black sabbath | mario bava | marcello fondato | Michele Mercier | Lidia Alfonsi | boris karloff | italy | france | united states | anthology | vampire | vampires | monster | creature | monsters | ghost | haunted | curse | guy de maupassant | anton chekhov | aleksei tolstoy
Film: Black Sabbath (I tre volti della paura)
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Marcello Fondato
Starring: Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi and Boris Karloff
This is a movie that I sought out when working through the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Movies issue. I’ll be honest, at that time I knew who Boris Karloff was and I recognized the director’s last name of Bava. I didn’t appreciate this one the first time I saw it though. I’ve now given a couple more rewatches, including for my Traverse through the Threes.
Synopsis: Karloff hosts a trio of horror stories concerning a stalked call girl, a vampire-like monster who preys on his family and a nurse who is haunted by her ring’s rightful owner.
The first story is ‘The Telephone’. Rosy (Michèle Mercier) comes home. Her phone is ringing before she gets inside. It starts ringing again. She answers it, but the person doesn’t say anything. She gets another call and this time someone responds. It is a male voice telling her that he is going to kill her and he is watching her every move.
Someone walks by her door and slips an envelope under it. It is a news story telling her that her ex-boyfriend has escaped from prison. The caller continues to harass her and then finally informs her they’re coming for revenge. Rosy doesn’t call the police, but a friend she had a falling out with. This friend is Mary (Lidia Alfonsi). Rosy asks her to come over.
Things aren’t as they seem though and it leads to deadly results.
The next story is entitled ‘The Wurdalak’. Vladimir D’Urfe (Mark Damon) is riding his horse through the countryside. He comes up a dead body with a dagger in its back and missing its head. He removes it and takes the body. His path leads to a house in the middle of nowhere. Since Vladimir is royalty, he enters. He finds a matching dagger on the wall.
Vladimir then meets the family that lives there. He is first confronted by Giorgio (Glauco Onorato). Also living there is Pietro (Massimo Righi), his wife of Maria (Rika Dialyna) and their son. His sister is also there, Sdenka (Susy Andersen). Their father is away right now. Vladimir tells them of the body he found and takes Pietro to see it. He confirms that it is a bandit in the area that their father has went off to kill.
We then learn of a creature called a Wurdalak. It is a living corpse that drinks the blood of those that it loved in life, so a type of vampire. The family fears the father has become one when he is late on getting back. Just after midnight he comes back, Gorca (Karloff) returns.
There are a lot of signs that he is a wurdalak. He ends up taking the boy in the night and Pietro is bit as well. Vladimir has fallen for Sdenka and convinces her to flee with him. It won’t be that easy though.
The final tale is ‘The Drop of Water’. We have a woman who lives alone and gets a call in the middle of the night. Her name is Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux). She is called to a house where a woman has died. Helen helps prepare the body as no one will help the maid, played by Milly. Helen does spy a ring on the finger of the deceased that she steals when the maid is gone. A glass is knocked over. The sound of water dripping haunts Helen as well as a large fly. The face of the dead woman is scary and will also stay with her.
There was talk that the dead woman passed during a séance and that she was interested in ghosts. The things she experienced at the house follow Helen to her apartment. Will she survive the night or will the ghost get its ring back?
That is where I’ll leave the recap of these stories and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I originally had issues with the placement of these as well as I didn’t necessarily think this was as good as people said. I can now say that being more of a seasoned cinephile, I was wrong on both accounts. I do know that I have the American version. There is another one that moves these around so I am intrigued to see that version.
What I’m going to do from here is breakdown each segment since this is an anthology. The first one of ‘The Telephone’ is an interesting mini-giallo. Rosy doesn’t know who is calling her, but it is unnerving. I remembered one of the reveals, but not necessarily how this played out. I wasn’t overly impressed previously. This time though it is effective since all the elements introduced play in. I thought that Mercier and Alfonsi are both attractive. I like the tension that this builds and how it plays out. This is a well-structured short.
As for the next tale of ‘The Wurdalak’, this is the longest of all. We have the legend of Karloff who is perfect in his role. What is great there is that because he’s the patriarch, everyone listens to him. That sets them up for failure. I like the make-up done here as people change. There is also a bleak ending here that was effective. This one could be trimmed a bit, but that is just a nitpick. I also think how quickly Vladimir and Sdenka fall in love is forced. They barely talk as most of the build-up is establishing what a wurdalak is. There is more story here so it needed more time. Still well-made.
Then the last story is my favorite of ‘The Drop of Water’. The set up is one that we’ve seen before. I love how Helen doesn’t believe and that is her downfall. The mask they use on the dead woman still haunts me. I also like how dripping water is part of what torments Helen. There is also a great conclusion here with how this curse could potentially carry on as well. We also get an element that there are forces we shouldn’t mess with as well.
In conclusion, I give this even more credit now that I’ve seen it a few times and appreciating cinema more. This comes in around 90 minutes or so which is good. We get three solid shorts here that tell different types of stories. When you’re working off the likes of Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant, it makes sense. It feels like this lays the groundwork to bridge between EC comics to things like Tales from the Crypt. If you like movies from the era or working through Bava’s filmography, this is a must see.
My Rating: 8 out of 10