Friday, January 28, 2022

Black Sabbath – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1963
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Ivan Chekhov, Marcello Fondato, F.G. Snyder, Aleksei Tolstoy
Cast: Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Massimo Righi, Glauco Onorato, Rika Dialina, Jacqueline Pierreux, Milly Monti, Harriet Medin, Gustavo De Nardo, Milo Quesada

Release Date: May 13th, 2013
Approximate running times: 92 Minutes 15 Seconds (Italian Version), 95 Minutes 51 Seconds (AIP Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian (Italian Version), LPCM Mono English (AIP Version)
Subtitles: English (Italian Version), English SDH (AIP Version)
Region Coding: Region B/Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: OOP (UK)

"Black Sunday was such a huge hit that a follow-up was swiftly demanded, and horror maestro Mario Bava duly devised this three-part horror anthology blending modern and period stories.

In the giallo-style The Telephone, a woman is terrorized by her former pimp after his escape from prison, and tries to escape him with the help of her lesbian lover, who has a dark secret of her own. In the Victorian-era The Drop of Water, a nurse steals a ring from the corpse of a dead spiritualist, which naturally tries to get it back. But it s the 19th-century Russian story The Wurdalak that comes closest to Bava s earlier classic, with the great Boris Karloff as a much-loved paterfamilias who might not be entirely what he seems." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Italian Version), 4.25/5 (AIP Version)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "I tre volti della paura was transferred from the original 35mm negative at Fotocinema in Rome. The film was transferred in High Definition on a Spirit Datacine with color correction performed on the Lustre system. Instances of dirt, debris and scratches were manually removed using MTI software. This initial work was performed under the supervision of Marco Menicucci and his team.

Additional grading and restoration work on I tre volti della paura was completed at Deluxe Soho in London. The film was carefully graded to attain Mario Bava’s unique color scheme as per the original film’s release. The picture was then restored to deal with remaining issues of dirt, scratches, warped frames and instability of image. This work was supervised by James Whale on behalf of Arrow Video and done in consultation with Tim Lucas.

Black Sabbath was transferred from a 35mm interpositive at Ascent Media in Burbank, California. The film was transferred in HIgh Definition on a Spirit Datacine. Restoration work was accomplished using MTI software and ASCIII.” 

Black Sabbath comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.3 GB

Feature: 21.6 GB (Italian Version), 20.1 GB (AIP Version)

The two versions included with this release not only have different edits/running orders of the three stories. The overall quality between these two transfers also has significant differences. With the Italian language version being the stronger of the two versions, The main differences between these two releases are those in the color timing, and that the AIP version looks brighter than the two versions. It should also be noted that when compared to the previous DVD releases, the framing on these two transfers included with this release is ever so slightly different.

Audio: 4.25/5

Each version comes with one audio option, LPCM Mono Italian (Italian Version) and LPCM Mono English (AIP Version). Both audio mixes are in excellent shape. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and ambient sounds are well-represented. The Italian language version comes with English subtitles, and the AIP versions come with English SDH subtitles.


The extras on the Blu-ray include a featurette about the differences between the Italian version of the film and the AIP version of the film, titled Twice the Fear (32 minutes and 13 seconds, DTS-HD mono Italian and English with English subtitles and English text), and an audio commentary with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava – All the Colors of the Dark for the Italian version.

Included with this combo release are two DVDs. The first DVD contains the Italian version of the film and the following extras, an audio commentary with Tim Lucas, an introduction by author and film critic Alan Jones (2 minutes 53 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), radio spots (1 minute 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot (54 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer (2 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), International theatrical trailer (3 minutes 26 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Italian theatrical trailer (3 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with removable English subtitles) and a career retrospective interview with actor Mark Damon titled A Life in Film (21 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles). The second DVD contains the AIP version of the film and the featurette Twice the Fear.

Other extras include reversible cover art and a forty page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Three Steps to Hell written by David Cairns, an essay titled Two Faces of Black Sabbath written by Tim Lucas, a lengthy interview with producer AIP Samuel Z. Arkoff conducted by Tim Lucas and information about the transfers.


Black Sabbath is a trio of tales. The first story, "The Telephone," is about a prostitute who is terrorized by a phantom phone caller. The second story, ‘The Wurdalak', is about a family patriarch who returns from a hunting trip with a vampire-like thirst for blood. The third story, "The Drop of Water," is about a nurse who steals a ring from one of her recently deceased clients, who was a spiritualist who died during a séance.

Depending on which version of the film you choose, the running order of the three stories is different. The running order for the AIP version is as follows: "The Drop of Water," "The Telephone," and "The Wurdalak." Also, the Italian release version of the film goes by the alternate title "I Tre volti della paura", which roughly translates into "The Three Faces of Fear."

The score for the Italian language version was composed by Roberto Nicolosi (Black Sunday, The Girl Who Knew Too Much), while the score for the AIP version of the film was composed by Lex Baxter (The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum).

When discussing Italian horror cinema, Mario Bava is the name that instantly springs to mind more than any other filmmaker that has worked within this genre. This is not that surprising, since he co-directed I Vampiri, a film that is widely regarded as the film that announced the arrival of the modern horror film in Italian cinema.

Content-wise, there is no denying the overall impact of the three tales that make up Black Sabbath. which is arguably Mario Bava’s definitive statement on the horror film genre. These aren't your average things that go bump in the night, scaring horror film audiences. Each segment relies equally on all of its parts: its robust visuals, utterly convincing performances, and its deliberate use of sound. This film’s most diabolical asset is the way in which it involves the viewer in a Hitchcockian way to experience the mounting terror that engulfs each protagonist.

Of course, given that this film is made up of three separate stories. It is only natural to judge them on their own merits and also weigh said merits against the other segments of this film. But my appreciation for Black Sabbath has grown with each new viewing.

My choice of a favorite segment has never wavered, and that segment is titled "The Drop of Water." Whether it be this segment's incessant use of ambient background noise, most notably dripping water, or the creepy looking old woman whose death plays an integral part in the story at hand, This segment exemplifies what a horror film can and should always be, terrifying no matter how many times you watch it.

When it comes to the other two segments, their placement for me depends on my mood. With the slight edge at this moment going to the segment titled "The Telephone", which echoes many of the elements of my all-time favorite film genre, the Giallo. Not to be overlooked is the segment titled "The Wurdalak," which takes the all-too familiar vampire mythos and turns it on its head. In all honesty, you can’t really go wrong with any of the three tales of the macabre that make up Mario Bava’s seminal horror film, Black Sabbath.

It is hard to imagine that anyone will top this definitive release, and just like their other Mario Bava release, this release from Arrow Video is superior in every way to its American Blu-ray counterpart, highly recommended.

                                                          Italian Version Screenshots.

                                                           AIP Version Screenshots.

Written by Michael Den Boer

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