BLACK SABBATH (1964) – this is one of the most popular of Mario Bava‘s movies because it is, quite simply, one of the best (if not the best) horror anthology films ever made. Even today, almost 50 years later, Black Sabbath remains a hallucinatory little creeper that can still squeeze out a goosebump or two thanks to Bava’s masterful direction. I don’t use the term “masterful” lightly: given the limited budgets and schedules he had to work with, Mario Bava is one of cinema’s great geniuses, able to wring more out of less than it’s possible to understand in today’s world when directors need things like “craft services,” “honey wagons,” and “storyboards” before they start making their movies. Bava needed a camera, a flash light, some colored gels and boom! Instant classic.
Boris Karloff hosts this three-part anthology, and it’s less of a mixed bag than these kind of things usually are. “The Telephone” is a so-so giallo segment about a high end hooker being stalked by her killer pimp, and while it’s filmed gorgeously it feels like wheel-spinning. Things get infinitely better with the rugged, Eastern European vampire short, “The Wurdulak,” starring Karloff as the patriarch of an isolated family who comes back from hunting down a vampire only no one’s quite sure if he’s become a vampire himself. The stunner in this anthology (and you can just watch it and be satisfied) is “The Drop of Water.” A nurse is called to the apartment of a recently deceased woman to prepare her for burial. While there, she gives into temptation and steals the dead woman’s ring. Back in her apartment a buzzing fly, a power failure, and a dripping tap combine to form a symphony of terror. It’s one of the most effective horror shorts ever made and well worth the time you’ll spend watching it. The version of Black Sabbath on Netflix is the Roger Corman AIP version which re-orders the shorts (putting “The Drop of Water” first), has a new score by bachelor pad musician Les Baxter (which is quite good), and more commentary from your host, Boris Karloff. But this movie is so powerful (two out of three ain’t bad) that even these changes don’t distract from Bava’s tiny, terrifying masterpiece. (Watch it!)