Black Sabbath (I Tre volti della paura) (The Three Faces of Fear) (The Three Faces of Terror) Reviews
The stories are introduced by Boris Karloff who is simply standing in front of a dated psychedelic-esque background and giving a speech about all things creepy basically. The funny thing is he is dressed quite normally in a simple suit and is hammering on about vampires and spectres as if this were a Vincent Price movie. The stories you see aren't really in that classic vein though, these tales are actually much more grounded and genuinely creepy (well two are).
The first short story revolves around a young French call-girl who starts getting terrorised by phone calls from her ex-pimp (spoiler alert). This pimp has just broken out of jail and is threatening her life because she was responsible for putting him away. The young girl calls her female friend around to help and comfort her, little does she know the threatening calls are from her friend who is simply trying to reunite with her. The friend figures this is the only way the young call-girl will allow her back into her life...pretty extreme way of making up isn't it! In the end the real pimp shows up and kills them both just as the friend was writing a note to explain what she has been doing.
This first tale is quite poor I think, its in no way scary or remotely thrilling, especially when you discover the friend is behind it all. The thing is this revelation gave me a better idea, they should of made the pimp the one behind the calls as originally expected. Then in the end when the call-girl discovers this it would have been cool to also find out the pimp was killed in his prison escape attempt so all along the calls were coming from beyond the grave. The fact that the pimp merely turns up and kills both young women is a complete anticlimax, just a basic murder. Its very glossy though, it actually looks like a high production porn flick at times.
Next up is a more kooky traditional tale of ghoulies in the night...well a spin on vampire lore actually. Set in 19th century Russia a young man stumbles across a small family in the wilderness who are battling against a breed of creature known as Wurdalak. These things are undead zombie types that feed on the blood of the living, especially relatives they once knew strangely enough. Karloff plays the father of this family that ventured out to kill a Wurdalak but has returned one himself, naturally the story plays out as a battle of survival for all the living.
Definitely the best looking of the three stories, the sets and props are really sumptuous in this and could easily be part of a full length movie. Great atmosphere with the swirling mist and bleak locations but the actual tale is pretty daft really. Karloff is wonderful as the pale grizzled bearded undead nightstalker but end of the day he's merely playing an unkempt Dracula. Everything goes as you might predict admittedly but thinking back I just can't fault the production values on this one.
The final act sees a woman stealing a fancy ring off another woman who has recently passed away. This sets off all manner of supernatural occurrences such as a mysterious dripping of water, a mysterious fly that won't leave her alone and eventually the dead woman's corpse actually appearing before her. Now this short vignette is the jewel in the crown for this movie, its actually incredibly spooky and very atmospheric with the dripping water echoing around the woman's house. It really does give you the chills...that is until the finale where the corpse appears and really does freak you the fuck out! The dead body has this God awful twisted expression on her face which is enough to keep you up at night I kid you not, that on top of the whole 'Ring-esque' sequence where it moves towards the terrified woman. The final twist in the tale here is again predictable but oh so delicious.
There is no way an American movie in that era would or could pull off something this scary, at the time this was hard core stuff, the Italians were bold and brave. The mix of half naked ladies, the image of call-girls (hookers), blood and the surprisingly scary final story gave this film a real edge rarely seen in British or American horror anthologies. What's more this entire production clearly has so much class, skill and polish, every segment looks great, sounds great and could work as an individual movie in its own right. The first is standard murder fare, the second is standard ghoulish fare and the third is possibly the inspiration for many modern horror movies ('The Ring'!)...but they are all done very stylishly making other examples look crap in comparison.
Its such a shame Bava chose to end the movie by revealing Karloff astride a fake horse and with all the cameras and crew. The main camera pulls back to reveal the studio floor as Karloff finishes his spooky speech. Not too sure why he's in his Wurdalak character get up either. Can't deny its a fun little ending and very interesting to see how they did that effect, but at the same time I can't help but feel they kinda extinguish everything they managed to created and visualise so well prior to that.
Drop of Water is by far the best segment. If you want to see a feature length film on par with it's creepy scale, Check out Roman Polanski's the Tenant
You do have to watch the Italian version though to fully appreciate how ground breaking this film was at the time even if Boris Karloff's horse was so obviously fake.
Anthology films are not my favorite, but I do enjoy the well-made ones from time-to-time. Even more-so, I enjoy a HORROR anthology, and those don't come along too often. And when they do, sadly, they almost always turn out to be trash. This is because with an anthology film, you need to tell a story even if as a whole, the thing feels uneven. It's damn hard to make a good anthology film; one that makes sense and is worth the viewer's valuable time. But they've done it before, and by golly, they've done it here.
"Black Sabbath" is a delightful, delirious creep-show; a magnificently macabre anthology film kept together by master filmmakers doing what they love to do: make horror films. This film is a winner in a number of ways, and I could tell that from the very beginning. I'm not so sure if it's a genre classic, but I admittedly enjoyed myself quite a bit.
The first story: The Telephone. Well, I guess it wouldn't be doing you no harm to spoil most of the plot for this one. The premise says it all; a woman gets terrorized from a man who will not stop calling her. Speculations that this man is a serial killer? Yes, I guess so. The first part of the film is pretty good, and has some really good moments of tension; almost Hitchcock-like in their whimsy. The ending isn't as incredible as it wants to be, but hey: at least it works.
The second story: The Wurdalak. The first thing you may be wondering about is the name. A "Wurdalack" is some sort of demonic presence within the film, which takes form of a child and then a vampire-like man. The story follows a family who gets paid a visit from a creepy old man who turns out to be a vampire. That night, he runs off and takes the child of the house. The child returns in a rather ghastly state, and what happens from there I will not say, for it is not worth spoiling. Perhaps the best of the three parts, this one does not pull any punches; it is what it is. I can't complain.
The third and final story: The Drop of Water. A woman prepares a corpse for its burial by laying it down on a bed. When she sees a good-looking ring on the corpse's finger, the woman takes it out of greed, and the ghost of this woman, or some ghost (I don't know) comes back to haunt her for her humane greediness. Pretty good, with a nice feeling to it. Better than the first part, not as good as the second.
Atmosphere will never get old; and the best horror films will always rely on it. There are masters of suspense (Hitchcock) and masters of the macabre and all things horrific (Argento). This film was directed by the well-known Italian horror filmmaker Mario Bava, and it is one of his finest pictures. "Black Sabbath", as a whole, is pretty creepy and has a good number of scares. Horror fans should be pleased, and really, anybody else should too. This film does not exactly have limited appeal, but most horror films are made for those with a certain passion for the genre. Here's a movie that will exercise some sort of charm for those who admire good horror, and I'm one of those people who just couldn't resist. This is not a perfect film, nor is it a really great one, but "Black Sabbath" is still thoroughly entertaining and creepy enough to be called a horror film. Unlike many films within the genre, it does not abuse the term.
"The Drop of Water" very atmospheric from start to finish. 3/5
"The Telephone," the weakest of the three tales. 2.5/5
"The Wurdelak" I personally found it to be the best of the three. It has some very chilling and atmospheric sections. 4/5
3+2.5+4/3=3.16= 3 stars
Worth a check!!!