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Black Sabbath (1963) - Blu-ray Review

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Black Sabbath (1963) - Blu-ray Review


4 stars

Directed by Mario Brava (Planet of Vampires), Black Sabbath remains an influential horror film. It is, after all, where Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Ozzy Osbourne (who all marveled at the fact that people actually paid money only to leave theaters that scared) got their band name from. But one quick peek inside of Black Sabbath will have you understanding what they meant. The three stories that make up the movie are gothic in nature and effectively deal with matters of life and death in a beautifully frightening way.

Hosted by Boris Karloff (riffing on his success with Thriller), Brava’s frightfully fantastic trilogy of terror serves its audience well and, thanks to the efforts of Kino Lorber Studio Classics, is given a solid treatment in its debut on blu-ray. The film, in its current running order (different from its Italian preimere), opens with the deranged story of a nurse (Jacqueline Pierreux) who is asked to help prepare a dead medium’s corpse for her burial. Just one look at the corpse with her death grin expression stretched from ear to ear is enough to be disturb the hell out of anyone. Brava, in his infinite wisdom, makes her corpse the star of the short and, when the nurse steals a sparkling ring from the corpse’s finger, there will be a haunted hell to pay.

The second story, featuring Michele Mercier as a call-girl haunted by a phone that won’t stop ringing, is purposefully confined to a basement-level apartment location. This provides audiences, as the girl literally has nowhere to go, with a sort of suffocating feeling as the voice on the other end of the phone promises revenge for what she has done. Help arrives as Lydia Alfonsi offers Mercier a shoulder to cry upon. Of course, all is not as it seems when revenge comes knocking.

The third story tackles the myth of the Russian vampire in the 19th century. Starring Karloff and Mark Damon, the final story in the collection might be, as scripted, the most elementary but, as filmed, is a spellbinding tale with dazzling uses of color and of the visual aspects of gothic storytelling. It has a vast environment and Brava effectively explores its deep caverns with dramatic lighting and the cinematography.

Originally released in 1963 after American International Pictures’ secured a release deal with the Italian film production company Galatea, Black Sabbath is the premiere film that first solidified the genre landscape that would go on to create the slasher flick. It’s all here. The stalker. The prey. The fight. The scares. Modern in its use of horror, Black Sabbath retains a solid footing in the past with its lavish production values; always a trademark of these AIP productions. Even on a tight budget they had the remarkable ability to design their features.

While the cinematography is credited to Ubaldo Terzano (Deep Red), there is little doubt that Brava shot a lot Black Sabbath. Now whether or not that was due to this being his first solo job at directing or the collaborative process with the camera operator is up for discussion, the fact remains that the film has his influential eye throughout. His use of deep shadows as they play ghastly tricks across the faces and bodies of his actors and actresses and dement the backgrounds is unmistakably at play throughout. And so are the colors with deep greens, reds, and strong blues standing out.

For a lot of Horror Hounds, Mario Brava’s Black Sabbath is where their journey into the dark begins, making this release a MUST OWN.

Black Sabbath (1963) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated
92 mins
: Mario Bava
Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua
Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Boris Karloff
: Horror
Not Since 'FRANKENSTEIN' Have You Seen Such Horror!
Memorable Movie Quote: "What's the matter, woman? Can't I fondle my own grandson? Give him to me!"
American International Pictures (AIP)
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 6, 1964
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 21, 2015
Synopsis: 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 seance.

Black Sabbath (1963) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 21, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: None
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Locked to region A

Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Black Sabbath with a crisp 1080p transfer. There are some scratches in the print used but the production values really are striking. Colors are well-saturated and resist bowing to the ravages of time. The makeup and special effects remain strong even if the blood is weak. Black levels are strong. Shadows run deep and the contrast is high. The release is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track.



  • Film Historian Tim Lucas waxes poetic about Black Sabbath on this feature-length commentary.

Special Features:

There is a theatrical trailer and nothing else.

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