Las maschera del demonio (Black Sunday). 1960. Italy. Written and directed by Mario Bava. Based on the novel Viy by Nikolai Gogol. With Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici and Enrico Olivieri. In Italian; English subtitles. 87 min.
Released the same year as Psycho in 1960, Mario Bava’s official directorial debut is the story of witchcraft and centuries old revenge in Black Sunday (aka La maschera del demonio or Revenge of the Vampire or The Mask of Satan). Loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story “Viy”, Black Sunday begins with Asa Jajda, a 17th century Moldavian sorceress, being burned alive at the stake by the Inquisition. She curses the family responsible for her death and, two hundred years later, returns with her undead henchman to get revenge and to live again! We are blessed to have the great Barbara Steele play both Asa and Katja, whose body she will inhabit, in her mesmerizing film debut. As with every film he made, Bava offers up such a magical space for cinema that is inherently special, seductive, and atmospheric with a quick twist of humor.