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Default Black Sabbath




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: August 2, 2000

Released by: Image Entertainment
Release date: 8/1/2000
MSRP: $24.99
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



Image Entertainment once again graces us Bava fans with another entry into their "Mario Bava Collection", a line of DVDs that is finally paying tribute to one of the masters of the genre. Black Sabbath, one of my favorite Bava films, has been recently released and is by far one of the more impressive entries into the collection. Not only because Black Sabbath is one of Bava's finest but because Image, like their Black Sunday DVD, has given the film royal treatment with the inclusion of a new 16x9 enhanced transfer. So let's take a look at Mario Bava's classic Horror Anthology, Black Sabbath!

The Story

inline Image The first tale of terror, "Il Telefono" (The Telephone), opens with a young woman, Rose (Michele Mercier), entering her apartment having just missed a phone call. The phone rings once more but when Rosy picks up there is only silence on the other line. This happens a second time but on the third call Rosy gets an answer from an "enthusiastic" caller complimenting her beautiful body. He also mentions that he plans to kill her. The phone rings once again and the would be killer speaks this time elaborating on his motives, explaining he wants to kill her out of revenge. Rosy now genuinely frightened begins to panic and goes about the room hiding her belongings and turning on the lights. The killer calls again and frighteningly reveals that he can see everything she's doing and that she will be dead by dawn. But who is this mysterious killer and why does he want to kill Rosy?

inline Image "I Wurdulak" (The Wurdulak) is the second story and opens with a young man, Count Vladimir d' Urfe (Mark Damon), who, while traveling to Gersy on horseback, comes across a headless corpse lying near a stream with a dagger plunged into its back. Vladimir rides to a nearby cottage and discovers that the owner of the dagger must live there. He meets with one of the occupants, Giorgio, who explains that is his father's dagger. Together the two head off to the corpse and are joined by Giorgio's brother, Pietro. The two brothers explain to Vladimir that the corpse is Alibeq who was a Turkish criminal, a horrible man who killed many people in the surrounding area. Alibeq was also suspected of being a "Wurdulak" - a vampire like corpse who returns from the grave to drink the blood of the ones it loved most in life. Giorgio explains back at the cottage that after Alibeq killed their foreman, his Father Gorca (Boris Karloff) set out to destroy him. However, before Gorca left on his endeavor he told his family that if he does not return within five days do not let him in and instead drive a dagger through his heart. Tonight, past midnight Gorca returns but the five days have passed and now his family is left with the question - is he really their father or has he been turned into a Wurdulak?

inline Image The third and final tale, "La Goccia D' Acqua" (The Drop of Water), concerns the activities of Miss Chester, a nurse who arrives at the home of a medium who's recently died at the request of her maid. She's there to apparently prep the corpse for the funeral. While putting on the mediums funeral gown Miss Chester notices a ring on the mediums finger. After some consideration and figuring the medium has no use for it any longer she pockets it. But in the struggle to free the ring from her finger Miss Chester accidentally knocks over a glass of water. After returning home Miss Chester begins to hear the sound of dripping water. The sounds escalate into visions of the medium, but are all these incidents real or are they fictions of her imagination brought on by guilt?

inline Image Black Sabbath is quite simply Mario Bava's masterpiece of storytelling. This is my second favorite Bava film and definitely my favorite "Horror Anthology", surpassing such other greats like the original Tales From the Crypt. The film's diverse set of stories, Mario Bava's expert direction and eye for style all combine to make one of the most atmospheric set of horror tales to flash across the screen. Black Sabbath was Mario Bava's seventh film as director and was shot in glorious Technicolor, and as a result the film is awash in gorgeous shades of blue, green, purple and red, which come across beautifully on this DVD (more on that later). The colors in this film are really a separate character and compliment the suspense and storytelling while giving the film a look and style that is not easily matched not even by such visual treats as Suspiria and Inferno.

