I am so obscenely tired. If I thought all of these movies were catching up to me at the beginning of the week… well. Well. I knew nothing.
Black Sabbath – Italy, 1963. Dir. Mario Bava. Starring Boris Karloff, Michele Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi.
Today is my last post on the Italians. For this week at least. The last two days I’ve been talking about Dario Argento with Suspiria and Inferno. Today I’m moving on to Mario Bava. Well, sort of. I’m trying to move on to Mario Bava.
Let me explain.
There’s an interesting problem you sometimes encounter while trying to watch foreign horror films. Now I know this isn’t a problem limited to this genre, but horror is where I have encountered it the most often. It’s the problem of censorship.
You see it a lot in horror. As Gavin mentioned when talking about Rabid Dogs aka Kidnapped, the version released under Kidnapped is actually a re-edited film very different from the original vision of Rabid Dogs. Dario Argento’s film Deep Red has been released under other titles as well and many American versions cut out around 20 minutes of the movie. The same thing has happened to several of Lucio Fulci’s films. And don’t get me started on the Asian films. I have seen some really bizarre edits and nonsensical dubs of Asian films.
The same thing apparently happened to Black Sabbath. And unfortunately the version available for streaming on Netflix is the edited American version. Sad.
Either way, it’s a really fun movie. It’s actually made up of three shorter segments, sort of like The Twilight Zone movie or something like that. The whole thing is narrated by Boris Karloff which is just wonderful. There’s a little bit of humour in his narration but supposedly that was also one of the things that was cut. The biggest change that I’ve read about is actually just the order of the segments. Which isn’t really a huge deal. I can see how swapping the segments would create a slightly different progression but I don’t know how large that effect would be.
I did think that the first segment, The Drop of Water, is the scariest while the final segment, The Wurdalak, is the goriest and possibly most complex. The second segment, The Telephone, has the least in terms of supernatural terror but is still a lot of fun.
This is the order in the version I watched. In the original the order is instead The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and then The Drop of Water.
Okay, so there’s that. I could live with that.
What am I not so excited about? The lack of gore in Wurdalak. The musical score, especially in Wurdalak. And the way The Telephone was turned into a supernatural story rather than a straight up revenge thriller. With lesbians.
So there’s that too.
Don’t get me wrong here though, Black Sabbath is worth watching whatever version you have access to. The Drop of Water is a wonderfully creepy ghost story. The ghost is absolutely terrifying. I cannot even describe it. I don’t know, just watch this. You’ll see what I’m talking about. The Telephone is a titillating thriller. And The Wurudalak has such powerfully frightening imagery I’m sad it was only a short segment rather than a full film by itself. The small child, pressed to the door in the snow, begging his mother to let him in from the cold, is such a disturbing, wonderful shot. That short sequence of shots is one of my favorite things I’ve seen all week, possibly all this month.
In the end, it’s not so bad a version that it’s not still worth watching. Bava, like Argento, is a highly stylized director. The elements of the Italian Giallo are also all present in his work – the strong use of color, the intriguing camera work, the sound, the mystery. The acting styles are much the same and the stories have similar progressions.
Really, this entire genre is wonderful and worth exploring.
You know what you should do? Go google image search “Black Sabbath Bava” and see what turns up. Then believe when I say this movie is full of really creepy images.
I’ve mostly stayed with the more supernatural of these films. As Gavin also mentioned, the genre also can go heavily in the direction of exploitation. I’m personally not as into the exploitation films (and yes, I’ve seen a number of them) so I don’t know that I’ll get to any of those this month. Though I do plan on watching Rabid Dogs. And I haven’t even started on Fulci yet.
This is the last of the Italians this week though. Tomorrow, it’s back to Clive Barker. Tonight I’m watching Hellraiser.
Actually, I should say this is the last of the Italians for me this week. Tomorrow, another super special guest happens! He might be talking more about Italians! Woo!