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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/14/99

Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan)
The Mario Bava Collection - 1960 (1999) - Image Entertainment

review by Todd Doogan of the The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Black Sunday Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/A

Specs and Features

87 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, audio commentary track with film historian Tim Lucas, theatrical trailer, poster and stills gallery, cast and crew bios, liner notes, deleted scene essay, film-themed menu screens, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

Picture this if you will: Princess Asa (a demented Satanist) is burned at the stake, vowing revenge for all who go against her. She promises to strike from beyond the grave, and curses her own brother's family to a life of pained existence... right before a metal mask fitted with spikes inside the face plate is hammered into her skull. That's one hell of a way to open any film...

Mario Bava was an artist, and thanks to some important fans (namely Image Entertainment and a scholar by the name of Tim Lucas), we can all now see just how talented he was. Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) is one of Bava's best, and on DVD it looks great. The story of Asa's reanimated revenge against her descendants (and a pair of doctors in the wrong place at the wrong time) has honestly never looked better. This transfer of the European version really captures the painted-quality Bava gave his films. Each frame looks like a luscious bit of artwork, free of any digital artifacts or muddy blacks. And to have it available on DVD in anamorphic widescreen is nothing less than a treat. Image should really be proud of this work -- it's one of their all-time best looking transfers. The source print shows a few problem areas, mostly noticeable in the opening scenes, but it's much better than anything I've ever seen before with this film. The sound is also pretty good. It's included in the original English-dubbed mono, but it sounds really clear and comes across well. I was very happy not to hear any sort of unwanted fizzing, pops or crackles.

But this disc doesn't just stop at being a fine looking DVD. It goes a few better, by making itself a study guide for Bava fans. Thanks to the expert knowledge of Tim Lucas (editor/publisher and featured reviewer of Video Watchdog) on the commentary track, just about everything you could ever want to know about the making of this film is on this disc. It's all here, from how Bava did those impossible looking camera tricks up to and including exactly why Bava used black and white film. Lucas knows his stuff, and thanks to the research he's been doing over the years for his Mario Bava book (to call that a gargantuan task is an understatement) we all benefit greatly. Along with the commentary you get the film's re-release trailer, biographies for Bava and Barbara Steele (who played dual roles as Asa and her look-a-like descendant Princess Katia), liner notes written by Lucas, a gallery of poster art and photos, and a brief summation of a scene that was cut from this version (with script excerpts). This is a really well done disc, and it holds great promise for other entries in the Image-produced Mario Bava Collection.

The more I see well-crafted discs like this one, on films I know nothing about, the better I feel about the DVD format as a whole. Above anything else, I'm just an enthusiastic fan, who gobbles up films like peas and corn with dinner. I can't get enough of this stuff, and when DVDs feature educational extras like this one does, all I can really say is, "Please sir... may I have some more?" Keep 'em coming Image, and keep Mr. Lucas working with you as long as you can.

Todd Doogan

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