Black Sabbath (1963)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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A trio of atmospheric horror tales about: A woman terrorized in her apartment by phone calls from an escaped prisoner from her past; a Russian count in the early 1800s who stumbles upon a family in the countryside trying to destroy a particularly vicious line of vampires; and a 1900-era nurse who makes a fateful decision while preparing the corpse of one of her patients - an elderly medium who died during a séance. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: June 18, 2007
Finally, Bava's infamous Black Sabbath has come to DVD. Well, when I say "finally", I really mean "two months ago", but let's not get caught up in the details, alright? This is one of those movies that I had seen as a kid, but I really didn't have a very good memory of it. I sort of remember enjoying it, but to be honest, I could barely remember which stories were included within and I didn't want to go read a spoiler-laden synopsis. So, I simply dropped the newly released version of the disc into my Netflix queue, and here we are with what has to be one of my favorite horror anthology films of all time.

Three unrelated stories and an introduction by Boris Karloff is what viewers are in for from this package, and unlike some horror anthologies, not a single one of the stories disappoints. So, without further adieu, the stories found within include:

The Telephone
Rosy (Michèle Mercier) is a lady with a bit of a problem: she's been receiving some rather nasty phone calls from a man who doesn't beat around the bush in telling her what he wants to do to her. He claims that he wants nothing more than to strangle her to death, and although most would brush this off as a sick practical joke, Rosy doesn't due to the fact that this man somehow knows everything that she's doing. She eventually calls her friend Mary (Lidia Alfonsi) to come over and stay with her for comfort, and we then find out that this man has promised to come murder her before dawn rolls around. Who is he, what does he want, and does he make good on his promise?

If Hitchcock had been the man responsible for When a Stranger Calls, he'd have probably come up with something eerily similar to this little yarn. Coming across as more of a crime thriller than a "true" horror story with monsters, demons, and ghosts, this one is content to build the tension to a maddening level before finally giving us the big payoff at the end. While I wouldn't classify this piece as being better than the introduction to the aforementioned When a Stranger Calls, I will say that they handled the "phone stalking" almost as well; when you consider that said introduction is one of my favorite pieces of horror history, I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The Wurdalak
Vladimire d'Urfe (Mark Damon) is a man traveling to a nearby town by horseback when he stumbles across a beheaded man with a dagger sticking out of his chest. He goes looking for answers and soon stumbles upon a modest house out in the woods, where he meets a rather strange family. He soon discovers that they believe there to be a "wurdalak" wandering the area, and he also finds out that Gorca (Boris Karloff), the head of the family, has set out to destroy this beast. Any sane man would probably be leaving at this point, but Vladimire has taken a liking to Sdenka (Susy Andersen), the young lady of the house. She warns him that he should leave before midnight, and after a little prodding, he discovers why she is so adamant about this: if Gorca returns home after midnight tonight, that will mean that he was transformed into a wurdalak. What exactly is a wurdalak? Think of a vampire, only, a vampire that is hellbent on killing anyone that they may have loved. The clock strikes midnight, and mere moments later, Gorca comes strolling up to the house...

What we have here is a stark contrast to the previous story. Instead of being told in modern times (well, relatively modern - the film was made in 1963), we find ourselves thrown back to what appears to be the early 1900's, and instead of focusing on a man using modern devices to torment his prey, we watch as what could be a monster torments his family. The style of this segment absolutely reeks of the Hammer horror classics, but never once does it come across as campy or unintentionally humorous. There are moments to be found in this segment which are absolutely chilling (no spoilers, but "the kid" was unexplainably awesome), and of course, Boris Karloff shows once again why he's widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of horror.

The Drop of Water
A cranky nurse - Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) - is called out to prepare a woman who has recently died for her funeral. The deceased is widely believed to have been a witch, but this "superstitious nonsense" apparently doesn't matter to Helen as she pockets the dead woman's expensive ring after prying it off of her finger. When she returns home for the evening, she finds out what it means to be haunted by a witch...

There's a little more to the story, but the strong point of this is the execution. To spell it out would do one of two things depending on how far I went with it: it would either spoil it or sound incredibly lame. The way this witch makes her presence known starts out simple enough, but even these simple tricks are damned effective thanks to the lighting, sound effects, and visuals found within. This one was easily my favorite of the trio, and it features an ending which will probably stick with you for years to come.

Black Sabbath may not be Mario Bava's best film, but there's a reason that it's one of his best-known: quite simply, it's an awesome horror film that has easily passed the test of time. This is a classic film that is just as effective now as it was forty years ago, and horror fans should waste no time in picking it up. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 06/18/2007, 10:39 PM
I'm really going to have to splurge on that Bava Collection.
It's like $45 though. Bit steep.
Chad #2: Chad - added 06/18/2007, 10:43 PM
I haven't seen Knives of the Avenger, but other than that: well worth it. Also, it's only $20 on Amazon, and that's the "new" price.
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