Cast & Crew
Gustavo De Nardo
The Drop Of Water : Nurse Helen Corey is called to the home of Madame Perkins, a clairvoyant, but finds the woman dead when she arrives. The nurse steals a diamond ring from the hand of the corpse and puts it on when she gets home. That night she becomes terrified at the sound of dripping water; finally Madame Perkins' ghost appears and forces her to strangle herself. The next day the police find Helen dead of an apparent heart attack, her finger bruised as if a ring had been wrenched from it.
The Telephone : Rosy, a prostitute, receives threatening phone calls from a man she once betrayed and who is now dead. Terrified, she asks a friend, Mary, to stay with her, but the caller enters the house and kills Mary by mistake. Rosy then stabs the man, but the telephone rings again and his voice tells her that she can never kill him.
The Wurdalak : Vladimir, a young nobleman traveling in Eastern Europe, spends the night with a family who fear that their father, Gorca, has become a wurdalak, a species of vampire that thirsts for the blood of its loved ones. Gorca has killed Alibeck, a bandit and vampire, but neglected to drive a stake through his heart. Gorca kills his relatives one by one, and they, in turn, become vampires. Meanwhile, Vladimir and Gorca's daughter, Sdenka, fall in love; they escape to a convent but Gorca finds them and, unknown to Vladimir, transforms Sdenka into a wurdalak. When Vladimir kisses her, she kills him, turning him into a vampire.
Gustavo De Nardo
Samuel Z. Arkoff
James H. Nicholson
Titra Sound Corp.
The second story, "Il Wurdalak," is a gothic period piece set in rural Russia and opens as Gorca (Boris Karloff) returns to his family after slaying a vampire. But his homecoming unleashes the curse of the undead and soon only Vladimire (Mark Damon), a visiting nobleman, is left to fight the evil scourge. A wonderfully creepy and atmospheric yarn, this middle section is particularly memorable for its nightmarish set design (old ruins and landscapes drained of color are juxtaposed against incandescent mists and midnight blue skies), and some truly disturbing moments like the spectral appearance of the undead child. But it's Karloff's haunting presence which gives this episode a special frisson.
The concluding story, "A Drop of Water," stars Jacqueline Pierreux (the mother of French actor Jean-Pierre Leaud) as a nurse who steals a ring from the corpse - a former medium - she is preparing for burial. It's a decision that she will pay dearly for later when she's alone at night in her drab apartment. Often cited as the most representative example of Bava's genius in working with color, visual effects and sound, "A Drop of Water" is arguably the most frightening of the three tales.
Bava was offered Black Sabbath after the phenomenal box office success of Black Sunday (1960), his first bona-fide hit for American International Pictures. Boris Karloff was part of the package deal and was in the midst of a career revival thanks to appearances in Roger Corman productions like The Terror (1963), The Raven (1963) and Tales of Terror (1962), an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe stories that obviously inspired the structure of Black Sabbath. Some tongue-in-cheek introductions by Karloff for each story were actually filmed by Bava but later discarded by order of the distributor. But more significantly, Bava's completed film was drastically altered for American release. The original music score by Roberto Nicolosi was replaced by one from composer Les Baxter, the order of the stories was rearranged with "A Drop of Water" appearing first and "Il Wurdalak" last, and a new introduction was shot with Karloff, to list just a few of the changes. Still, for some who saw Black Sabbath in its altered, English-dubbed form, the film was a revelation and made them converts, anxious to seek out other Italian horror films.
For more information on the making of Black Sabbath, everyone is encouraged to rent or purchase the Image DVD and read the liner notes by Tim Lucas, the editor/publisher of Video Watchdog. That will only whet your appetite to see additional Bava films and to learn more about him, something that Lucas will remedy shortly with the release of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, his mammoth biography of the director due for release in the Spring of 2003. You can order an advance copy now from his web site at http://www.cinemaweb.com/videowd/announce.html.
* TCM is showing the original Italian language version with English subtitles.
Producer: Paolo Mercuri
Director: Mario Bava
Screenplay: Mario Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato
Production Design: Riccardo Domenici
Cinematography: Mario Bava, Ubaldo Terzano
Editing: Mario Serandrei
Music: Les Baxter, Roberto Nicolosi
Cast: Michele Mercier (Rosy), Lidia Alfonsi (Mary), Boris Karloff (Gorca), Mark Damon (Vladimire d'Urfe), Susy Andersen (Sdenka), Massimo Righi (Pietro), Jacqueline Pierreux (Helen Corey), Harriet Medin (Miss Perkins).
By Jeff Stafford
Copyright length: 96 min. Opened in Rome in September 1963 as I tre volti della paura, with episodes entitled "I wurdalak," "La goccia d'acqua," and "Il telefono"; running time: 100 min. Opened in Paris in November 1965 as Les trois visages de la peur; running time: 95 min. One Italian source credits Ugo Guerra as screenwriter. Jacqueline Pierreux is a pseudonym of Jacqueline Soussard. Copyright claimant: Alta Vista Productions.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States May 6, 1964
Released in United States October 1999
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque) as part of program "The Haunted World of Mario Bava" July 26 - August 31, 1996.)
Released in United States May 6, 1964 (Detroit, Michigan)
Released in United States October 1999 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival October 21-29, 1999.)