Film Review: Black Sunday (1960)

Also known as: La maschera del demonio (Italy), The Mask of Satan, Revenge of the Vampire
Release Date: August, 11th 1960 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Mario Bava, Marcello Coscia, Dino De Palma
Based on: Viy by Nikolai Gogol
Music by: Roberto Nicolosi
Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici

Galatea Film, Jolly Film, Unidis, 87 Minutes


Black Sunday was a pretty gruesome picture for its day. It was released in Italy unaltered. However, it was banned in the UK for eight years and the American version had a lot of the gore edited out. By today’s standards, it isn’t gory, at all.

The film opened a lot of doors for Barbara Steele, who would go on to become a horror icon. She appeared in other types of pictures but it was those eyes of hers that found work in the world of macabre.

Steele was phenomenal in her dual roles as the vampire Princess Asa Vajda and her descendant Katia Vajda. She almost played good twin versus evil twin, even though her vampire character was two centuries older.

The rest of the cast was pretty solid but it was Steele who stole the show and made this movie her own.

Black Sunday is also a great example of the work of Mario Bava. While it is a black and white film and doesn’t utilize the amazing color palate that Bava and other Italian horror directors would use, the lighting and cinematography are just as alluring. Bava’s use of lighting and contrast makes Black Sunday a very dreamy and hypnotic experience.

In fact, the visual style of Black Sunday is almost a throwback to the gothic horror style of the 1930s, made most famous by the outstanding Universal Monsters films. Truthfully, this film feels twenty-to-thirty years older than it actually is.

Mario Bava also directed the cast magnificently and utilized the sets around them very well. This is one of his most iconic pieces of work.

The special effects are impressive for a 1960 Italian film. For the most part, they are still effective today. A friend of mine who watched this with me recently, even winced at one scene when there was a quick gruesome reveal.

Today, Black Sunday isn’t a well-known horror film. As far as I’m concerned, it is a classic and a real gem among other Italian horror pictures. The Italians made great scary movies. Black Sunday is one of their best.

Rating: 9/10