Black Sunday (1960)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking shots

The story could be clean up and the some special effects are weak

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Black Sunday

Studio:  Galatea Films

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  August 11, 1960

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


That spiked mask doesn’t really go with the look I’m trying to pull off…

Princess Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) is branded a witch and burned at the stake with her lover Javuto (Arturo Dominici) by her own brother.  Vowing revenge before her death, Princess Vajda tells her brother that he and his line will be forever cursed.  Two hundred years later, Dr. Andre Gorobec (John Richardson) and Dr. Thomas Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) accidentally release Princess Vajda’s spirit and Vajda intends to enact her revenge on Katia Vajda (also played by Barbara Steele), her brother Constantin (Enrico Olivieri), and their father Prince Vajda (Ivo Garrani) and if Kruvajan has any hope of saving his love, Princess Vajda must be stopped!’’


I fell in to a burning ring of fire!

Written and directed by Mario Bava, Black Sunday was called La maschera del demonio (or The Mask of Satan or Revenge of the Vampires) upon its release in Italy.  It was based on the short story “Viy” by Russian Nikolai Gogol in his 1835 collection Mirgorod.  The movie was met by instant censorship due to its graphic nature and was banned in many countries upon its release.  The result was multiple versions of the film and years before it could be released in some areas.  Since its release, the movie has gained a cult following and is often cited as influence to directors from Francis Ford Coppola (who used imagery in his Dracula film) to Tim Burton who said it was his favorite horror film.

I haven’t had much Bava experience so jumping in with Black Sunday is a good choice.  Bava is considered the real starter of the giallo film genre and though this doesn’t have the main themes of a giallo, it does have some of the looks.


I hope this cross works on you…since I’m not sure what the hell you are, I just hope you’re not Christian.

The story for Black Sunday is pretty strange.  It is like Bava couldn’t commit it being a vampire film or a witch film.  The character is constantly identified as a witch but drinks blood and lives like a vampire.  Other than this aspect of the story, the story is rather traditional horror and has a bit of a Hammer horror feel.

The movie is considered horror queen Barbara Steele’s breakthrough role.  She allegedly did not get along with Bava’s style of directing and was only allowed to see a few pages of the script at a time.  Bava also found Steele difficult to work with and had to fight her on costumes and wigs (and fangs…which were dropped from the story).


Burn, witch (or vampire?), burn!

The visuals are really what help make Black Sunday memorable.  The movie is visually quite stunning despite a very obvious low budget.  Things like the giant bat attack don’t go well with the movie when compared to the great cinematography of other scenes.  I’m most impressed in this movie by sets and the framing of the shots…it goes a lot to make the movie much better.  This is one of those rare cases where I feel that color could have even added more to the atmosphere in a bright Hammer style Technicolor look (Bava allegedly turned down the opportunity to remake it in color).

Black Sunday should be seen by fans of horror but also can be a great film due to the effect it had on future directors.  Fans of film should see the movie and enjoy it for what it is.  Yes, the story could be smoothed out and some of the special effects could be better, but Black Sunday still holds up.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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