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Film / Black Sunday (1960)
aka: Black Sunday

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A 1960 Italian horror classic directed by Mario Bava. It was his first film where he received actual credit for his work. It was an (extremely loose) adaptation of the short story Viy by Nikolai Gogol. The movie's style, cinematography and story harkens back to older Gothic Horror films of the 1930s. Black Sunday (originally titled La maschera del demonio, "The Mask of Satan") itself would go on to influence later films such as Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

In 1640, the Moldavian Princess Asa Vajda is captured and executed by her brother for practicing witchcraft and being a vampire. As she is about to die, she curses the descendents of her brother. Two hundred years later, Dr. Kruvajan and his assistant Dr. Gorobec, travel through Moldavia. After their carriage breaks down the two stumble across the tomb of Asa, whose corpse wears a metal mask and coffin is guarded by a cross. Kruvajan is attacked by a monstrous bat and kills it. However, he accidentally breaks the cross, cuts his hand and drip some blood on the body. Asa is resurrected because of the blood and begins to wreck havoc upon Moldavia and her brother's descendants.


Not to be confused with another movie about... a blimp. Also see Black Sabbath, another Mario Bava horror movie with a similiar title.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Khoma Brut becomes Choma (with a 'C') Kruvajan, Tibery Gorobets becomes Andrej Gorobec, and the witch (who's unnamed in the original story) is named Asa Vajda.
    • The AIP dub changes Choma's name to Thomas (which is the Anglicized form of Choma), Andrej to Andreas, and Igor Javutich to Javuto.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Princess Asa and Prince Javutich are servants of the Devil. Her brother, the inquisitor, isn't so nice either. However, the inquisitor's 19th Century descendent are all presented as okay people.
  • Back from the Dead: Asa and Javutich are killed by a mob at the start of the story. Due to her dark magic, Asa is able to bring them back to life many years later.
  • Big Bad: Princess Asa Vadja is the vampiric sorceress who's terrorizing the area of Moldavia.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Katia and Dr. Gorobec survive and Asa's influence is purged forever, but the latter's master and the former's entire family except her brother are dead, and he's going to perish from neck wounds.
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  • Bowdlerise: The American International Pictures release of the film, which cut down on some of the gore, as well as turning Javutich into the servant of Asa, removing the incest angle. The original title 'The Mask of Satan' was also removed.
  • Black Magic: Asa is a sorceress. She plans to drain the life force of her distant grand-niece Katia with her powers and possess her body.
  • Burn the Witch!: The mob at the start burn Asa as well as putting a spiked mask on her face.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The film has a great deal of scenery porn and elaborate sets.
  • Dying Curse: Asa curses her brother and his descendants as she is being burned by the mob.
    'I place a curse upon you!'
  • Event Title
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The Vajdas' dogs are alarmed when Asa has come back to life.
  • Evil Minions: Javutich is Asa's servant (or brother, in the Italian version) and helps her carry out her plans.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The metal mask put on Asa has spikes on the inside. Her eyes are gouged out and bleed profusely from the eye hole. Later, when the mask is removed from her body, her eyes have rotted out and bugs are crawling from the sockets.
    • Later on, Kruvajan's corpse is staked through the eye so that his soul may rest in peace.
  • Fainting: Katia has a dramatic faint upon the discovery that her father was killed by a vampire.
  • Bookcase Passage: There's a secret passage behind a fireplace in the castle, which various characters use to sneak in and out.
  • Hot Witch: Asa, who uses her beauty to try and lure in unsuspecting mortals to be her servant.
    'Embrace me. I can bring you pleasures mortals cannot know!'
  • Hypnotic Eyes: One of Asa's abilities is controlling humans with her eyes.
    'Look into my eyes!'
  • Identical Grandson: Katia and (100 years prior to her) Pasha, who both look exactly like Asa.
  • Incest Subtext: Asa and her servant Javutich are brother and sister in the original Italian version with the incestuous subtext being played up.
  • Kick the Dog: When Andre arrives to rescue Katia, Asa pretends to be her and tries to convince Andre to kill her out of spite for losing.
  • Life Drinker: Asa wants to maintain her life by draining that of Katia's.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Dr. Kruvajan inadvertently frees Ada when he gets attacked by a bat, and promptly shoots it and then beats it to death with his cane.
  • Ominous Fog: A fog immediately rolls in when Asa's servant Javutich comes for Dr. Kruvajan.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Asa does not have fangs, drains lifeforce as well as/instead of blood, and is also skilled in black magic.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Javutich seems to be a type of revenant zombie-vampire, obeying Asa's commands and shambling about. He is actually more similar to folkloric vampires than the classic incarnations of cinema and literature.
  • Rapid Aging: Katia when Asa attempts to drain and possess her. When Katia survives and Asa is in turn killed, this fate befalls her instead.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The film itself is black and white and does not show Asa having red eyes. Posters for the film (see above) do apply this trope, however.
  • Scenery Porn: The film focuses heavily on the creepy, Moldavian landscape.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Asa is kept in her grave with a metal mask nailed onto her face, and a crucifix seen by her through a window in her coffin.
  • The Sociopath: Princess Asa Vadja, a Wicked Witch so feared that her own brother killed her and sealed her soul in her tomb. When she returns from the grave, death hasn't changed her one bit and she decides to kill her entire family because of his actions, in spite of them being her righteous punishment for the numerous horrid crimes that she had committed.
  • Spooky Painting: The portraits of Asa and Javuto, which seem to be alive.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The mob uses this standard equipment when confronting and killing Asa.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Barbara Steele is British, yet in this film's English dub, an American actress dubbed her voice. A variety of American actresses dubbed her voice in English in other Italian films she made. This is due to Italy's dubbing unions not letting her dub herself.
  • Wicked Witch: Asa, who, though pretty, does sure her enemies and uses her powers for various, evil purposes.

Alternative Title(s): Black Sunday