Comments Off on Black Sabbath: A guest review by Paul Counelis
Paul Counelis writes the “Monster Kid Corner” column for Rue Morgue, is the editor of Halloween Machine magazine, sings for the scary band Lords of October and is a member of the Flint Horror Collective, bringing events to sunny Flint, Michigan for years. FACEBOOK and LIKE all that stuff, willya? In his free time
he writes incredible books about scary stuff, does a bi-weekly podcast with his pals (Ghoul Cast), raises 9 kids with his gorgeous (and patient) wife Crystal, and runs a home haunt called Scarriage Town with family and friends (and daughter’s consistent imaginary(?) friend Hallie).
Toward the end of his amazing career, the legend Boris Karloff was so intent on working well into his late seventies that he often accepted roles in films that…well, to put it nicely, just weren’t worthy of his presence. He finished his remarkable career with a few real duds; therefore most Karloff fans just pretend that his last film was 1968’s excellent and challenging Targets, a movie that contrasted the horrors of the great Universal Monsters era with the modern horror of the real world.
But a few years before that, betwixt career reviving turns with Vincent Price in The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors, our buddy Uncle Uncanny found himself in maybe the most unique role he had ever played; a vampire in The Wurdulak segment of the Mario Bava anthology Black Sabbath.
Karloff’s segment (aside from his strange “hosting” turn, complete with Italian overdubs) is really atmospheric, unusual and worth watching all on its own, and the same can be said for another spooky portion of the film, The Telephone, about a…ahem…call girl who receives disturbing, Scream-like, rape-y phone messages from a client of hers who just happens to be imprisoned. I won’t give away the twist… yeah, very Scream indeed.
But it’s the segment titled The Drop of Water that most people who’ve seen this film tend to remember the most…because it’s really freaking creepy.
I watched the film for the first time one night by myself, not really expecting much other than the charms of the era and the pleasure of watching Uncle Boris do his thing. However, The Drop of Water honestly and truly gave me something that I hadn’t gotten from a horror movie in quite a few years: a nightmare.
I felt giddy as I watched the tale unfold, about a nurse who makes the rather unwise decision of stealing the ring from the corpse of a medium (who passed away during a séance) while preparing the body. Why someone would do such a thing, after all the years of hearing the multiple campfire stories that revolve around that particular set of circumstances (“Bloody bones, bloody bones…”) is anyone’s guess. BUT, she did it anyway.
And in the moment when the countess rises from the bed and floats toward her, hovering a couple feet from the ground while she stares deep into her soul from unmoving, sunken eyes…I’m sure the nurse had a quick series of regrets.
I realized that I was laughing giddily during that scene; the kind of laughter that would be referred to as “nervous”. This is something that doesn’t happen to a hardened, desensitized horror fan very often. In fact, the most recent time it happened to me before watching Black Sabbath was during an ill-advised late night screening of The Exorcist III, another film that I wrongly anticipated watching easily by myself. Most people who have seen Exorcist III can probably guess at the scene in which I nearly fell off of the couch. But anyway…
Black Sabbath is one of those kinda sorta “under the radar” type classics, full of Bava’s best directorial tricks and plenty of mood and atmosphere. It’s also home to one REALLY freaky lookin’ living dead girl, and remains one of the top movies in the latter stage of the outstanding film career of our dear, old Uncle Karloff.
Check out the trailer for “Black Sabbath”