Saturday, 11 May 2013

Blu-ray review: Black Sabbath (1963) Mario Bava Arrow Video release

Long unavailable in the UK without importing,  Mario Bava's superb Black Sabbath is finally released, in a stunning high definition transfer to boot! 
Mario Bava black sabbath horror film boris karloff
The film takes the form of three macabre tales, with an introduction by Boris Karloff, who also appears in one story. The order of the stories depends on which version of the film you watch; both the original Italian language and AIP US dubbed version are included on this release. The original, entitled I tre volti della paura (The Three Faces of Fear) arguably the better, despite having Karloff's dialogue dubbed into Italian, robbing us of his luscious, lisping voice. There are several other differences between the two cuts, a comparison is given its own featurette, and features in the impressive accompanying booklet.  
Mario Bava black sabbath horror filmMario Bava black sabbath horror film boris karloff
"The Telephone" is a story of revenge, with Rosy (Michèle Mercier) being threatened by her ex partner, Frank, whom she assumed was in jail. This story is the one that suffers the most in the transition to the international version, becoming a supernatural tale, and the interesting sapphic sub-plot being removed completely.
Mario Bava black sabbath horror film boris karloffMario Bava black sabbath horror film
"The Wurdalak" has Karloff as Gorka, returning home to his family home a changed man, as he is now a vampire. This is one of Karloff's greatest performances, certainly of his later period. and full of horrific images which still disturb and terrify today. 
Mario Bava black sabbath horror filmMario Bava black sabbath horror film boris karloff
"A Drop of Water" winds the film up, and in a truly startling and nightmare inducing way. Jacqueline Pierreux plays a nurse, called out in the middle of a thunderstorm to tend to the corpse of a medium, as her maid is too afraid to do it. Taking a shine to her expensive looking ring, she pockets it for her trouble, causing a series of terrifying events that will leave your nerves shattered. The image of the dead woman alone is enough to keep even the most hardened horror fan awake.
Mario Bava black sabbath horror filmMario Bava black sabbath horror film
In the AIP version, the order is A Drop of Water, The Telephone then TheWurdalak, no doubt to finish on a high with the star of the film. Karloff aslo has more introductions in the English language version.
With the current crop of Bava films being released by Arrow Video in the UK (and the ones put out in the US by Kino), it's fantastic to see the great director finally receive the kind of praise and treatment he deserves. Black Sabbath, in which ever version you choose to watch, is a superb piece of film making. Glorious to look at, well acted and, importantly for a horror film, genuinely terrifying. It's interesting to compare the two versions, as the US overplays the shocks with a sensationalist score (by the fabulous Les Baxter) while the original is more about sound effects, and a more subtle (yet no less effective) musical accompaniment by Roberto Nicolosi. 
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Arrow Video  have once again come up trumps with a stunning release. Along with the Blu-ray, there are two DVDs with a version on each, the aforementioned booklet, which itself is fabulous, the comparison featurette and a commentary by Bava expert and the brains behind Video Watchdog, Tim Lucas. 
I can't recommend it strongly enough. Buy it now, and savour forever. Personal message to Arrow Video: Could we please have Blood and Black Lace on Blu-ray soon?
10 out of 10


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