Of all the theme weeks that my man Charlie has picked this has to be my favorite so far. I’m a huge fan of Mario Bava and any excuse to revisit his movies is a welcome one. I thought that I’d pick one of my favorites to kick off the reviews. How about we dig into Black Sabbath.
This is an anthology made up of three stories with a fun wrap around featuring Boris Karloff, who also stars in the second of the three shorts. The first is called The Telephone. In this one we see a beautiful young woman returning from a night on the town. Well at least that is how she is dressed. She starts getting phone calls from a mysterious man that threatens to kill her. He also has knowledge that could only be gotten if he was watching her. She panics and calls her girlfriend to come over. This leads to an interesting twist that itself has a twist!
Of the three stories in Black Sabbath this is my least favorite. It isn’t a bad story, but it drags a bit. There isn’t much tension and lacks any scares. Everything that should be scary isn’t because it is given away too soon. For example there is a scene where someone is sneaking up on a victim. Instead of shocking the audience with a sudden attack we get to see the person sneaking up slowly long before their victim knows. Oh and the big reveal and twist is presented in a really disappointing way.
Next up is my favorite of the three. This one stars Boris Karloff and is called The Wurdulak. It is an interesting take on the vampire genre. Here Karloff stars as the patriarch of a family that lives in the middle of nowhere. A stranger rides up to their house and lets the family know that he discovered a headless body (which he decided to bring along with him…). They tell him that their father (Karloff’s character) went looking for a killer that was terrorizing the area. Since the body had his dagger in its back it appears he got his man. But he still hasn’t returned. When he does it is clear that something is wrong with him. See he has the same curse the killer had.
I really dig this one. First up Karloff is genius. The way he moves around the scenes and looks at the other characters is so effective. He is able to give off a menacing vibe without trying too hard and is genuinely scary. Since he is the “monster” this works very well. Bava also does a great job of creating an atmosphere with the sets, lighting, and fog that only adds to the fun. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a filmmaker that was able to create such an amazing gothic feel to his films as Mario Bava. The Wurdulak is such a pleasure to watch and reminds me why I love this hobby so much.
The Drop of Water is the final story in the anthology. This might be the creepiest of the three and has the best scare. In this story we see that a nurse is called in the middle of the night to help prepare the body of a woman that has died. She arrives at a rundown estate to discover the old woman had died with a horrific look on her face. It seems that she dabbled in the spirit world and they might have killed her. The nurse is skeptical of this, but does notice the woman has an expensive ring on her finger. Since the woman has no family to notice, she decides to take it. This turns out to be a big mistake because the spirits aren’t happy with her at all.
First up the makeup job on the old woman is very simple but really creepy. I can’t do it justice but has to be seen to be believed. This simple makeup is used to great effect by Bava as it appears several times to “punctuate” a scene. This helps to build up tension until the last sequence in the nurse’s apartment where she gets her reward for stealing from the dead. In addition to the makeup Bava uses sound, in this case a drop of water dripping loudly, to further put the audience on edge. And of course the lighting and camera work are top notch making The Drop of Water even more fun.
There is a nice Blu-Ray of this movie available but for my money I’d track down the Bava Box set that contains this and several other great movies. The Blu-Ray has a nice transfer, but is lacking in special features so you really aren’t missing much.