her dual role as condemned witch/vampire/Satanist (take your pick, the movie can’t seem to make up its mind) Princess Asa Vajda and her innocent descendant, Katia. Two centuries after Asa and her lover, Igor (Arturo Dominici), have the spiked Masks of Satan hammered over their faces, they’re resurrected by visiting Dr. Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi). They immediately set out to destroy the Vajda family, starting with Katia’s father (Ivo Garrani) and ultimately Katia herself. It’s up to Dr. Kruvajan’s young protégé, Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson), to protect the princess.

If you stop to think about the specifics of Black Sunday’s story, the plot doesn’t entirely make a lot of sense. Fortunately, the gothic atmosphere and Bava’s gorgeous, fluid camerawork don’t leave much time to stop and think. Bava creates an eerie, foreboding mood that washes over you. Gory shock effects are at a relative minimum for Italian horror movies but are all the more effective for their restraint. And it’s easy to understand why Steele became a renowned horror star after this. She’s both desirable and dangerous, with jet black hair and impossibly wide eyes that seem to look straight through you.

Bava’s films have been previously released on DVD by Image and Anchor Bay. For their Blu-ray debut, the rights have now landed at Kino. The picture quality is generally very good, maintaining a pleasing film-like quality. The print shows some signs of age and black levels are occasionally a little bit too black. This is usually intentional but there are moments lacking definition where you can’t tell where an actor’s body stops and the piece of furniture in front of him starts. The monaural audio doesn’t fare quite as well. Movies with completely post-synchronized soundtracks always sound a little off but there’s also a little high-end distortion that knocks it down a notch.

The main extra is an extremely informative audio commentary by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog and author of the definitive Bava book, Mario Bava: All The Colors Of The Dark. It was originally recorded for the Image release (as evidenced by the fact that Lucas remarks that his book isn’t finished yet) but remains a first-rate track. The disc also includes US and international trailers, a TV spot, and four additional Bava trailers. Unfortunately, the poster and still gallery from previous DVDs (and referenced by Lucas in his commentary) has not been included on the Blu-ray.

Even today, Black Sunday remains a one-of-a-kind mixture of gothic creeps and modern technique. It’s one of the genre classics that every horror fan should experience. While it isn’t the home run one might have hoped for, Kino’s Blu-ray is certainly the best this film has ever looked on home video. The Bava faithful will find it worth the upgrade.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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