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BLACK SABBATH (I TRE VOLTI DELLA PAURA) (director/writer: Mario Bava; screenwriters: Marcello Fondato/Alberto Bevikiqua/based on the Short Stories A Drop of Water by Anton Chekov, The Telephone by F.G. Snyder and The Wurdulak by Ivan Tolstoy; cinematographer: Ubaldo Terzano; editor: Mario Serandrel; music: Les Baxter; cast: Boris Karloff (Narrator), A Drop of Water: Jacqueline Perreiex (Helen Corey), Milly Monti (The Maid). The Telephone: Michele Mercier (Rosy), Lidia Alfonisi (Mary). The Wurdulak: Boris Karloff (Gorka), Mark Damon (Count Vladimir d’Urfe), Susy Andersen (Sdenka), Glauco Onorato (Gregor), Rika Dailina (Maria), Massimo Righi (Peter); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paolo Mercuri; Sinister Cinema; 1963-Italy/France-dubbed in English)
“… chilling horror story anthology.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This chilling horror story anthology is Mario Bava (“Planet of the Vampires”/”Blood and Black Lace”) at his visual best. Boris Karloff, as host, ghoulishly introduces three horror stories: “A Drop of Water” by Anton Chekov, “The Telephone” by F.G. Snyder, and “The Wurdulak” by Ivan Tolstoy. Karloff warns that you are about to see three tales of terror and the supernatural, and acts concerned as he says he hopes you are not alone. The title of Black Sabbath was chosen by American distributor AIP to cash in on the name recognition of director Mario Bava’s 1960 hit of Black Sunday. The script is by Bava, Marcello Fondato and Alberto Bevikiqua.

In the first tale, a nurse Helen Corey (Jacqueline Perreiex) receives an urgent call by a housekeeper that her mistress, a clairvoyant, has passed away while in a trance. While the nurse prepares the body for burial, she spots a ring the medium is wearing that she wants and steals it. The medium’s shut eyes open and the corpse is sneering (the corpse was sculpted out of wax by Bava’s father). While at home, the nurse is startled by the dead woman’s ghost trying to strangle her. In her attempt to fend off the attack, the nurse ends up strangling herself. When the police arrive, the ring on the nurse’s finger is missing.

In the second tale, Rosy (Michele Mercier), a prostitute, is frightened by calls supposedly coming from her convict boyfriend Frank who died three months ago. She also receives a note from him which strangely writes itself. She calls Frank’s previous ex, Mary (Lidia Alfonisi), for comfort and she spends the night with her–which some interpret as a stalled lesbian relationship the two might have previously had. A man breaks into the apartment and strangles Mary while Rosy sleeps. Rosy wakes up and sees Frank coming for her and pulls out the knife she kept under her pillow and stabs him. But that doesn’t end her nightmare, as there’s another phone call from Frank threatening to never leave her alone. We’re left to decide for ourselves whether everything was just in her mind or that the man present was just a prowler or maybe it was something supernatural.

The final episode had good production values for such a low-budget film and was clearly the best of the three episodes. A nobleman named Vladimir d’Urfe (Mark Damon) while riding through the countryside in Eastern Europe spots a decapitated man with dagger in his back. He takes the corpse with him to the nearest farmhouse. On the wall he spots a blank space that matches the dagger in the corpse’s back. The family identifies the dagger as their father’s and the body as that of Alibek, a dangerous Turkish bandit who brought terror to the territory and who was believed to be a vampire. The family fear their father, Gorca (Boris Karloff), who five days ago went after the bandit, has become a wurdalak (a vampire that thirsts for the blood of its loved ones). Gorca left instructions that if he doesn’t return in exactly five days the family was to drive a stake through his heart when he returns later. When Gorca returns the family is not sure if he’s a wurdalak. Gorca though showing a human side starts killing off his relatives one by one, and they, in turn, become vampires. Meanwhile, Vladimir and Gorca’s pretty daughter, Sdenka (Susy Andersen), become smitten; she’s the only one in the family who is not a vampire. Vladimir and Sdenka escape to an old ruin but she sneaks back to see her family and, unknown to Vladimir, is transformed by them into a wurdalak. When Vladimir comes to the farmhouse to retrieve her, she kisses him and turns him into a vampire.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”