With the release of ‘Black Sunday’ (aka ‘The Mask of Satan’) by Arrow Films, Barbara is abroad once more.
At the current price of £12.99 the new UK Region 2 edition of Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sunday’ is a bargain. Effectively, you get three versions of the film – on Bluray and DVD – plus Riccardo Freda’s earlier Italian horror, ‘I Vampiri’ (1956), which was also released as ‘The Devil’s Commandment’ and was photographed by Bava.
Arrow’s release includes the original international uncut version of the film, as ‘The Mask of Satan’, with Roberto Nicolosi’s original score and dubbed dialogue in English.
The same cut of the film, with the original Italian language dialogue, subtitled in English.
The AIP cut of the film, as ‘Black Sunday’.
Many extras, including a 32-page full-colour collector’s booklet, with discussions of ‘Black Sunday’ and ‘I Vampiri’, an interview with Barbara Steele, plus Riccardo Freda discussing ‘I Vampiri’ and Bava.
An interesting deleted scene from Italian version of film
Trailers, including a Bava showreel which has one each for all of Bava’s trailers, which is a great addition to the package
Interview with horror star Barbara Steele
Reversible sleeve to the DVD featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
Audio commentary Bava buff Tim Lucas that previously appeared in the ‘Mario Bava collection Volume 1’ (which is still available and also includes ‘Black Sabbath’ [Italian version only], ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’ [Italian version only], ‘Knives of the Avenger’ [English and Italian language versions], Kill, Baby…Kill! [English and far superior Italian language version])
I watched the AIP release, titled ‘Black Sunday’, which I’d never seen in its entirety. Many rate this as the better version of the film, even though it’s slightly cut. It does have a completely different English language dubbing job, which changes the emphasis of the story and builds the action around the fateful day of ‘Black Sunday’. ‘The Mask of Satan’ edition has an inferior dubbing job, but is uncut for gore. Both versions are masterful gothic horrors, with Birkenhead-born horror queen Steele in the first of her classic forays into elegant Italian gothic.
This film is rightly cited as one of the greatest horror films of the last century. On its original release in the UK, it was rejected by the British censors in February 1961 and was finally released as ‘Revenge of the Vampire’ in 1968, cut and rated X. First released by Vampix in the ‘pre-cert’ era, an early UK video edition of Bava’s film, from S.C. Video Ltd (aka Stablecane) in 1986, was an Italian print (with Italian titles, and ‘Steele’ misspelt ‘Steel’) with the pasted-on title ‘Black Sunday’. It was a cut edition, but was still rated ‘15’ by the BBFC. ‘The Mask of Satan’ was screened on UK TV when Kim Newman introduced a Bava double-bill on BBC2 in the late 1980s. The second film was ‘Lisa and the Devil’, which has also been released by Arrow in January 2013. You don’t get to say this very often with cult films such as ‘Black Sunday’, but this the definitive DVD release of the movie, and is an essential purchase.
I don’t know if it’s the case in the USA, but Steele’s Italian films have been largely ignored by TV schedulers in the UK – Antonio Margheriti’s ‘The Long Hair of Death’ and Michael Reeves’ ‘The She Beast’ are the only other of her nine films to have received terrestrial TV airings, though the UK horror ‘Curse of the Crimson Altar’ shows up occasionally too. Only ‘Night of the Doomed’ aka ‘Nightmare Castle’, ‘Cemetery of the Living Dead’ aka ‘Terror Creatures from the Grave’ and ‘The Horrible Secret of Dr Hichcock’ have been released on home video in the UK. In the USA, there’s a good edition of the American release of ‘Castle of Terror’/’Danza Macabra’ on tape, which was issued by The Incredibly Strange Filmworks Inc. in 2000. The video edition of ‘Dr Hichcock’ is currently available on UK Amazon. All Steele’s are now available in one form or another on DVD. Most are available from Movies Unlimited in the USA http://www.moviesunlimited.com
‘The Terrible Secret of Dr Hichcock’
‘Night of the Doomed’ (as ‘Nightmare Castle’)
‘Terror Creatures from the Grave’
‘An Angel for Satan’ (with ‘Long Hair of Death’)
You can read more about Barbara Steele’s career in my feature on the actress in Issue 11 of ‘Cinema Retro’, May 2008. The last few copies are available here
I discuss all 9 of Steele’s Italian gothics – ‘The Mask of Satan’, ‘Castle of Blood’, The Long Hair of Death’, ‘The Terrible Secret of Dr Hichcock’, ‘The Ghost’, ‘The She Beast’, ‘Night of the Doomed’, ‘Terror Creatures from the Grave’, ‘An Angel for Satan’ – in my book ‘Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult’, which is available now from Amazon, Waterstones or direct from I.B. Tauris