A Movie A Day: Quint worships BLACK SABBATH (1963) Mama, I’m cold. Mama, let me in. I’m cold.
Published at: Sept. 4, 2008, 7:39 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we jump from Mark Robson to Mario Bava via Boris Karloff. As a good horror fan, I had of course known BLACK SABBATH’s reputation, but for whatever reason I’ve only seen a handful of of Mario Bava’s movies. Thankfully I have the two Mario Bava box sets put out by the wonderful Anchor Bay to help remedy that.
And remedy it I fucking will. BLACK SABBATH (aka THE THREE FACES OF FEAR) rocked my world.
I think I’m turning into an old woman because this is the second movie this week to genuinely creep me out, to get under my skin and make me utter “Fuck that!” to the TV as it played.
The flick opens with Boris Karloff as himself welcoming you to the movie (he has a similar outro, but he’s in character at the end and the camera pulls back showing the crew and assuring the audience it was only a movie), a series of three stories of terror.
Each story is good and every story is better than the one before it. I’ll break them down for the meat of this column.
Basically you have a precursor to the rash of telephone stalker movies that hit in the ‘70s and ‘80s and were revitalized by Wes Craven with SCREAM in the ‘90s. Movies like BLACK CHRISTMAS (original and shitty remake) and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (original and shitty remake), and more recently the original and shitty remake of ONE MISSED CALL… I guess phones can be really scary things… at least heavily remade scary things.
Here a beautiful, curvy woman Michele Mercier, arrives home and starts to disrobe, getting ready for bed when the phone rings. She picks up, no answer. You know how it goes. A few more no-answers then a whisper of a voice tells her it’s time for revenge and she’s going to die before dawn.
The whisperer can apparently see Mercier, describing her change of clothing, the lighting in the room and constantly freaks this poor lady out.
But who is the whisperer?
This is my least favorite of the three stories, but it is very clever. It didn’t fall into any formula I was expecting and the ending is a dark twist on a twist, reminiscent of some of the darker EC Tales From The Crypt stories.
The Wurdalak is a type of vampire and I gotta say, I loved the mythology of this segment. Having a vampire that only kills people he loves… the more he loves the person, the more desperate he is to drink their blood… Fantastically demented.
You have Mark Damon, a square jawed hero type who comes across a beheaded body while traveling, arriving at a little country inn, meeting a family living in terror of the Wurdalak.
The body he found, without a head and a dagger still stuck in its heart, belongs to the Wurdalak, the dagger property of the family. Turns out the father is missing, having gone out 5 days before to hunt the Wurdalak. He left instructions that if he was to return after 5 days, his sons were to stab him in the heart because if it took him that long, he’d be returning a Wurdalak himself.
The body is evidence that the father succeeded in his mission, but where is he? As the clock chimes midnight, marking the 5th day, he stumbles up to the cottage. It’s technically after midnight, but it’s so close that the family lets him in.
It’s Boris Karloff, cloaked and bathed in purple light and it’s obvious to everyone watching that he’s been turned, but the family stubbornly refuses to see it.
Of course, he just kind of acts pissed off and grumpy, not really threatening at the beginning, so they aren’t all that stupid and once his true colors are revealed everyone acts accordingly.
I wasn’t prepared for how dark this tale went. I know it’s sick to admit, but I love horror movies that aren’t afraid to kill kids and this one little innocent boy, Karloff’s Grandson, is taken first. It’s not that I enjoy seeing children in peril, but it sets a bar for the film… it’s a taboo not often broken, so when a film does break it you don’t know what else they’re willing to do, what further dark places it’s willing to go.
Of course, the kid comes back, calling for his mother in a moment I’m positive Tobe Hooper “homaged” in SALEM’S LOT. The lighting, the creep factor… all there.
There is no way out for any of the characters in this story and I loved how smartly they set up each one falling, leading to an ending you can see coming, but that’s kind of the point. You know the bridge is out and the train isn’t going to stop in time, no matter how much you don’t want to see it plummet into the chasm, you know?
Karloff is awesome, as usual, and the rest of the cast are perfect for their characters.
The Drop of Water
By far my favorite story of the bunch. Karloff creeped me out a little in the last story, but this is the one that made me shout “Fuck that!” at my TV.
I’ll show you the image in a minute… the horrible, horrible nastiness…
The Drop Of Water is a tale about nurse called to the home of a crazy old woman who has recently passed away. In her final years, this woman became more and more obsessed with death and held séances regularly and if you listen closely to the maid who lets the nurse, Jacqueline Pierreux, in you find out that these séances have been pretty successful. The old woman died during the last séance.
The doctor has already come and gone, declaring the death and now it’s the lady’s job to dress the body and prepare her for the undertaker.
Now, the make-up for the old lady is in no way realistic, but is in every way fucking wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Evil goddamned wrong. Which makes it right. Here’s what got me to shout “Fuck that” at my TV:
See, you probably just shouted “Fuck that” at your computer screen. I know I probably will when this goes live.
Of course, Pierreux sees a priceless ring on the corpse’s finger and swipes it. If you saw that fucking face looking at you, I don’t care if it’s wearing Scarlett Johansson’s vagina, I’m treating it as a wash. Oh well, maybe I’ll rob the next one that doesn’t look like the Dark One’s evil sister.
The moment she takes the ring, a fly appears on the ring finger of the corpse, causing her to slap it away, dropping the ring in the process. Of course there’s a small scare and she knocks over a glass, dripping water into a bowl. She rights it, but when she gets home, the fly returns as does the sound of dripping water, slowly driving her to hysteria before the woman returns to reclaim her property.
And the ending to this segment is the bee’s knees. It’s one my favorite horror vignettes of all time now.
Final Thoughts: There’s not a bad story in the bunch and you can feel the inspiration this film had on horror. Was there a horror anthology that predated this? Maybe, but I can’t think of one. Even so, you can see the influence this had on later films, but the tone is what still sets this one apart. The stories are largely taken completely straight, avoiding camp or dark humor as would come to be the norm thanks to Tales From The Crypt. I absolutely loved this movie.