Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

One Damn Mario Bava Movie At A Time

The Three Faces Of Fear
aka Black Sabbath (1963) Italian

Okay now I feel we're back on track with Mr. Bava because, for one of those anthology movies with three parts, this was very good - good stories, again lavish scenes with great detail, oh and Boris Karloff was very good too. Of course when it was translated for the good people in the UK, they screwed with the movie and we see a very different version than Mr. Bava intended. The UK version (distributed by American International Pictures, go figure) presents The Drop of Water, then The Telephone, ending with The Wurdalak. 

In the Italian version, the sequence is The Telephone, then The Wurdalak, ending with The Drop of Water. The Italian original has a different music score and has different introductory scenes involving Karloff as the narrator, some of which are tongue-in-cheek. We do get to see some of that, and yes Karloff is cute as a button. The stories themselves are somewhat edited. Italian cinema being more, uh, free with their ideas and movies has a gorier version of The Wurdalak and some lesbian overtones in The Telephone, making it more a non-supernatural version as the Italians intended, not a ghost story. As I said, the UK mucked it up.

Presenting Earth... err, I mean Black Sabbath.
Okay lets get our main question out of the way. Did a certain group of four young men wanting to get a hard rock band started in 1969 in the UK get their name from this movie? Yup. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were originally a heavy blues rock band named Earth. A cinema across the street from the band's rehearsal room was showing Black Sabbath. While watching people line up to see the film, bass player Butler noted that it was "strange that people spend so much money to see scary movies" and their focus changed and so did their name. They are considered pioneers of the heavy metal genre.

1. The Drop of Water: In England a nurse is called to prepare the corpse of a medium who died during a seance. Her face is this nasty rictus of fright (pretty damn ugly). The nurse changes her into her funeral attire (no embalming and she didn't wash her hands either, ewww) and closes her eyes (impossible). She notices a beautiful sapphire ring on her finger and steals it. She then notices that the corpses eyes are again open, and a fly keeps landing on the finger the ring had been on. Almost getting caught she knocks over a glass and hears the drip drip of the liquid on the floor. She picks up the glass and leaves. They show the corpse from the foot of the bed and they forgot to tell her not to breathe because you can plainly see one good one (whoops). Once back in her flat, our thieving nurse Helen experiences weird things (very mildly, but...) like flies buzzing and water dripping. It culminates in her seeing the specter of the dead medium floating in her funeral dress towards her getting closer... closer... closer...

The next morning her landlady finds her and calls the police. The nurse's face looks pretty much like the medium's (not quite as ugly though). They notice the white funeral dress on her bed, thinking it a nightgown. They also notice a scrape on her ring finger. The landlady looks nervous, obviously she has stolen the ring herself... and she now notices the sounds of flies...

2. The Telephone: We have what we are to assume is a call girl at her apartment who starts getting strange phone calls. From here the Italian version and the UK version varies greatly - in the Italian version the caller claims to be Frank, her ex-pimp who has escaped from jail and is coming to get her. Frightened she calls her lesbian lover who she hasn't been with in a while who agrees to stay with her. But her lover is a tricky one, she's been making the phone calls. She also gives her lover a tranquilizer to knock her out and writes her a confession that she had done all this so that the two could become a couple again - but she doesn't notice that Frank, who really HAS escaped from prison is sneaking up behind her. He strangles her then sees he's killed the wrong woman. Rosy (his target) sees him closing in on her and as he attacks she brings out a knife and stabs him. She then has a nervous breakdown, with the corpses of both lovers in her apartment.

In the UK version, Rosy is scared of these phone calls and does call Mary (the lover in the other version) but they are 'friends' and she is just there to keep her company. Mary reminds her that it can't possibly be Frank on the phone - he's dead. To calm Rosy down she drugs her and her letter is an explanation to Rosy that she did that because she was afraid of her mental state... not noticing that from behind her the GHOST of Frank is sneaking up and she's strangled. He then moves to Rosy who does stab him... but afterward the phone, which Mary had left off the hook says in Frank's voice 'you'll never be rid of me'. Thus instead of revenge, we get ghosts.

3. The Wurdalak: A story written by Tolstoy, the Wurdulac, also spelled wurdalak or verdilak, is a type of Russian vampire that must consume the blood of its loved ones and convert its whole family. Just to give you a bit of a background - and grandfather is played by Boris Karloff (with the Bava-style violet eyeshadow as that tell-tale sign that they are dead). This tale also produces a line you will never hear in another movie without somebody getting arrested: Boris as the grandfather asks his daughter when she won't trust him to hold her son, "Can't I fondle my own grandson?" <snickers> Sorry, that's not really funny... yes it is. Of course it had a whole different meaning then.

In 19th Century Russia, Vladimir Durfe is a young nobleman on a long trip. During the course of his journey, he finds a beheaded corpse with a knife plunged into its heart. He withdraws the blade and takes it as a souvenir. He stops at a small rural cottage and notices several daggers hanging up on one of the walls, and a vacant space that happens to fit the one he has discovered. He is then introduced to this small family living in this villa, a couple with their son, and their sister Sdenka. They have been waiting for their father who had told them if he took five days to come back, not to let him in but to kill him. 

Finally Gorcha (Boris Karloff) comes home and he looks like hell, literally. Despite his warning they let him in. So of course, he starts going through his family (including his fondled grandson). The family of vampires has one to go, Sdenka. The nobleman takes her and runs away with her. But they apparently were followed, and while he sleeps she is seduced into her family's arms and becomes one of them. They take her back home and because of his love for her, he goes too. He finds her motionless on the bed but she wakes, and gives him a stare that paralyzes him. She then begs him to kiss her. Not caring about anything anymore, he does and she bites him.

So no happy endings for any of these stories, and we don't get to see some of the neat vampire killing action present in the Italian version - and they totally messed up The Telephone. Oh well, it still claims to be one of Bava's best movies, and they're not wrong.