Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michèle Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Boris Karloff, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen, Massimo Righi, Rika Dialina, Glauco Onorato, Jacqueline Pierreux, Milly Monti, Harriet Medin, Gustavo De Nardo
Written by: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato, based on stories by Ivan Chekhov ("The Drop of Water"), F.G. Snyder ("The Telephone"), Aleksei Tolstoy ("The Wurdalak")
Directed by: Mario Bava
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 92
Date: 08/17/1963

Black Sabbath (1963)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Three Faces of Fear

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Because of the success of Black Sunday, American distributors re-titled Bava's I Tre volti della paura (1963) (or, The Three Faces of Fear), as Black Sabbath. Boris Karloff stars as a kind of host to this trilogy of short pieces, and also appears in the second one, "The Wurdalak." The other segments include "The Drop of Water," about a nurse hired to prepare a corpse for burial, and "The Telephone," set entirely in a basement apartment. Bava's striking use of colors and strange spaces is at its peak here. I'm not easily scared, but this one gave me chills. One of Bava's best. (Of course, the famous heavy metal band borrowed their name from this movie.)

Anchor Bay's 2007 DVD release includes only the Italian version, so we miss out on Karloff's singular line delivery. However, this version is considered far superior to the American cut, which re-ordered the sequence of the stories, changed the music, and made several small cuts that subtly changed the tones of the stories. In 2013, Kino Lorber released a new Blu-ray edition, also including only the international cut. It's apparently mastered from an original negative, and the quality is striking. The only extras are trailers for Kino's other Bava Blu-rays. Finally, in 2015, Kino Lorber gave us a Blu-ray edition of the American cut, complete with a Tim Lucas commentary track, which, to the best of my knowledge, is new for this title. Bava completists (like myself) will want both versions, but it would have been nice to get them in a single package.

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