Black Sunday (1960) Arrow Video Review

Director: Mario Bava

Writers: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Nikolay Gogol

Stars: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi

RATING: 4 Stars

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A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch’s beautiful look-alike descendant, with only the girl’s brother and a handsome doctor standing in her way. – From IMDB

Once again I am returning to my age old favourite, weird movies from the 60s/70s. I recently started collecting the Arrow Video Blu-ray movies, as a lot of the films fit into this category and I am having an absolute blast. My latest foray was to watch ‘Black Sunday’ originally an Italian movie that was dubbed to English and then subsequently banned in the UK upon it’s release in 1960. And while nothing in it would be considered particularly controversial or worthy of banning by todays standards, I imagine back in the 60s this one would have been scandalous with its themes of Satanic worship and powerful, murderous women.

The film prefaces itself with a scrolling notice from the producers that the film contains scenes sure to terrify and ‘shock you like no other film has.’ And while for me it definitely did not live up to that claim, it certainly did deliver on fantastic atmosphere and tension throughout. Sometimes a horror film doesn’t need to be about gore and jump scares, sometimes an unsettling feeling, clever lighting and creepy music are enough, and this film has that by the truck load.

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It’s a 60s horror film so of course the acting is far too over the top and eye-rollingly melodramatic, but I would have been a little disappointed if it had been otherwise. I go into these films with certain allowances and expectations, and therefore, the dramatic performances is one of the things I enjoy most about them, it’s a stereotype of the genre.

The fiction country of Maldavia was well formed and was filled with a rich background and superstitions that are associated with countries in Eastern Europe, which is where I am guessing this film is supposed to be set. The whole place, right down to the castle has a very Transylvania type vibe which works perfectly for the gothic type horror we see in this film.

Fans of retro/classic horror will eat this one up, and I can’t wait to dive further into the Arrow Video Catalogue.

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