Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Sabbath

This 1963 gem is "trilogy of terror" type film - three stories with a loose (and sometimes rather silly) hosting by Boris Karloff himself. The great Mario Bava (Black Sunday) is credited as Director, but Salvatore Billitteri shares directing credit. While the whole film looks the same artistically for the most part sporting Bava's amazing color pallet, the time periods and quality of story vary greatly.

The first and strongest segment is The Drop of Water and it's by far the most chilling of the three tales. It tells the story of Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) - a woman tasked with helping prepare the body of a medium for burial in what looks like a time period around the early 1900s. We're told by the servant that the woman must not touch anything in the room because the medium said a horrible curse would befall anyone who did. Heavy handed and clunky, true. Let's move on. :) Of course, the woman sees something she just has to have...and the ensuing nightmare conclusion is friggin' horrid and so damn creepy it gives me chills just thinking about it!  I wish the film ended with this segment - it's the strongest of the three tales and packs the biggest punch. It also plays with shadows and light very well. It has deep, dark areas that push things back while bright and colorful lights illuminate the foreground and add to the nightmare look it has.

The second, more modern segment is called The Telephone and I think I enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons. :::grin:::  I think I got a little caught up with the delicious curves and beauty of Michèle Mercier who plays Rosy in the segment. I kept thinking, "Man...she's really gorgeous" and "Ah, that's when women looked like WOMEN" as I watched her dive deeper and deeper into the terror calls. Yes, poor Rosy is getting calls from someone who definitely should not be calling her. Disturbing from a stalker standpoint for sure, but the segment pales in comparison to the Drop of Water tale.

The last story is a tale based further back in time again - around the 1800s. We've been shepherded along by Karloff, remember, so the switching of time periods isn't as jarring as it could have been. Plus we have Bava-color to tie everything together nicely. Now we hear about The Wurdalak  - a vampire, basically - and how it has a VERY adverse affect on it's family. Will Sdenka (Susy Andersen) make it to safety with her boyfriend? Maaaaaaybe. We get Karloff being very "Karloff" and a series of passionate deaths, but most of this tale fell flat to me. All but one scene in particular where a family member comes back...walks toward the family home...and calls out...that it's cold. So cold. :::shiver:::  That moment rang through me and was the closest to capturing the chills the first tale had. However, that's where the chills ended for me. The tale even wraps with a strange, comical scene with a horse running away in "comical fast motion" with a wacky, dark musical score. Similar to the "Da da da - da da da - DA!" wrap up, punchline tune used for jokes. Jarring. 

I might have enjoyed this film a bit better if I had not just finished watching a bunch of Hammer films recently. I hold them in high regard and it was hard to see the Bava version of gothic afterward. However it's worth watching - available via Netflix streaming as of the time of this posting. The Drop of Water alone is worth the price of admission! (And, the triple bill of Pierreux, Mercier and Anderson is easy on the eyes!)


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