Saturday 16 February 2013

Black Sunday (The Mask of Satan) - UK BD review

The nice folk at Arrow films sent me another one of their Mario Bava Blu-Rays to review, so it was back round to friends house to use his Blu-Ray player (and liberate more of his chocolate biscuits).
Black Sunday, also known as the Mark of Satan, marked Mario Bava’s official directorial debut, having previously worked as a second unit director on several other features, as well as doing uncredited work on several others.
Set somewhere in Eastern Europe, horror scream queen Barbara Steele as a young maiden named Asa, who was burned at the stake during medieval times, after her own brother accused her of being a witch.
Flashing forward to the 19th century and a couple of Gentlemen travelling through the forest, close to where the old village was, are forced to stop, when one of the wheels on their carriage is damaged. Whilst the driver attempts repairs, the two wander off and find the ruins of an old crypt near by.
Going inside they discover the decomposed body of Asa in a coffin, but when one of them accidentally cuts his hand and drips blood onto the corpse, she is brought back to life, and begins to wreak a bloody revenge on the descendants that put her to death.
Filmed in Black and White, the film does look somewhat dated these days and does get a little confusing in places, as Steele plays 2 roles in the film, that of the Witch Ava and also the role of Katia, who’s the daughter of one of her family’s descendants.
Released in 1960, it was considered quite shocking for it’s day, which resulted in the film being censored for its original US release and banned in the UK up until 1968.
This release by Arrow is of the full uncut version of the film and gives you the choice of listening to the original English dialogue, or the alternate US dub of the film, which used different voice over artists and had a different score.
You also get the Italian version of the film which is slightly longer, and contains the original Italian language dub with English sub-titles.
Extras wise, the disc is chock full of extras, including an introduction by noted horror critic Alan Jones, a feature length commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas, an interview with actress Barabara Steele, which for some reason is in Italian, with English subs, whoch is kind of odd considering that she’s British.
There’s also a deleted scene of Katia and Prince Vajda, which only appears in the Italian version, 2x theatrical trailers and a TV spot. And if all that wasn’t enough, the disc also includes a bonus film, Vampiri which was the first film Bava worked on as an unofficial director, after original director Ricardo Freda walked off set, which also happened to be the first Italian horror film in sound, and there’s a  reel of almost an hours worth of trailers for other Mario Bava films.
A cracking selection of extras, for such an obscure film. The film is released in a dual format combo-pack, containing the Blu-Ray and DVD versions of the film and much like Arrows “Lisa and the Devil” release, is an essential purchase for fans of Mario Bava’s earlier works.
By the DVD/BD combo pack at

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