Review: Black Sunday/Mask of the Demon (Blu-Ray)

(Thanks, FulciLives!)

Layout 1Say, did I ever tell you all the story of the time a few decades ago back in the 80’s when I learned how to brine a chicken thanks to a pair of very helpful Satanists looking for Kosher salt at a grocery store? No? Well, that’s not why we’re here, so I won’t go into it other than to say I didn’t know they were into that stuff, and hell, I’m an atheist anyway. The chicken? It was excellent by the way. Still is, whenever it’s made.

Uh, speaking of “anyway”, Let’s move on.

Still scary and somewhat phenomenally timeless, Mario Bava’s classic “first” film La Maschera Del Demonio/The Mask of Satan (aka Black Sunday in the US) starts off unsettling and keeps the frights coming until the end. Bava’s direction and art direction here are generally superb, although yes, there are a few plot holes you can drive a rattly (or rat-filled) old Fiat through if you follow the story too closely. But taken as a whole, it’s still a work of brilliance that many films have paid homage to over the decades since its release.

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“Where the hell is my coffee? I just woke up after 200 years!”

Very loosely based on The Viy, Nikolai Gogol’s horror tale from 1835, the film revels in its high Gothic style, early use of gore effects and the stunning Barbara Steele who plays both the evil Asa Vajda and 200 years after her demise, her relative, Katia Vajda. It’s a revenge story of sorts, as that witch and her soulless-mate Igor Javutich (Arturo Dominici) are separated and then executed in a most bloody fashion for their crimes and yes, there’s a bit of a promise of defiant revenge from the witch. 200 years later, it’s young Katya who’s target of a newly revived Asa’s demonic ways and in tandem with the revived Javutich, things get ugly for a few people after that curse literally comes to life. Wait, or is it figuratively? I forget.

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Vincent Price wants his stage wig back when you’re done, pal.

Interestingly, the film links Satanism and witchcraft to devil worship as the same thing, which is about the sole flaw that sticks out (well, I’d guess it was seen as the same in the 1630’s, but I’m a terrible time traveler, getting too sick from the trips to pay attention and all that).

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Random Films: Knives of the Avenger Finally Makes My Must-Watch List…


 
Ever NEVER see a movie and a cheap trailer makes you want to do so as soon as possible? Yeah, these days it’s usually the opposite effect, but thanks to Sleaze-O-Rama, I now have a new cheesy classic to add to the viewing list. I’m still discovering Mario Bava’s films after all this time, but Knives of the Avenger looks as if it’ll be a TOTAL hoot from start to finish. Yeah, I know I’m asking for it, but I did ask nicely, dammit. Okay, off to track this down legally or borrow it from someone who has it. I guess it’ll be a Random Film of the week at some point as well…

Part Of My Weekend Plans Are Set…

Black Saturday of the Lost ArkYeah, yeah, yeah… TCM shows this a few times a year, but sometimes it’s just nice to own a movie if you happen to not want to rely on a channel (or worse, a streaming video service) to deliver the goods. There’s just something lovely and delicious about popping a disc into a player, sitting back and letting the film in question do its stuff and Bava’s horror classic certainly has PLENTY of stuff. I just find it amusing that as absolutely gorgeous as Barbara Steele was (and is, as she’s still with us, last I checked), in a number of her films, she’s buried under makeup that makes her look pretty horrific. But hey, that’s one reason she’s loved by many fans of classic horror flicks I guess.

As for Raiders, it was $2.50 new, I needed another copy and didn’t care if it was on Blu-Ray or not. I actually hadn’t seen it in a while and HATE watching it on AMC because of all those dumb interruptions and the picture quality is terrible to my eyes. One actually needs NO excuse to own this film, as it’s something you can pop on and loop all day as background noise while you’re doing stuff around the house. “I dunno, I’m making this up as I go!” may become your mantra after a day of this film, that’s for sure…

Random Film of the Week(end): Twitch of the Death Nerve/(A) Bay of Blood/Carnage

(thanks, CriterionDungeon!) 

TotDN_PosterOne problem some of us cranky genre fans have with most of today’s Hollywood horror movies is too many of them end up with ridiculous plots, under-written, one dimensional (as in terminally dumb) sometimes nude characters going through the same ridiculous motions that get them bumped off in even more ridiculous and bloody ways at intervals you can set your watch to most of the time. Not to mention stuff like some inane product placement that makes those parts of the film seem like ads dropped in between kills for stuff that would kill you if you consume too much of it.

Oddly enough, all this and more makes Mario Bava’s seminal gore classic Twitch of the Death Nerve (or (A) Bay of Blood, Carnage, or Blood Bath or one of many other titles it’s been released as) one of my favorite “B” horror films. Maybe it’s the blinders-on Bava fan in me that makes me like this one so much (some awesome shots aside, it’s far from his best work), or maybe it’s because the movie is actually kind of (alright, REALLY) funny in a very twisted way. The story is nuts with most of its assorted beautiful, handsome or unattractive characters motivated by their greed and/or assorted desires becoming random targets (and I mean random in some cases) of a killer (or killers) with their own agendas. By the end when the bodies are laid out all over the island, none of it makes any sense because the ending literally and figuratively blows away the remaining bits of the paper-thin plot.
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