Black Sabbath (UK - BD RB)
Marcus watches the Bava Anthology of horror and faces the three faces of fear.
This collection of horror shorts, presented by Boris Karloff and directed by legendary horror master Mario Bava, features three short stories to put the chills up your spine.
'The Drop Of Water' - Nurse Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux) is called to a large house to prepare a corpse of an elderly medium for her burial but when she steals the ring the dead bodies finger she begins to be haunted by an unknown presence.
'The Telephone' - Rosy (Michele Mercier) is an attractive, high-priced Parisian call-girl who returns to her spacious basement apartment after an evening out when she immediately gets beset by a series of strange phone calls.
'The Wurdack' - In 19th Century Russia, Vladimir Durfe (Mark Damon) is a young nobleman on a long trip. During the course of his journey, he finds a beheaded corpse with a knife plunged into its heart. He withdraws the blade and takes it as a souvenir.
The Drop of Water begins the trio of horror and it's immiditaly the brightest of the shorts largely due to its use of colour. There's plenty of overpowering reds and almost comic book blues and greens and the stylised lighting gives everything an almost pulp feel to proceedings. Colours are more controlled across the other two shorts, but black levels are consistently strong across the three stories here, so much so the often show up every little speck on the print. The visuals here pass the HD test but that's not to say its a perfect all-rounder. It can sometimes appear a fuzzy looking feature. Dancing grain twitches amongst the larger areas of bright elements within the frame and there's no escaping the film's age because of that really.
The image has a noticeable level of good detail but isn't always as sharp as it appears. Wider shots can sometimes appear a little soft and closer shots have glimpses of sharp detail but it can sometimes get lost under a gauze of grain. The presentation here is really good but rarely slips into really great, even though some of the more garish colours and great lighting adds a great deal to the HD good looks this release has.
All in all this LPCM track far out punches its limitations. There can be some noticeable hiss to some of the quieter moments but the stereo track still manages to generate quite an all encompassing mood. The playfully spooky score merged with the very well placed sound effects all get wrapped up in Bava's wonderful knack for pacing and tension. He literally builds and builds the audio in his stories until it's hard to sit easy as you watch them unfold. It's also very interesting to see the differences the lack of score makes in the European version and just how much further a sound effect tricks can go.
With both the American Black Sabbath (95 mins) and the European I tre volti della paura (The Three Faces of Fear)(93 mins) cuts available here along with a whopping three discs in the set you are probably expecting a ton of goodies here. Sadly, that's not really the case.
Disc 1 (Blu-Ray) - The Commentary with Tim Lucas on the "superior" I tre volti della paura version of the film is another solid facts for the fans track. Loaded with information the track does the business in regards to teaching you all you would ever need to know and more about the Bava film and its history.
'Twice The Fear' (32:13 HD) has a side by side comparison of the two versions of the film. Dialogue differences and cuts and the more significant changes are highlighted with text. The Sound effect use and the differences in character between the two versions is a very big deal and the big differences when music is and more effectively isn't used in the two versions really shows the different sensibilties taken between the two cuts.
Disc 2 (DVD) - feature the I tre volti della paura version of the film along with the commentary by Tim Lucas.
The always great 'Introduction by Allen Jones' (02:53) covers Bava's love of his horror sensibilities here and it also has a brief overview of the films cuts and informs us that the writers for the film are in fact made up for effect.
'A life in film: Interview with Mark Damon' (21:01) covers the actor's career and his roles over the years.
Lastly for disc 2, its trailer time. We get the International Trailer, US Trailer, Italian Trailer, Tv Spot and a Radio Spot.
Disc 3 (DVD) - Here we get the 'Black Sabbath' cut and the only extra is the 'Twice The Fear' featurette from disc 1.
Despite being sure that I hadn't, I soon realised I had seen Black Sabbath before and the key visuals of the films (the dead medium corpse in The Drop of Water, the hot vampire eyes of the girl in 'The Wurdack' and the creepiness of the telephone calls in The Telephone) all came back to me from a viewing I guess I must have had in my teens or even earlier.
I'm usually not a big fan of short story flicks but Bava rinses every bit of tension out of every moment here and I've already pencilled in a re-watch for Halloween because its just the perfect anthology for a classic feeling creepy night's viewing. The presentation here is good and really only borderline great, but to be fair most long term fans will probably feel the improvements way more than newcomers on this one and there's plenty of HD upgrade goodness to enjoy. The extras feel a tad disappointing considering the three disc set boast but everything here is still a great supplement to the two versions of film.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 13th May 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 English, LPCM 2.0 Italian
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Trailers, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mario Bava
Cast: Boris Karloff, Michèle Mercier
Length: 95 minutes
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