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Black Sunday (1960) – Review

black sunday blu ray

Arrow have just released this fantastic Blu ray of the Mario Bava directed classic horror Black Sunday with a ton of special features which we will discuss below. Made in 1960 Black Sunday or The Mask Of Satan as it was originally titled has fantastic imagery inspired by the Universal horrors of the decades before and also the Hammer films which were very popular at this time.

A beautiful witch is sentenced to death for her evil deeds by her own brother and is condemned to die by having a spiked metal mask hammered onto her face before being burnt at the stake. As she passes, she puts a terrible curse on all her future descendants … But when two unwitting travellers discover her final resting place and worse, drip blood on her resting corpse, they unleash her once again in all her stunningly beautiful, terrifying glory…

Banned in the UK upon its initial release, the opening especially is still shocking, the creepy sets and atmospheric Black and white photography certainly live up to the cult status this film has achieved.  Barbara Steele is mesmerising in her dual role and the direction by Bava is excellent especially seeing it in HD format on this Blu Ray.

black sunday poster

The Disc released by Arrow has a good 1080p transfer on both versions, Black Sunday and the uncut Mask Of Satan, the difference between the two is mainly a little more gore and Black Sunday has a different and very good score by Les Baxter. There is light grain in the image which is fine and contrast is good if not slightly overblown in a few scenes. Overall an excellent transfer, not perfect but better than any DVD presentation you may have seen.

Audio quality is good and clean, presented in English LPCM 2.0 and Italian LPCM 2.0 for The Mask of Satan and English LPCM 2.0 for Black Sunday. Most of the lines were spoken in English although both tracks were dubbed afterwards.

Extras are plentiful as is usual for these Arrow special editions. Firstly there is an excellent audio commentary by Mario Bava expert Tim Lucas on the uncut version, there are moments of silence but overall very informative, this guy certainly knows the director’s work inside and out and it shows.  There is a short introduction to the film by cult film expert Alan Jones, an interview with Barbara Steele in Italian with subtitles where she discusses the film, the director etc.

A rare deleted scene is also an extra, which apparently survived only in early Italian prints of The Mask of Satan. Trailers and TV spots for the film, a fantastic 55-minute trailer reel for most of Bava’s movies and finally the full feature film, in SD, I Vampiri (1956) – this was the first Italian horror film of the sound era. Director Riccardo Freda left the production, leaving cameraman Mario Bava to complete the film. Also to round off there is a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Matt Bailey and Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

While the film may seem tame by today’s standards, any fan of gothic horror should not miss this great and very influential film, put out by Arrow in this fabulous presentation.

FILM: 7.5 OUT OF 10




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