Black Sabbath

Production Date: 1963
Release Date: 07/16/2013
Studio: Kino Lorber
Collection Number: 1130

Mario Bava is often referred to as the maestro of the macabre, a master of suspense.  All it takes is a quick viewing of one of Black Sabbath's three stories to see that's not too far from the truth.  Prior to his successful directing career Bava was renowned in Italy as a cinematographer.  He dabbled with shorts here and there and during an incident with the 1956 film Lust of the Vampire he would step in and replace director Riccardo Freda to finish the film.  In 1960 Mario Bava inked a deal with American International Pictures and would go on to create Black Sunday.  The film was met with great success and was reportedly AIP's top grossing film during that period.  Years later AIP and Bava would find success again with Black Sabbath, a film that many fans consider one of the director's best.

Black Sabbath is an anthology made up of three short stories.  It begins with an introduction by the late Boris Karloff warning the audience of the macabre nature of the show.  This Italian cut is superior in many ways though it does lack Karloff's voice.

The first tale is titled Telephone.  In this Giallo prototype a pretty young woman named Rosy is harassed via telephone after she returns home from a party.  The mysterious man on the other end of the line wants nothing more than to feel his hands around the poor woman's throat, something he's sure to make clear during one of their many conversations.  For such a short film there's a lot going on, and while I've yet to see the AIP cut of this particular story I do know that a very interesting subplot made the cut.  A real pity.

Up next is The Wurdalak, my favorite of the three chapters!  A young man (Vladimir; Mark Damon) is making his way through the Russian Countryside when he stumbles upon a headless corpse with a dagger plunged into it's chest.  He removes the weapon and eventually finds a small cottage belonging to the owner of the knife.  The family inside welcome Vladimir to spend the night but with a warning, tonight their father is to return home.  He's been gone for quite a while and there's a strong possibility he could have become a wurdalak.  This story is essentially Bava's take on the vampire mythos.  I feel it's the strongest of the three stories with it's great direction and unforgettable atmosphere (all of those colors, man.)

A Drop of Water is the last tale and it's a pretty ghastly one.  Jacqueline Pierreux takes on the role of a nurse who is called upon late one night to prepare the corpse of a recently deceased medium for an upcoming funeral.  When she makes it to the old mansion she discoverers that the corpse is not only terrifying looking but adorned with an expensive jeweled ring.  Unable to contain her fascination with the item she pockets it as she's dressing the dead body.  There's a small issue though, as the ring is spiritually attached to the medium, who eventually comes a'callin'.   The corpse-prop is probably one of the more startling images contained in the film...Stealing that ring was such a ballsy move for that young nurse!

 During distribution AIP changed a few aspects of the film to better suit the American audiences.  The order of the stories was shuffled around, the music was changed along with a few key subplots. Kino presents fans with a stunning rendition of the Italian cut.  I'm sure I could fancy things up and find a few better synonyms to describe the transfer but let's get straight to the point, the print looks great.  Maybe you've seen the film before but chances are you've never seen it like this, they did a wonderful job with the restoration.  This is one of those films that just oozes style.  From the direction, to the set decorations, to the cinematography, there's always something to look at.  This is a movie that truly benefits from the HD upgrade.

Roberto Nicolosi handled the score on the Italian cut (whom AIP would replace with Lex Baxter.)  The brass dominated music adds a lot to the film.  The audio sadly isn't exactly up to par with the film's transfer.  Some age elements are present though it's not enough to warrant any real negativity.  The uncompressed 2.0 track gets the job done, though there is some room for improvement.

The only real downfall of this release is a lack of special features.  The only thing included on this disc is a reel of related Bava trailers.  It would have been nice to see a featurette or two, possibly something detailing the differences of this version and the American cut.  It's hard not to compare this release to Arrow's which was definitely loaded.

While it could benefit from a few supplements Kino's release of Black Sabbath is a strong one.  The picture warrants the upgrade and if you've yet to see the Italian cut you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

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