I tre volti della paura (1963 Italy)

bk 1963You can’t speak Italian? Neither can I, so “Black Sabbath” it is. 1945’s Dead of Night introduced horror cinema to omnibus films, and Black Sabbath brought it back! Italian produced films were making a lot of money in the early 1960s and former cinematographer / horror genius Mario Bava was brought in to direct this compendium of horror tales.

The great Boris Karloff adds a further lure to the proceedings, and these two giants were on to a winner before they started filming. This film is like an overview of what Mario Bava is all about. He has a lot of fans and many of his films could easily be considered his best, but there is no doubt for me. The best film Bava ever made is Black Sabbath. After a colourful and campy introduction by the great Boris Karloff, we move straight into The Telephone. This tale is simple, yet effective and instantly grabs you – not letting go until the end.

The lesbian undertones give it an extra bit of verve. Plus, the way that Bava claustrophobically shoots almost the entire story in one apartment means that the tale is always easy to get to grips with. Nice and simple. Bava’s music is the main event, style-wise. Music is a big part of Giallo, and Roberto Nicolosi’s brassy score infuses a Gothic/Jazzy flavour to enhance the movie visuals. It doesn’t distract this viewer. The ironic ending seals the story and makes sure that you’ll be in high spirits going into story number two.

black sabbathThe Wurdalak is the longest, most ambitious but also the weakest part of the trilogy. That’s not to say that it’s anything less than brilliant; the other two are just stronger. The Gothic sets and atmosphere are definitely the main draw here, and the way that Bava lights up every scene with his trademark use of lighting and colours is absolutely stunning. Being the most expansive, this is the plot that best allows Bava full use of his directing ability and many of the shots could be easily be framed and hung on your wall.

The story is very reminiscent of the masterpiece Black Sunday, and gives a good impression of what the film might have looked like had it have been in colour. Boris Karloff takes the lead role here as a man trying to destroy a line of vampires like creatures known as Wurdalak’s. Karloff obviously enjoyed making this film, and his assured and camp performance in this part of the film, along with his intro and outro, really shows that. The conclusion to this story is really well done, and makes sure that this part of the film ends on a high.

600full-black-sabbath-screenshotMy favourite tale is the first one, but The Drop of Water definitely isn’t far behind! This tale is pure evil, and allows Bava to show his mastery of the horror genre the best. We follow a young female nurse who steals a ring from one of her patients…a medium…who died during a séance. Like the first tale, this one’s effectiveness stems from its simplicity and this allows Bava to implement his excellent use of lighting and colours.

The sets are brilliantly lit, and the director manages to create a foreboding feel that runs throughout the film. The design of the elderly medium’s face is really haunting, and seeing the corpse get its revenge gives Black Sabbath its main scare. Watching this tale, it’s obvious why Bava is so well-respected by cult and genre fans.

The first time I saw it I had to check under my bed and in the cupboards before attempting to go to sleep. There aren’t many directors that can generate this kind of scare from such a simple plot – and all of The Drop of Water’s frights are owed entirely to the director. On the whole, this is a superior omnibus horror film. All the elements are in place and if you want a great overview of Mario Bava’s talents – this is the place to look!

black s(Best WTF line goes to Karloff: “Can’t I fondle my own grandson?!”)




  1. Excellent review! This film is indeed très creepy. I think my fave tale was ‘The Drop of Water’, so atmospheric and chilling! 😈

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For that comment you go to the top of the class. Merci mademoiselle! 🙂


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