Mario Bava is the best filmmaker you probably haven’t heard of. A small listing of his accomplishments would include inspiring the invention of Heavy Metal, Giallo, the careers of Tim Burton and Joe Dante, and the fact that Boris Karloff died with dignity. Not a bad career by any stretch. Like the best Italian Careers Bava’s contains a staggering amount of films that cover hardboiled crime, spaghetti westerns, monster movies, sex comedies, and Viking Films. But he’s best known for his horror films, with good reason. He’s fucking great at making them.
Going over Bava’s career is like reading a list of milestones, he’s the first to show the dead physically rising from there graves, the first to show blood coming from a wound, the first to make a giallo, the first to do horror in space, the first to make a modern slasher movie. Hell if there never was such a thing as film, Bava would probably have gone ahead and invented it.
Black Sabbath is an anthology film but it breaks ties with the genre by actually being good. It’s made up of three tales each done in a different style. It’s a cool little movie because as much as any could, it really showcases the multiple modes of Bava, showcasing his skills at giallo, supernatural horror, and the balls to the wall nutso gothic extravaganzas that he’s best known for.
Bookended by two funky little sequences shot with an incongruously dubbed Boris Karloff, (The former in which the great man gives an introduction that can be charitably described as long winded, and the latter in which he helpfully informs you that what you have been watching is infact a movie) Black Sabbath gets off with a great little slow burning Giallo where a nubile young woman is terrorized by terrifying phone calls and calls her gilted ex lesbian lover for protection. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s a real solid piece of moviemaking that ratchets up the tension before a final twist worthy of EC Comics.
In the second sequence we get the crazy ass Bava we know and love. Karloff plays a man who has just returned home after slaying a vampire who can only prey on the blood of those he loved in life. Guess what happens next. This is some prime Bava driven by the gaudy sense of style, a dark sense of humor, and extreme lack of sentimentality that powers his best work. It also features what is arguably Karloff’s best performance. While he is dubbed, very very badly, it really works. Karloff’s physicality was always unparelled, and in a weird way despite the fact that the role is somewhat dialogue heavy, it’s something of a return to the purely physical style that made him great. Without a word Karloff simotanously invests his character with a great sense of sorrow, weariness, and a truly threatening presence.
But true to form Bava saved the best for last. I don’t even want to say anything about the final segement, best to let you discover things for yourself. All I can say is if you can make it through without curling into a fetal postion you’re one cold fish.
Anyway long story short, Bava’s the man check him out.