Cast: Barbara Steele, Arturo Dominici, John Richardson, Andrea Checci
Extras: Commentary Track, Still Galleries, Theatrical Trailer, Biographies
During the 17th century, Princess Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) is condemned by her brother, the grand inquisitor for witchcraft and conspiring with the forces of Evil. She is put to death with Javutich (Arturo Dominici), another servant of the Devil, be having a skied brass mask hammered into her skull.
Two centuries later, two doctors, Adrej Gorobe (John Richardson) and Tomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checci), on their way to a convention stop at an old castle on their travel. They discover an old crypt that is housing the sarcophagus of Asa, the witch.
Accidentally and without knowing they bring her back to life and immediately Asa starts her work to wreak havoc on her own family, the descendants of those who killed her. Conjuring Javutich from the grave, the two go about to turn others into vampires for their mission, while slowly circling in on Katia Vajda, the last member of the family, who looks exactly like Asa herself.
"Black Sunday" is also very poetic at times. Given the premise to create a gothic film, Bava managed to create hauntingly atmospheric images with drifting fog in the moonlight and haunted forests, yet makes the narrative strong enough to keep modern audiences intrigued and unnerved. He slowly builds the tension, sometimes hiding things in the shadows of his exquisite settings, sometimes openly splattering the screen, depending on the requirements of each scene. The film stars the Queen Of Horror, Barbara Steele, in one of her most famous roles as Asa and Nadia Vajda, and much of the film’s mysticism can be attributed to her portrayal of this dark but enchanting character.
"Black Sunday" contains the film’s English language track in a monaural <$DD,Dolby Digital> presentation. As expected the sound track shows signs of distortion and the sonic spectrum is somewhat limited. However, the noise floor on the track is surprisingly low. Not a lot of noise reduction seems to have been applied, which is very good as it leaves most of the original and subtle ambience of the film intact, as well as the high end of the spectrum. The result is a clear mix with understandable dialogues, much better than you would expect from such a dated film. The disc also restores the movie’s original soundtrack by Roberto Nicolosi. The eerie music that underscores Bava’s masterfully crafted images also adds immensely to the movie’s unsettling nature, masterfully building tension and releasing it with syncopated acoustic shocks.
The release contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by Tim Lucas, editor/publisher of the "Video Watchdog" magazine and an intimate expert of the genre. He is also currently preparing a book on Mario Bava, and has contributed extensive and valuable liner notes to this DVD release. His commentary is very well prepared, leaving hardly anything surrounding the movie untouched. From historical backgrounds, to inconsistencies in the script, Lucas is pointing it all out with accuracy in a very informative way. For fans of the film and the genre, his commentary is highly recommended.
"La Maschera Del Demonio" has long been one of my most favorite gothic horror films, and it is great to see it so well presented on this DVD from Image Entertainment, in such a great restored version. You can tell from the presentation and the materials on this disc that Image indeed wanted to make sure to finally give the film the treatment is deserved. For every fan of Mario Bava’s work or lovers of gothic horror movies, this release of "Black Sunday" is a disc you can’t afford to pass on!