The Film (5/5)
In 17th century Moldavia Princess Asa Vadja (Barbara Steele) and her servant Javuto (Arturo Dominici) are sentenced to death for vampirism, witchery, and general unwholesomeness by her brother. Asa curses her brother's descendants before a mask with spikes on the inside is pressed upon her face.
Two hundred years later Dr. Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and his young assistant Dr. Gororbec (John Richardson) are traveling to a medical conference when a wheel comes off their carriage. While waiting for it to be fixed the pair wander into Princess Asa's crypt. While defending himself from a bat Dr. Kruvajan breaks the glass on her coffin and then drips blood from his cut hand onto her face.
Somewhat reconstituted Princess Asa telepathically demands Javuto rise from the grave and help in her plan to truly become part of the land of the living by draining the blood of her brother's descendant Katia (also Steele) and taking her place...
The AIP version of Black Sunday changed some things from the original Italian version entitled La Maschera Del Demonio (The Mask Of Satan). Roberto Nicolsi's score was relaced with AIP mainstay Les Baxter's. Over three minutes of 'objectionable content' were trimmed. In the original film Asa and Javuto were siblings instead of master-servant. Minor 'gore' scenes were shortened and some dialogue was softened.
Kino presents the AIP version of Black Sunday in a 1080p HD master from the original film elements in it's correct aspect ratio of 1:66:1. The picture is a big improvement over previous dvd releases and the first thing I noticed was that the black levels are deep. The picture is very crisp, grain structure is good and while there's a bit of speckling here and there and I found the picture to be very pleasing. I own the Arrow UK Region B release of Black Sunday and I popped in their AIP version and these two appear very comparable. In fact I don't think in a test I would know the difference. For those of you who aren't region free Kino's disc is the way to go if you're looking to purchase the AIP version. It's the best that the AIP version has ever looked. Audio is presented in a DTS HD Mono 2.0 track and the dialogue and music comes through clear. No subtitles.
Trailers of Bava films also released by Kino are included. Black Sunday, Baron Blood, A Bay Of Blood, Hatchet For The Honeymoon, Lisa And The Devil and The Whip And The Body, which is a French trailer.
The AIP version of Black Sunday is what was seen in theaters across America and on late night television for years. This was the film that served as Bava's solo directing shot across the bow of world horror cinema and it's importance cannot be overstated. It ushered in the entire slate of Italian Gothic horror films to come and it's influence can be found on such films from Paul Naschy's Werewolf Shadow and The Night Of The Werewolf to Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. It's stylish, sexy and a marvel of low budget filmmaking that brought the horror world Barbara Steele and the formidable directing talents of Mario Bava. Kino has done us all a service by releasing this wonderful film with a great transfer.