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Final Girl Film Club: Black Sabbath (1963)

January 25, 2010

I hope anyone who comes here for regular horror reviews is familiar with Stacie Ponder’s Final Girl blog. If you’re not, go check it out. Every month or so, Stacie picks a movie and tells her readers about it, encouraging them to watch it, do their own reviews and send her a link so she can post them all on her blog. This month’s choice was Itallian director Mario Bava’s Boris Karloff-starring anthology film Black Sabbath from 1963. I actually got the disc from Netflix about a week (maybe two) back, popped it into the DVD player expecting to be able to watch it like I do everything else (while looking at nonsense online), but it turned out the version I got only had English subtitles, not a dub. Bummer. So, I put it off until the last minute (right now).

I’m not a big fan of anthology films because the rarely keep their quality through all the separate parts and, unfortunately, Black Sabbath falls into that trap. The first story, “The Telephone” had a really creepy and claustrophobic vibe to it with a woman being terrorized by a voice on her phone threatening to kill her while she also discovers that her ex-boyfriend, who she turned in, just escaped from jail. For some reason, she then calls her friend who recently turned into an enemy, Mary, to come help her (does she have no other friends?). Turns out SPOILER, that Mary was really the one making the calls. Her and Rosy (the main character) used to be an item, but Rosy’s boyfriend didn’t like that. In the end, the boyfriend comes back and kills Mary, then goes to kill Rosy, but Rosy kills him with the knife that Mary hid under the pillows (I would have cut myself silly with a knife under my pillow). I like that, in a short period of time, the movie changed what I was afraid of. First off, you’ve got the unknown lurking outside who knows everything going on inside the room. Then, after the reveal, it’s even closer looming doom with the potential killer locked in the room with the victim. And finally, it’s the danger of the boyfriend standing in the room killing people. I’ve seen features with less interesting and complicated plots.

The second story, “The Wurdalak” left me wanting. It stars Karloff as some kind of zombiemonsterthing going after a household somewhere. See, he’s not supposed to be dead, but he is. Or something. I really got bored with this one as it quickly turned into a “monster in our midst” movie. Maybe if I had seen this back in ’63 and not seen a hundred other horror/monster movies, this would have been more effective, but it just didn’t grab me. Karloff looked rad in it though (that’s his giant head there on the poster).

The last story, “The Drop Of Water” I liked a lot. This one was about a woman who came to take care of a woman who died in a seance trance. I loved that concept. It’s something you always hear in movies, but rarely see: “Don’t disturb her while she’s in the trance or terrible things will happen!” Well, now we see what happens, you turn into a super ugly zombie bent on getting your stolen ring back. The scene where the old lady zombie sits up in bed reminded me (in a good way) of my favorite scene in Halloween. Then, the body keeps popping up all over the place. Great stuff. Not gory or anything, but it looked great and creepy. And then the real world explanation for the ring thief’s death (self strangulation!) made me chuckle.

All in all, the movie was 2/3 interesting both in story and visually (maybe it’s all the Doctor Who I’ve been watching, but I’m bored with old houses and towns). I also really liked the very last bit, where Karloff is riding on a fake horse and talking to the audience (remember, he was talking specifically to theater going audiences as there was no other way to watch movies, except for maybe on TV). He gives a warning and then rides off, but the camera pulls back and you see the studio where it’s being shot and exactly how they shot it. I especially liked seeing dudes with branches running around to make it look like he was riding through the forest. According to IMDb, they filmed intros to each segment that Karloff loved, but the studio cut them. Bummer. So, yeah, I don’t know if I would recommend this one. Maybe just watch the first and last segments or just read, er, watch the whole thing, it’s only an hour and a half.

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