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Black Sunday (1960) - Blu-ray Review

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Black Sunday (1960) - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Originally titled The Mask of Satan, Mario Brava’s feature length debut, released here in the United States as Black Sunday, was a gothic-sized hit for Roger Corman’s American International Pictures.  The hype was all about its shocking images.  While tame when compared to today’s horror, Brava’s film certainly is the trailblazer it claims to be and, as voted on by Bravo TV Network, one of its sequences was voted number 40 among the "100 Scariest Movie Moments" on film.  The black-and-white gem is a must-see for any hound of horror and its stateside blu-ray debut, released by Kino, is a definite must-own.

The atmospheric film opens in Moldavia, in the year 1630, as Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is convicted of being a witch.  Her vow of revenge – before a mask of spikes hammered to her face silences her – is carried out two hundred years later upon the descendants who burned her to death.  Doctors Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) discover a crypt after their carriage is wrecked and find Asa’s tomb.  Dun dun duuuun!!!

Blood is spilled.  A bat appears.  And Ana is back in action after that spiked mask is gruesomely peeled from her face.  Dun dun duuuun!!! 

Leaving the crypt, the two doctors are confronted by Katia (Barbara Steele again) in a shot that has graced the insides of numerous film books and magazines ever since.  It’s not long before Asa has taken possession of Katia and is exacting her long-planned revenge.  Dun dun duuuun!!!

Written by Ennio de Concini and Mario Serandrei, Black Sunday is a classic of the genre.  It’s beautifully filmed and gorgeously atmospheric throughout.  It still manages to hypnotize its audience.  Some critics call it spellbinding.  Some just don’t get it at all.  Heavy on the violence, Brava’s film made a name for itself among audiences due to the controversy surrounding some of its more brazen gore effects.  So much so that the movie, singlehandedly, launched both Brava and Steele’s career in film.

Of course, in order to make the film more “accessible” to American audiences, AIP trimmed over three minutes' worth of violence and "objectionable" content when it was originally released here.  This version is, unfortunately, the “safe for American audiences” cut and is most definitely trimmed with virgin eyes in mind.  Sequences still shortened for this release include the burning "S" branded into Asa's flesh and blood spewing from the mask after hammered onto her face, the moist eyeball impalement and the flesh peeling off another’s face as he burns to death in the fireplace.  Yeah, still missing.

In spite of its censoring, Black Sunday is European gothic horror at its most exciting.

Black Sunday (1960) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R for some language.
Runtime:
87 mins
Director
: Mario Bava
Writer:
Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei
Cast:
Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi
Genre
: Horror
Tagline: 
The Most Frightening Motion Picture You Have Ever Seen!
Memorable Movie Quote: "You, too, can feel the joy and happiness of hating."
Distributor:
American Internationl Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 15, 1961
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 24, 2015
Synopsis: A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch's beautiful look-alike descendant. Only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor stand in her way.

Black Sunday (1960) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 24, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.69:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

The film is presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer using an aspect ratio of 1.69:1.  The ambitious scale of Bava's atmospherics is represented in absorbing style with an image that is surprisingly clean given the age of the film, without any over-processing lending the picture an artificial appearance.  Certainly, despite the clarity of the presentation, the film is still allowed to breathe and retains a level of grain that ensures an authentic and credible appearance.  Even dark scenes are rarely problematic, with the blacks proving extremely solid, and the level of accuracy ensuring that this gothic masterpiece is visually absorbing throughout.  The audio is presented in Linear PCM 2.0 mono track.  

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

None

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