Thursday, July 3, 2014

364. La maschera del demonio/Revenge of the Vampire/Black Sunday (1960)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: Mario Bava, Lee Kresel
Written By: Mario Bava, Ennio de Concini, Mario Serandrei, from story by Nikolai Gogol
Main Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Andra Checchi
Click here to view the trailer


I have to say that for my first review back, I was kind of pleasantly surprised by my "Two-Lane Blacktop" review and how well it turned out. I have a feeling this one's not gonna' be so good though, as I'm kind of in a hurry tonight, as I want to squeeze in one more episode of Louie before bed and it's already nearly 11:00p. Read on...

To be honest, I kind of mentally checked out of this one before I even got to the halfway mark, so recalling the plot may be a tad difficult. I'll, as always, do my best to bring you up to speed and try to give a good representation of what this thing's all about. The film starts with what is actually a terrific scene, set a couple of hundred years before the events that transpire in the main plot. The smokin' hot witch Asa (Steele) is being tied to a stake, while a bunch of masked executioners brand her with an "S" (for Satan) and pound a mask of nails into her face until blood shoots out the eye and mouth holes. It's all brilliantly shot too and pretty creepy considering the time period. Unfortunately, we only go down hill from there, as we pick up on a couple of doctor's. two hundred years later, traveling through Moldavia and somehow - through the fault of a spooked carriage driver - ending up in the crypt of the late witch - the same one we saw killed earlier. They look upon her as she lies in a glass faced tomb, with a cross overhead - the myth being that as long as she could see the cross through the glass, she couldn't rise again. Well, when a giant bat attacks the elder doctor, Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Checchi), he ends up shattering the glass and breaking the cross, resurrecting the witch. Later, Kruvajan and his assistant, Dr. Gorobec (Richardson) are called to the home of Prince Vajda, who goes into a state of shock when he is attacked by another risen vampire, Javuto (who is a dead ringer for Frank Zappa!). Anyway, it puts all the characters into the Vajda castle where the whole thing plays out and includes a dual role for Steele, who also plays Katia, Vajda's daughter and Gorobec's eye candy.

Ugh - ya' know, this reminded me of the Val Lewton horror films of the 40s and we all know how those struck me (not good, to say the least). Honestly, I wasn't expecting much here and I got what I bargained for. I just can't wrap my head around why the BOOK makers felt the need to include this one. Perhaps it's because of that striking opening or maybe because for being from 1960, it actually did have a bit of a spooky side. Usually old horrors or good for nothing but a nostalgia kick and RARELY serve for any legitimate frights. This one didn't scare me in the least, but I'll give it brownie points for trying. I'll also give a notch or two the cinematography, which, at times, was fantastic. You expect that from foreign films, but almost never from horror movies, so it was a 50/50 shot that we'd get some nice looking frames. Other than those few things, this film did absolutely nothing for me and like I said, by the halfway mark, I had mentally checked out and decided to just ride out the rest of the runtime. I hate when I do that and sometimes I feel like I should rewind and force myself to get reinvested in the picture, but what's the use - the heart wants what the heart wants....or something like that.

As far as pointing to an actual, good reason as to why I didn't like it - that's kind of hard to do. I mean, other than the fact that the film was totally unengaging and that I was bored throughout, there's really no one, pinpoint factor as to why I hated this. It could have also been due to the fact that the movie had no place in a BOOK full of supposed "must sees", but I got over trying to make that argument years ago, as there are PLENTY of undeserving films in this BOOK. So we'll just call it a bust, a bore and a loss on my end and call that a review.

RATING: 2.5/10  Like I said, a few notches for the opening and the camerawork, but otherwise a total bust. This streams on Netflix by the way, if anyone is curious.


July 3, 2014  11:12pm


  1. I thought this movie was good. Not great, but very watchable. I disagree with you about it being in the book. Bava is a very important director in the horror genre, and I am sure that is why the book chose to represent him. Remember, the book is about important films that have an impact, not just the 1000 greatest films. I do feel perhaps the wrong Bava film was put in the book. I feel Black Sabbath is superior.

    1. You're right. However, I have a tendency to judge the films based on their quality and not based on their importance. In fact, I'll bare my cards and say I don't know what is and isn't important in film history - not everything anyway and in fact, I'd never heard of Bava before the BOOK, so to know it was an important film from an important man, was lost on me.

      Thanks, as always, for the comments Larry!

  2. At last, after seeming to get at him so much about gore fest films, a chance to agree with something Larry said - namely that this is not a '1000 best' films... That is what makes this good.. you do sometimes have to sit through some .. rather .... odd .... stuff
    I am slightly confused.. I have seen both this and Black Sabbath, and I'm struggling to dis entangle them in my head.
    This is the one with the rather yuckky beginning where the spiked mask is forced onto her face,, then flashes forward..
    Well, I found it just about OK.. but nothing to get excited about...

    1. Welcome back Ray!

      Yep, this is the one with the mask of spikes, which I loved for some reason. I found the beginning to be genuinely creepy and get me in the mood for a horror, but then ultimately let me down.


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