Friday, January 8, 2010

Anthologicious: Black Sabbath

You know, I think that this is the first Mario Bava film that I have reviewed here. Can Hercules in the Haunted World  or Knives of the Avenger be far behind? It's also the first good horror anthology I've done in full. Yes, I'm making fun you, Creepshow 3! This movie has a lot going for it, considering its director and its narrator: Boris Karloff. In spite of Bela's ranting in Ed Wood, I love Boris to death for his later roles like this. Hell, he plays the crazy grandfather in The Comedy of Terrors, a movie that I love to death. The idea is pretty simple here: Boris is our narrator and tells us three tales of the macabre. Is there a connective thread in them? No, not really. All we get is Boris & that works for me! Let's just jump right into...
Black Sabbath
The film begins with Karloff walking onto a sound stage with a bunch of weird, flashing lights behind him. Weird light effects in a Mario Bava film? Can you imagine?!? Interestingly enough, Karloff is not playing some all-seeing/all-knowing character like Dr. Diablo from Torture Garden or a recurring one like Karen Black's character from Trilogy of Terror. He's just Boris Karloff and he wants you to see some scary stories. Okay then.

1. A woman begins to get threatening calls on the phone. No matter what she does, the person keeps calling and can apparently see everything. No, they don't ask her if she likes scary movies. As it turns out, evidence begins to point towards the caller being a man she testified against earlier. Guess who just escaped from jail? The lady freaks out even more & turns to calling a friend that she has not spoken to in a long time. She agrees to come over and alleviate her fears. Oh wait, she is also the person making the calls. This should get interesting...

The two get settled in as the 'friend' agrees to stay the night. Meanwhile, someone else lurks in the shadows. But, if she's there, she's over there and Istanbul is in this general area, then who is that? While the victimized woman tries to sleep, the other one writes a letter explaining that she faked the calls to get an invitation to come over and make-up. Of course, while she writes that, the escaped prisoner sneaks up and chokes her to death. Oh Mario, you love irony. Using a 'Checkov's Gun,' our heroine manages to stab the attacker to death. So, the lesson is, don't trick people...I guess. I'll figure that one out later.

2. A wandering nobleman shows up at a quiet farmhouse, but it is not exactly a 'good time.' As it turns out, a crazed killer was out in the woods & the father (Boris Karloff) has been out to get him. He warned the family that if he did not come back in five days, then he will have become a wurdalak (aka vampire). As day five arrives, he shows up and has the head of the killer in tow. The only problem: the family does not know whether or not he is a monster. His behavior is different, but that can be explained away with stress. The dog does not like him, but that can be explained with the human head he was carrying. He's creepy as hell, but he's Boris Karloff. The family is extremely worried and tells the nobleman to leave, but his lust for one of the daughters makes him stay. That night, all hell breaks loose! One of the brothers is found dead in the kitchen and the young child has been kidnapped by Karloff. This can't end well?

The son is found dead and the father goes to decapitate the corpse in order to stop him from coming back as a vampire. The wife won't let him, which allows the son to come back that night and set up her death. We get a domino effect as the now-vampiric wife kills the husband! The nobleman and the woman flee, but that is not enough. She ends up being captured and turned before our hero can save the day. Rather than face life without her, he hugs her and allows her to bite him. The moral: don't trust your libido at an old farmhouse, but we already knew that from the story of the traveling salesman.

3. Our final story is one of greed and regret. A nurse is called to a home to prepare an elderly matron for her funeral. When she gets there and works on the body, she discovers that the woman has a ring that only basketball players' wives whose husbands have been accused of rape get! In a moment of weakness, she steals the object. In a continuation of that moment of weakness, she takes it home with her. Unfortunately, she did not pay enough attention to the glass of water that spilled as she did the deed. In addition, a fly decided to be more than a little friendly with her, but she blew that off too. Back at her home, she begins to be bothered by several events.

First off, the fly makes another appearance and buzzes around her mercilessly. You may think that flies aren't scary horror villains unless you've seen Amityville 3-D! Her powers goes out as well and the sound of dripping water fills the apartment. Great! Now you're under siege by the thing from Dark Water too! Things only get worse as the old woman's body appears on her bed! Incidentally, this is probably the moment that most people remember from this whole movie. The corpse begins to strangle her, at least, that's what she thinks. Driven mad, she actually strangles herself to death. When the police discover the body the next day, they find no outside signs of attack. Oh wait, there is one thing. Apparently, there is bruising on her finger from a ring being pried off of it. This worries the concierge, who is greeted by a familiar insect.

The film concludes with our narrator, who is made up in his outfit as the grandfather from the second story. He closes out the film as he rides the mechanical horse used for simulating a horse-riding shot. The film ends with the camera panning out to reveal a whole mess of people working the set. Normally, this would just be odd, but, since it is Karloff, it is actually one of the freakiest shots of the whole movie!
This film is really good and full of suspense. I've always been a fan of horror anthology films, even when they are sub-par efforts like The Monster Club or flawed ones such as The Offspring. This a Bava film though, so there is not much to complain about. I feel odd filling my summary without adding some silly insults, but there's not much to nitpick here. Some of the make-up work looks odd in a modern context, although it is still freaky as hell! This one was made in the last several years of Karloff's career, so his physicality was limited, but his presence was quite strong. There's not much else I can say other than this: see it.
Just another reminder: this is part of the 'Final Girl Film Club.' Check out her site if you haven't & share in the efforts. The more the merrier.
Up next, I return to the world of Dolph Lundgren and terrorists. What does this film have going for it that the others don't? Two words: Jerry Springer. Stay tuned...


  1. I see the preview for your 500th post in your sidebar and I see "The Asylum Presents", so I cannot wait to see the big reveal. Those fools are always good for a laugh!

  2. Yeah, that's going to be something. I can describe it in two words: horrendous pain.

  3. The Wurdalak may be one of my favorite vampire entries in the entire genre, absolutely love Bava's Gothic trappings!

  4. "Don't trust your libido at an old farmhouse." This is an excellent lesson! Great review.