Black Sabbath (1963)

Originally titled I TRE VOLTI DELLA PAURA (THREE FACES OF FEAR), this horror anthology made it to the U.S. with a new title to remind viewers of how good Bava’s BLACK Sunday (1960) was. It also gained an excellent Les Baxter soundtrack and Boris Karloff as a host, though the tales were reversed in order and the strong lesbian subtext of one segment and some violence were omitted, but that’s good ole’ American censorship for you (both have since been restored, anyway). In any case, this anthology is a classic of its kind.

“Drop of Water” (based on a story by Checkov) is a chilling tale of a nurse (Jacqueline Pierreux) who gets her just desserts after stealing a diamond ring from the hideous-looking corpse of a psychic. “The Telephone” (based on a story by F.G.Snyder) was the least satisfying of the bunch for me personally, yet is still above average. In it, a lascivious, unstable and bisexual young beauty (Michele Mercier) receives threatening phone calls that seem to be coming from a man who has a personal vendetta against her. Final tale is “The Wurdalak,” which was based on a Tolstoy. Boris Karloff stars as Gorca, a man turned into a vampire by the curse of Wurdalak, which makes him attack and kill only those he loves (namely his extended family, including child). It’s astonishing to look at and very suspenseful. All three are colorfully, creatively done, drenched in Bava’s trademark rich atmosphere and bring something a little different to the table. “Drop” (last in the Italian version) has the most chilling central image, “Wurdulak” (middle in the Italian version) has the boldest color palette and most vivid art direction and “Telephone” (first in the Italian version) is a very early giallo. Horror regulars Mark Damon (from Corman’s HOUSE OF USHER), Massimo Righi and Harriet White Medin (usually typecast as a stern housekeeper in Italian horror films) co-star in this one.