Barbara Steele, 1960
Barbara Steele in The Mask of Satan (1960).
Barbara Steele - Black Sunday (1960)
Day 7 - ‘Classic Actresses of the UK’ (post 2/4):
The 13 Most Deranged Horror Director Debuts:
5. Black Sunday (1960)—Mario Bava
As the primary architect of the Italian horror phenomenon, Mario Bava was both the genre’s technical genius and savior, salvaging movies that had been abandoned such as The Giant of Marathon (1959), Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959), and, most significantly, I Vampiri (1956), considered the first contemporary Italian horror film. As a show of gratitude, Galatea Films gave him the chance to make his own film. Choosing to loosely adapt Gogol’s weird tale “Viy,” Bava used all his cinematic skills to create Black Sunday, an atmospheric, lushly photographed black and white fairy tale involving the resurrection of a vampiric witch looking for revenge on the descendants of those who imprisoned her. The film begins with some of the most memorable imagery in horror cinema: a huge shirtless masked executioner (who kind of looks like one of The Mentors) welds an enormous hammer and smashes a spiked iron mask onto the face of a beautiful woman as blood spurts out of her orifices. As fog swirls, the faceless inquisitors watch the witch being burnt, enveloped in darkness so thick and black it gives the appearance of perpetual sorrow, like if Bergman had made The Seventh Seal for Universal Studios in the 30’s. Black Sunday is the most Gothic film ever made: a ruined crypt, a violated tomb, secret passages, a haunted castle, ancient curses, and a threatened romance. Bava’s eye for the macabre is unparalleled with images such as scorpions scurrying out of a corpse’s eye sockets and a reanimated vampire crawling his way out of his unsanctified grave. The presence of Euro cult queen Barbara Steele, playing both the wicked Aja and the virginal Katia, elevates Black Sunday from classic to god head status as her decadent beauty (like a living Edward Gorey drawing)personifies elegance and corruption, the attraction/repulsion that illuminates so much of European horror. Bava would make a litany of amazing films that influenced the next generation of horror, from Friday the 13th to Sleepy Hollow. Even Martin Scorsese paid tribute to the maestro in his masterpiece The Last Temptation of Christ, proving that Bava’s rococo power extends well past the dark recesses of the horror genre.
Barbara Steele photographed as a 20th Century-Fox player c.1960
Barbra Steele -the CRIMSON CULT (1968) aka CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTER
Barbara Steele ~ Black Sunday ~ La Maschera Del Demonio (1960)
Barbara Steele in La maschera del Demonio (Mask of Satan/Black Sunday, 1960).
Barbara Steele, “Nightmare Castle”, 1965.
Barbara Steele - Black Sunday - 1960
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