The American Cinematheque launches its Mario Bava film festival today with a double bill of BLACK SUNDAY (a.k.a. "The Mask of the Demon," 1960) and BLACK SABBATH (a.k.a. "Three Faces of Fear). Director Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR) will introduce the event.
Babara Steele in a dual role in BLACK SUNDAY
Although I am not a huge fan of BLACK SABBATH, these two films make a perfect introduction to the work of Bava, who excelled at creating on-screen atmosphere, especially in the black-and-white vampire film BLACK SUNDAY, which stands as one of the classics of the genre.
Bava was a cinematographer-turned-director, who also knew how to do old-fashioned, in-camera special effects. In the 1960s, he used his visual skills to craft a series of delirious beautiful films of various shapes and sizes, but his greates achievements were in the realm of cinefantastique: Gothic horror, giallo thrillers, science-fiction, and mythical fantasy.
The Cinematheque's schedule includes most of the major highlights of his career. Take note: some are not available on DVD. Here is the schedule:
All of these are worth seeing on the big screen, surrounded by an audience of appreciative fans, but the closing night triple-bill blow out of GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON, and CALTIKI is absolutely essential viewing. The last of these is not available on DVD, and GIRL is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek mystery thriller that is usually available in the U.S. in dubbed form as THE EVIL EYE.
I would also highly recommend the double bill of THE WHIP AND THE BODY and KILL, BABY, KILL. The former is a bit weak narratively, but it features Christopher Lee as an evil s.o.b. who returns to the family castle to claim his inheritance and resume an S-and-M relationship with Dahlia Lavi. She kills him, but he comes back from the grave to continue abusing her. The later film, despite the ridiculous English title, is an excellent experiment in Gothic atmosphere, about a European village bedeviled by the ghost of a small child. Bava milks the contrast between the innocent appearance and the horrific action, and there is at least one moment of pure uncanny vertigo when the camera assumes the ponit-of-view of the ghost-child riding up and down on a swing.