inline Image Black Sabbath's three tales consist of a realistic thriller, a folk tale and a ghost story. Each of these three stories is unique and beautifully photographed by Mario Bava. I love all three of Black Sabbath's stories, but "The Wurdulak" is definitely my favorite of the bunch and was very much in the gothic vein of another Bava favorite, Black Sunday. The first story, oddly enough, has many similarities to Scream, proving that Kevin Williamson's degree of hacking wasn't limited to American Slashers. The third story is also a lot of fun, here Bava plays with noises and blue colors to heighten the suspense and it also has a great ending that makes you wonder if it was all in Miss Chester's head. Black Sabbath also highlights Bava's use of zoom lenses as well as his sprawling camera movement and angles, which give this film a very cinematic feel.

inline Image As if Black Sabbath's merits as a Mario Bava film aren't enough to define it as a classic, it's also hosted by none other than Boris Karloff which pretty much ensures this films place in horror history. Karloff, who also plays a role in the second story, opens the film with an introduction and ends it with a message to the viewers. Karloff's presence in Black Sabbath is a memorable one as he seems to have a lot more freedom than many of his more famous roles, but still Karloff's performance is very expressionistic, not unlike many of the roles he's had in the past. His performance may in the end be a little over the top but it fits the film perfectly. Mario Bava was ahead of his time and Black Sabbath is one of the shining examples of that. Bava always had such miniscule budgets to work with and yet in his career he's crafted so many horror gems with style and quality that most Hollywood horror films can barely comprehend.

Image Quality

inline Image Image Entertainment presents Black Sabbath letterboxed at 1.78:1 in a glorious new 16x9 enhanced transfer. The last few entries into the Mario Bava Collection I've reviewed have been somewhat of a disappointment in terms of presentation, but this new DVD of Black Sabbath from Image restores my confidence that Mario Bava's films can look as good as they were photographed. The transfer is wonderfully sharp and detailed with excellent definition and smooth edges. Very few scenes display any softness, even under some of the intense lighting Bava applies throughout the three stories. The print, while showing some minor signs of grain, is pleasingly clean with grain never becoming a distraction. The print used for this transfer was in pretty good shape with signs of print damage appearing periodically throughout the film mostly in the form of scratches and specs.

Occasionally the image would "jump" as well, indicating a missing frame. For example, check the scene in "The Wurdulak" right after Giorgio and Vladimir leave the cottage to go look at the headless corpse. Bava's camera stays behind in the cottage and reveals Sdenka and Maria coming down the steps. You'll notice a jarring jump between her being at the top of the steps and her starting to come down. The colors look fabulous and that is important since Bava's use of colors is critical to the design and style. Blacks were deep and solid and whites were clean. Overall this is a terrific job done by Image Entertainment. Well deserving of an A- especially considering its age.

Sound

Black Sabbath's audio is presented in Italian Dolby Digital Mono (with removable English subtitles) and sounds fairly well. There is some very low hiss audible most noticeable in the first story where there are several periods of silence but nothing too bad. I also heard a couple of "pops" throughout but that's really just nitpicking. The score, effects and dialogue are all clear without any distortion. Roberto Nicolosi's score sounded fairly good. Overall this is a good mono mix nothing more or less.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Image Entertainment has given us a fine presentation but there is little else on this disc. Included is Black Sabbath's Italian Theatrical trailer with removable subtitles. The trailer is in pretty good shape but displays some moderate print damage. The trailer is 16x9 enhanced so hats off to Image for doing that. Also included is a brief photo and poster gallery, which consists of stills from the film as well as posters and lobby cards. We also have filmographies for both Mario Bava and Boris Karloff, and a biography for Mario Bava. Oh and yes, this DVD comes packaged in a snapper case. However, I really love the artwork on this one and the artwork for Lisa and the Devil and Hatchet for the Honeymoon too.

Final Thoughts

This is a glorious edition of Black Sabbath and I'm so happy with the presentation I have nothing bad to say about this release. Sure, the disc is low on supplements but the kind of quality presentation provided on this DVD is worth three commentary tracks in my opinion. I highly recommend this disc to fans of classic horror films and anthologies, and of course Bava fans don't need any recommendation from me to buy this disc.

Rating

Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - B-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 16 Chapter Stops
  • Italian Dolby Digital Mono
  • Removable English subtitles

Supplements
  • Italian Theatrical Trailer
  • Poster and Still Gallery

Other Pictures

 

 

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