Director: Mario Bava
Source: Blu-Ray (Arrow)
In the Seventeenth Century, in Maldavia, Princess Asa Vajda and her lover Javutich (Arturo Dominici) are killed by the local population, accused of witchcraft. A mask of Satan is attached to their faces. Princess Asa curses her brother, promising revenge to his descents. The body of Javutich is buried outside the cemetery, and the coffin of Princess Asa is placed in the family’s tomb with a cross over it for protection. Two hundred years later, Professor Thomas Kruvajan and his assistant, Dr. Andre Gorobec, are going to a congress in Russia and they accidentally find the tomb. Dr. Thomas breaks the cross, releasing the evil witch. When they are leaving the place, Dr. Andre meets Princess Katia Vajda, descendant of Princess Asa, and falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Katia is threatened by the witch, who wants to use her body to live again.
I have to admit, movies before the death of the hippies (pre-1968) is usually not for me. I have a hard time getting sucked into them since the acting is usually very theatrical with big gestures and an unnatural way to speak. The faces are usually light up so it looks like they have been close to a nuclear plant accident for a week. People playing drunk act like if I told a 5 year old to act like he was drunk, so again ”overacting”. Music who writes me on the noose telling me what emotions to feel is not my cup of tea either.
I have tried several times watching this so-called masterpiece, but after 20-30 minutes I zone out. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, truly gothic, but again the theatrical acting is not for me. This time, though, I tried something new. I put on the movie, but shut off the audio. Instead, I put on a Lustmords album ”The Monstrous Soul” and that did the trick. A perfect mix.
It was filmed on several locations around Rome, Lazio in Italy. Among the places Prince Massimo’s Castle.
This was Mario Bava’s directorial debut, and original title is “La maschera del demonio”. It had its premier on the 20th of August 1960 in Italy, 15th of February 1961 in the US and around the rest of Europe between 1961-1968.
It was only the third horror film produced in Italy in the sound era (Mussolini banned the genre during his dictatorship). Good reviews plus word-of-mouth reportedly turned this into American International’s highest grossing film up to that time,
Bava and Steele had a difficult working relationship. Steele sometimes refused to come to set because she did not like her wig or the fact that her cleavage would be shown. One time she refused to come to the set because she believed that Bava wold force her to appear nude. Steele admits that she was difficult due to her inexperience and her inability to understand Italian.
In its day, this was considered to be unnecessarily gruesome and indeed was banned in the UK until 1968. Even then, it was heavily cut. The full uncut version was released (as “Mask of Satan”) with a 15 certificate on the UK Redemption video label in 1992.
I watched the Arrow Video Blu-Ray and it has an amazing picture and great sound,
* The Film – “The Mask of Satan” export cut (86:30)
* The Film – “Black Sunday” U.S. theatrical version (83:04)
* “I Vampiri” (1956) – Italy’s first sound horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava (81:18)
Audio Commentary by Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas on the export cut
Introduction by Alan Jones (2:52)
Interview with Barbara Steele (8:44)
Deleted Scene from the Italian version with notes by Tim Lucas (3:32)
International Trailer (3:35)
US Trailer (2:12)
Italian Trailer (3:27)
TV Spot (:22)
US “I Vampiri” Trailer ‘The Devil’s Commandment’
Mario Bava Trailer Reel (54:02)
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