original title: I Tre Volti Della Paura
aka: The Three Faces of Fear
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Michele Mercier, Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Jacqueline Pierreux
This is the night of the nightmare…
Black Sabbath is an excellent horror anthology movie by the master Mario Bava. It consists of three stories that deals with different subjects and it is narrated by the horror legend Boris Karloff.
This is the first episode and it is set in the home of the young and gorgeous girl named Rosy, who are starting to get creepy phone calls by a guy who says that he can see her and that he is coming to kill her. Rosy calls her previous lesbian lover Mary and begs her to come over to keep her safe throughout the night.
This segment is very playful and classy. It plays with voyeurism to the point where it almost gets sexy, which is a disturbing thought. The characters backstories is told more by subtle details than dialogue. I did like the three actors and Bava does make the most out of the set but it is definitely the weakest segment, but being the weakest out of this bunch does not mean it is bad. It is interesting and fun, but does feels a little out of place and one reason might be because it does not deal with the supernatural like the two remaining segments does.
Second segment takes part in a small village in the 19th Century that are haunted by a wurdalak, which is basically a vampirelike creature who prefer to drink the blood of close relatives. Vladimir arrives at the village after finding a beheaded corpse with a dagger stuck in his heart nearby. He is allowed shelter with a scared family that fears the wurdalak. He is told the story of the creature and finds out that the dagger that was stuck in the corpse he found belongs to Gorcha, the father of the family who they have not seen in five days. Gorcha arrives later the same night but doesn’t seem to be quite himself anymore. Is he now a creature of the night and if so, are the family able to kill him before he kills them?
This is an awesome segment based on the novella The Family of the Vourdalak by Aleksey Tolstoy. It is gothic, colorful and creepy. The outdoor scenes at the end is especially stunning and displays what a master Bava really was. Visually, this might be some of the best that Bava has ever done, something that says a lot since that’s what people give him most credit for. It’s too bad that Hammer Horror didn’t recognize his talent and let him have a production with some of their stars like Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing. It would be fun to see what he could have done with a production like that. Another star that does show up here though is Boris Karloff, who is great as Gorcha in one of his best performances of his later days. The other actors do a good job and I like most of them, except Susy Andersen as Sdenka. She is lovely to look at, but her acting is more wooden than a stake here. The Wurdalak is simply a superb piece of gothic horror.
“The Drop of Water”
Helen, who is a nurse, is called over to a large mansion where the old lady owner has died by a heart attack after having a séance where she has been trying to contact dead spirits. While Helen is dressing the dead body, she notice that there is a big and probably expensive ring on her hand. She steals the ring and goes home after finishing her job. At her home she starts to hear loud noises of dripping water in her apartment. She knows that something is wrong, but she is helpless and do not know what to do.
Who would have thought that the sound of dripping water could be so chilling? Bava takes something as simple and common as that sound and makes it into something terrifying. The visuals are breathtaking once again and it is definitely the most scary segment in this film. The corpse that is used is obviously a dummy, but it still works and the deformed face is something that you do not want to jump into your dreams at night. It is a perfect closing segment to an awesome anthology film…
…except there is a final scene with Karloff again that is humorous and gives the viewers a few laughs before “Fine” is shown.
This film was a big success in Italy and did quite well in the rest of Europe aswell and was bought by AIP to get released in the states. They cut the movie in a different order and made the Drop of Water start off the show, cut out some gore from The Wurdalak and changed The Telephone by removing the lesbian subplot and made it into a ghost story instead by shooting additional scenes. There are also some musical and dialogue changes. The general opinion is that the italian cut is superior and I agree with that. If you haven’t seen the film then seek out that one, which is just as widely available as the american cut.
Black Sabbath was supposedly Mario Bava’s favorite of his own films and it is easy to see why. It’s very rare that anthology movies consist of all good stories, but this one has that and two of them are horror masterpieces. I absolutely love it, it’s a great mixture of fantastic craftmanship and good old fashion scary stories. The first segment is not as great as the last two, but regardless of that this is a horror film that I’m sure most horror fans will love and it is perhaps the best horror anthology movie ever made.