Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Throwback Thursday, where you join your faithful bloggers, Andy and Lilly, worshipping at the altar of Boris Karloff. They built it themselves.
Today’s Film Offering: Black Sabbath (1963)
Andy: We love a good portmanteau here at Hallowfest don’t we, Lilly?
Lilly: If I could marry a portmanteau, I would, Andy.
Andy: And this is one of the best.
Lilly: Black Sabbath is a collection of stories brought together by director Mario Bava, hosted by the ever-so-amazing Boris Karloff. Yes, that Boris Karloff. The face of Frankenstein. The voice of the Grinch. He greets the viewers of the film and gives the usual warning this era of films had–watch your hearts, careful of any acid reflux issues, do you have a next of kin, etc. that were beautiful gimmicks to get the audience warmed up for the horror–as well as starring in one of the three tales. It’s a different tone to anything we’ve reviewed so far this year, and Boris being the creepy and playful host is part of the reason that’s the case.
Andy:The first of our triple bill of terror is the weakest of the three – “The Telephone”. A woman is menaced by creepy telephone calls which claim to be from her former lover Frank, who recently escaped from prison. It’s the weakest of the three, by far.
Lilly: I have never wanted someone to pick up a phone so much as I did, watching this short story. Just…pick up the phone and deal with the murderous Frank, would you? Come on, lady. Not only was it slow and tedious with all the phone ringing/hand wringing, but the twist didn’t really make sense. Or it did, and I didn’t care. Whichever.
The second tale in this odd collection is “The Wurdalak”, and it definitely perks the film up a bit. Maybe I am biased due to my deep love of Boris Karloff and vampires, but this story of a special kind of vampire that only feeds on the blood of those it cares about the most is super fun. It has campy horror moments, such as Boris Karloff’s character, Gorca, looking directly at the camera before he’s off to menace the lead. It has interesting colouring and makeup choices as well, that make the film smack a bit of Hammer Horror, which I am always, always behind.
Andy: It’s pretty great.
The third is by far the most terrifying, featuring a woman who decides that stealing from the dead is a good idea, and gets menaced by the awful spectre of the victim in a gaudy, glorious display of sheer horror. It’s genuinely scary.
Lilly: It really is! The face of the woman she is haunted by really sticks with you, and the final scene leaves you relatively unsettled, not to mention wanting to leave all the lights on.
Andy: Also not to mention the vomited-into-a-kaleidoscope look that reminds you this is an ITALIAN horror movie.
One of the things I like about this film is how well it brings across three strands of European horror. We have the Giallo inspired opening, with creepy phone calls and black leather gloves stalking maidens without enough clothes on, the Hammer centre with its colours and quasi-medieval setting, and then the future Bava/Argento terrifying carnival ride through crazy land. It all works so well together, rather than being dissonant as hell, which is what you’d expect.
Lilly: It gives a taste of what was going around at the time in the horror genre, and then is all tied together by a delicious horror host, which I wish was still a thing. Why don’t we have more portmanteaus with weirdo hosts, huh? Huh?
Andy: It’s a pretty solid recommend from us. Just watch it in English, and the original Bava version, not the AIP version that screws up the order of the stories and does other not-cool things.
Lilly: Go! Go! Watch!