La Maschera del Demonio (1960)
Directed by: Mario Bava. Written by: Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei and Marcello Coscia based on the story The Viy by Nikolai Gogol.
Plot: A woman (Barbara Steele) is murdered for witchcraft and/or vampirism by her brother. Two hundred years later (give or take) she is accidentally resurrected and returns to wreak vengeance on her brother’s descendants.
Review: This is one of those movies which probably works a bit better when you’re Catholic. Being myself a practitioner of black magic, I don’t really find all that Satan worship stuff very scary.
However, this movie manages to overcome that by being really fucking creepy. From the opening scene in which the witch gets a demon-mask nailed to her face, this movie was freaking me out (particularly the thought that they probably actually did that shit to suspect witches back in the day).
Also, it looks amazing. Everything is really well shot and there’s tons of mist and good lighting to build atmosphere. This is another one of those movies which rocks in black and white but would suck major ass in colour. Never try to do spooky in colour, it doesn’t work very well. Colour is for gore.
This movie does have a fair bit of blood though to keep people interested. Plus Barbara Steele is pretty hot. She’s good too, playing both the creepy undead witch woman (who you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley), and her sweet and innocent great-great-great-grand-niece/love interest who seems like a totally decent person. Naturally, there is the plot line with the young dude from away (John Richardson) who falls in love with and must save the lovely young damsel from the clutches of the sexy evil or whatever.
There’s also this really creepy-ass dude (Arturo Dominici) who’s like the servant of the witch lady who keeps wandering around and freaking the hell out of me. I dunno, I thought that guy was scary.
Anyway, this movie is one of those cool ones everybody should totally see. Unlike some of the other flicks on this list which should probably be wiped off the face of the earth. This movie is actually good, and probably a classic or something.
Favourite Part: I seem to remember there being this big climactic scene where the hero is down in the crypt there to rescue his girlfriend when he is confronted by the witch who tries to trick him into thinking that she is his lady, except he pulls aside her cloak or something and sees that she’s a skeleton from the neck down. Weird. Gross.
Other versions: The story The Viy has been adapted two other times as Viy and Sveto Mesto in ‘67 and ‘90, respectively. This movie was also remade in 1989 by Mario Bava’s son, Lamberto Bava.
Click here to read my original review (May 25th, 2008).
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