Black Sunday, also known as The Mask of Satan or La maschera del dominio in some territories is a 1960 Italian horror movie about a beautiful vampire-witch who is given new life two hundred years after her brutal murder. The movie opens with a horrific scene in which the witch, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) is put to death at the stake with a spiked, iron mask hammered onto her face. Blood splatters through the mask’s holes and drips down the woman’s body in a scene which would still shock if released today. For 1960s though, the same year that Alfred Hitchcock got into trouble for showing a toilet flushing in Psycho, its effect must have been extraordinary. The movie continues the trend of shocking throughout its 90 minute runtime but doesn’t simply rely on it. Black Sunday, despite its surprising gore, is a well made film which looks and sounds great and has a very good story at its centre.
The film was directed by Mario Bava in what was technically his debut feature. Previously a cinematographer, he had unofficially completed several films as a director but was always uncredited as he took over from directors who left the films they were helming. His background as a cinematographer helped here to blend beauty and gore and produce a film whose reputation stands out against the plethora of similar films from its period.