Halloween Cocktail #5:
In the spirit of the witch in this film, and her resurgence from the grave, I am going to recommend a Witches Brew Cocktail to pair with “Black Sunday.”
1 (6 oz) package lime gelatin – the jello does not harden!!!
2 cups boiling water
3 cups chilled pineapple juice
1 (2 liter) bottlechilled lemon-lime flavored soda or 1 (2 liter) bottle ginger ale
2 cups chilled vodka (optional)
Pour the gelatin mix into a large bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling water. Stir at least 2 minutes, until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Stir in the pineapple juice, the entire 2 liter of soda and the vodka. Let cool to room temperature.
Italian Horror Film Series #5:
“Black Sunday” (1960) directed by Mario Bava is not the first Bava in this series, but it is technically his directorial debut. I say “technically” because he actually had finished several projects as an un-credited director prior to this one – those being “I Vampiri” (1957), “Caltiki – The Immortal Monster” (1959), and “The Giant of Marathon” (1959). His contributions occurred when production would halt for various reasons and the director would need to be replaced to finish each film, and Bava took the opportunity to step into those shoes and gain notable experience.
This story was written for the screen by Ennio de Concini and Mario Serandrei (with uncredited contributions by Bava, Marcello Coscia and Dino Di Palma), but it was originally based on the Ukrainian 1835 fantasy horror story “Viv” written by Nikolai Gogol. However, the screenplay veered heavily away from its roots and became a salutation to the classic black and white gothic horrors of the 1930’s made by Universal Studios. The rudimentary elements that maintained were the concept of a witch coming back to life and the setting of Myrhorod in the Ukraine.
In “Black Sunday,” the film begins in 1630 Moldavia, when, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele), a witch, and her servant, Javutich (Arturo Dominici), are sentenced to death for sorcery by Asa’s brother. After spitting her desire for fiery vengeance, Asa dies and is placed in the grave with a mask hammered into the flesh of her face, and Javutich is buried with a mask fastened in a similar manner. However, an unforeseen storm diverts the villagers from being able to burn the two at the stake, instead disbanding and leaving the dead where they lie. That is until two centuries later, when a couple of tourists – Dr. Choma Kruvajan and Dr. Andrej Gorobec – enter into town and stumble upon Asa’s abandoned tomb. When a droplet of blood spills onto Asa’s only slightly decomposed face, her power is reignited, and she intends to seek a body to activate her plans. After leaving the tomb, Kruvajan and Gorobec meet Katia Vajda (Steele), a beautiful young royal who tells them that she lives with her father and brother in a castle that many villagers call haunted. Katia is the spitting image, and likely a descendant of, Asa, making her the ideal physical specimen to commence Asa’s plans.
The film itself runs like a theatrical play, taking place primarily in the depths of the castle or in the midst of the woods, the climactic moments are exemplified by a melodramatic score by Roberto Nicolosi (with another version by Les Baxter). The orchestral music is unremarkable and clichéd, but gets the point across. The most captivating aspect of “Black Sunday” is the cinematography (also by Bava) which manages to capture comprehensive landscapes and visuals, as well as the stark differences between the dead and un-dead, even without the use of color.
Most significantly, Mario Bava’s “Black Sunday” is a delightfully chilling tale that has had a long-lasting legacy. The opening Inquisition scene alone served as the inspiration for many parallel moments in later cinema, including “The Brainiac” (1961), “Terror in the Crypt” (1963), “Blood Pit of Horror” (1965), and “The She Beast” (1966). However, the most memorable tribute today would be Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 take on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” which recreated several sequences from “Black Sunday,” commemorating the picture even down to the filmmaking techniques , and Coppola’s family has acknowledged that the film “Dracula” was an intentional homage to Mario Bava. It is an excellent, medieval story that is perfect to celebrate the witching season.