One of the most haunting and nightmare-inducing faces I have ever seen in all of horror cinema - the deceased clairvoyant from Mario Bava’s 1963 compendium horror Black Sabbath (aka The Three Faces of Fear). I can only imagine how disturbed I would have been by this face if I had first seen the movie as a kid (I was in my twenties before I obtained a VHS of Black Sabbath - and even then, that face was horrific enough to me). It’s a superb piece of cinematic make-up for its time, but it’s just one of the many elements that make Black Sabbath such a masterpiece of terror.
Watching it again at 2am on Boxing Day (filled with more than a little Christmas cheer), the film remains as seductive an experience as ever - dripping with atmosphere, boasting a most beautiful colour palette, and featuring a trio of stories (based on tales by Tolstoi, Snyder and Chekov) that are so tightly constructed and packed with giallo tension (the first segment, The Telephone), gothic horror (The Wurdalak, featuring Boris Karloff in superbly scary form) and outright terror (The Drop of Water, as much a psychological horror story as it is a supernatural one). It’s as effective aurally as it is visually, and even the little gag ending with Karloff adds to the unique charm of the film - it doesn’t diminish the horror of what has preceeded it, but it does help remind us that what we are watching are just dark fairy tales, and for his fans it provides a wonderful little glimpse into how Mario Bava was able to utilise ideas and creativity to achieve so much using so little. One of those rare anthology horror films where there is no weak link.