Black Sunday

Black Sunday (Italian title: La maschera del demonio, also known as The Mask of Satan) is a 1960 Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava, from a screenplay by Ennio de Concini and Mario Serandrei. The film stars Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Arturo Dominici, and Ivo Garrani. It was Bava’s directorial debut, although he had completed several previous feature films without credit. Based very loosely on Nikolai Gogol’s short story “Viy”, the narrative concerns a vampire-witch who is put to death by her own brother, only to return 200 years later to feed on her descendants.

By the social standards of the 1960s, Black Sunday was considered unusually gruesome, and was banned in the U.K. until 1968 because of its violence. In the U.S., some of the gore was censored, in-house, by the distributor, American International Pictures, before its theatrical release to the country’s cinemas. Despite the censorship, Black Sunday was a worldwide critical and box office success — and launched the careers of director Mario Bava and movie star Barbara Steele. In 2004, one of its sequences was voted number 40 among the “100 Scariest Movie Moments”, by the Bravo Channel

Trivia:

In the October 17-23, 1998 edition of “TV Guide”, director Tim Burton says this is his favorite horror film.


A young girl is sent out at night to milk a cow when Javuto (portrayed by Arturo Dominici) claws his way out of the grave nearby. The young girl is played by Dominici’s real life daughter Germana Dominici.


Both Barbara Steele and Arturo Dominici were fitted with vampire fangs. Mario Bava decided against using them in the film. They can be seen in some of the publicity photos.


Galatea gave Mario Bava a lavish six weeks shooting schedule for this film beginning 28 March 1960. The typical Italian production during this period had only a three to four week shooting schedule.


Barbara Steele didn’t see the script in advance. She would be given pages daily.


In the Italian language version Princess Asa and Javutich are brother and sister which hinted at an incestuous relationship. This relationship is not part of either English language version.


Good reviews plus word-of-mouth reportedly turned this into American International’s highest grossing film up to that time, exceeding their grosses for Goliath and the Barbarians (1959) and Roger Corman’s House of Usher (1960).


The U.S. version released by American International has a replacement score by Les Baxter. Although Baxter is given sole credit, his score actually contains themes from Roberto Nicolosi’s original score.


Mario Bava claimed that an American company approached him about doing a color remake. He refused.


Italian censorship certificate # 32584 delivered on 5 August 1960.


Based on a Russian folk tale.


The film was rejected for UK cinema by the BBFC in 1961. The uncut version was released (as “Mask of Satan”) with a 15 certificate on the UK Redemption video label in 1992.

Filed under: GoreMaster 100 Films

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