Friday, October 18, 2013

Black Sunday (1960)


These days you don’t see too many attempts to dive into classic gothic horror. You know the types, with big spooky castles, secret passageways, ghostly images and moonlight slanting in the windows and across the spider webs. Could be these images just don’t creep out modern audiences. Could be we’ve just replaced witches with zombies. Or maybe we just need to drop the sparkly vampires and get back to the good old fashioned blood sucking hell-spawn of old.


It was all going well for medieval witch Katia Vajda (Barbara Steele). She was cursing townsfolk, corrupting nobles and praising the prince of darkness. But eventually the villagers had enough. They captured her and her lover, place horrible spiked masks on their faces (with the spikes on the inside). They tried to burn them, but it started to rain. In the end Katia is placed in her family’s tomb, but under a series of religious protections that will keep her from undead mischief.

Enter Dr. Gorobec (John Richardson) and Dr. Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) a couple hundred years later. They are on their way to a medical conference in Moldavia when they stop by the ancient crypt. Kruvajan is messing around down there with a huge HUGE bat, and then breaks the seal on the coffin containing the ancient witch. Now she rises from the grave and starts using vampire powers to summon minions, drain blood and attempt to possess the lovely young noble woman who looks just like her! Can Dr. Gorobec piece together this mystery before he ends up another casualty on this Black Sunday?

Good Points
  • Wonderful visuals and gothic atmosphere
  • Moves at a swift pace
  • Surprisingly brutal and gory in places

Bad Points:
  • It is dubbed and not too well
  • All the talk of Satan and demons may not go down well with some viewers
  • Doesn’t have a firm mythology it seems to be working with

Also known as Mask of the Demon this movie is a like gothic roller coaster of wonderful visuals, diabolical characters and some surprising brutality. The opening scene where the witches are being killed is intense with its visuals. Later moments continue along that gruesome direction. But that is part of what makes it so much fun. Steele is fiendish and gleeful in the role. As she destroys all her old enemies and allies you can’t wait to see what happens next. The film moves at a brisk pace, but there are some confusing dub lines (and poor dub performances) that keep it from firing on all cylinders. But if you are looking for something that is both traditional in atmosphere and visuals but with a bit of a edge to it, I highly recommend Black Sunday.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I agree completely on this one -- properly moody, but needs a better mythology.

    I give Anne Rice credit for developing such a detailed mythology in her series of novels. Even though the elements of it aren't fleshed out in the movie adaptations ("Interview with the Vampire" and "Queen of the Damned"), you can see that something coherent is underlying the whole business.

    1. Yeah I found it strange that the witch was using vampire powers, and then was basically creating new vampires while still using witchy powers. But I just shrugged and enjoyed the show.

      You're right about Rice. I'm not a huge fan of her work, but she does create plenty of detail in her stories and they all seem to function with a very specific set for rules.