Sunday, November 14, 2010

Black Sabbath

I Tre volti della paura; Horror, Italy/ France/ USA, 1963; D: Mario Bava, S: Boris Karloff, Michele Mercier, Mark Damon, Susy Anderson, Jacqueline Pierreux

Three stories of suspense: Rosy returns to her apartment one night and answers a phone call, where a mysterious stranger is threatening her on the other end. Rosy's testimony once gotten criminal Frank behind bars. In fear, she calls her long forgotten friend Mary to stay at her. But Mary was actually the voice on the phone because she just wanted to see her again. When Frank really shows up, he mistakenly strangles Mary, while Rosy kills him...19th Century. Vladimir stops one night at an isolated cottage to rest, but is surprised by the inhabitants, a family afraid of "wurdalak". When their father Gorcha shows up after five days, it turns out he became a vampire himself. Vladimir and Zdenka run away, but are caught and turned into vampires...A nurse steals the ring of the corpse of a lady who was a medium. The next morning, she is found to have strangled herself.

"Black Sabbath", also known as "Three faces of fear", is one of the more famous films by the Italian "master of horror" Mario Bava - not only because its title influenced the heavy metal band with the same name- an anthology of three stories that more or less form a rather satisfying collection of suspense. Bava doesn't grasp the heights of 'elevated-intelligent suspense' like Hitchcock or De Palma would have, yet still shows enough talent on his own, achieving light 'kammerspiel' since all of the stories play out mostly in one room. The first story, "Telephone", is a conventional thriller without any fantasy elements, focusing on the heroine, Rosy, who does not dare to go out of her home because a stranger keeps calling her on the phone. The story builds a moody suspense with a neat twist at the end, an event that ironically nullifies the attempt of the killer. The second segment, "Wurdalak", is by far the longest by encompassing almost an entire hour of running time, but at the same time also the weakest and most overstretched. The sole vampire story works, as well as the scary setting (a cottage in the middle of a forest), whereas Boris Karloff is great as the main bad guy, yet it is in the end too trashy, clumsy and overlong to work. The third and last story, "A Drop of Water", returns back on the right track by creating clever, subtle suspense derived from the heroine's guilt in her dark apartment because she stole a ring from a corpse: the intensity is created by sole drops of water in her bathroom, that slowly drive her insane, while the pale face of the corpse is one of the most eerie elements in the film.


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