Friday, January 29, 2010

Totalitarian Futures (Big Brother is Watching You!)

Totalitarian Futures (Big Brother is Watching You!)

On this blog entry, I wanted to talk a bit about films in which an evil Totalitarian Government has taken over and is oppressing the people. I’ve noticed there’s quite a few of these films out there and I thought it would make an interesting blog entry. Basically, these films have a couple of themes in common. They are always about an oppressive government wanting to maintain a grip hold on society, by controlling every single aspect of the lives of its people. So they take away their rights to individuality, independent thought, culture, art and freedom. Art is banned, books are banned and even freedom of speech is banned. Basically, the people in these films are screwed! But there’s always a rebel that runs like hell trying to get away from it all. So anyhows, here is a list of some of these films. I start from the oldest ones to the more recent ones.

Feel free to mention any that I didn’t mention, I really didn’t put them all in here to let you guys have some fun!

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Director: Francois Truffaut

Stars: Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack

Synopsis: This movie is about a totalitarian future in which it is prohibited to read books. Books that might make you think and see things differently. Books through which we can learn new things and communicate with one another. So they government has firemen that go around searching for books and burning them. This is the movie that influenced Equilibrium the most. Its almost identical in themes and situations, only Fahrenheit 451 is a bit slower in pace, and yes, even boring. Its based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When the firemen discover a house where an old lady has collected thousands upon thousands of books, they burn down her whole house! With her inside of it!

THX 1138 (1971)

Director: George Lucas

Stars: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Maggie McOmie

Synopsis: On this George Lucas’s first science fiction film and finest day as a director we meet THX 1138, a man who is getting tired and worn out on the way things are in his life. He prays to a computerized Jesus that doesn’t listen or talk to him, except for prerecorded messages of hope. He works in a factory day and night, goes home to a cold soulless existence and is tired of taking the government issued drugs! Pretty soon, he starts showing signs of wear, and the government takes notice and begins to hunt him down, so he decides to run! This is George Lucas’s version of 1984, sex is evil, everyone is the same, and big brother is most definitely watching you.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Everyone has to look the same, so in this totalitarian future, everyone has to dress in white (except the police who wears black) and everyone has to be completely bald! Also, sex is an evil thing.

Sleeper (1973)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Synopsis: Miles Munroe is your regular every day Joe. He works in a health food store and is a Jazz musician. He is suddenly cryogenically frozen without his consent, and is left in that frozen state for 200 years! When he wakes up, he realizes that the world is being ruled by a dictator looking to brainwash all of society! As is usually the case with all these kinds of films, the rebel ends up running from the evil government while trying to uncover the truth behind the mysterious Äries Project. This Woody Allen film is the film that Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (2006) most borrowed from, with the same plot of having someone frozen and woken up hundreds of years later in a completely altered society.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Brainwashing people into submission.

Soylent Green (1973)

Director: Richard Fleischer

Stars: Charlton Heston

Synopsis: In the future, there is not enough food for everyone because humans have sucked the world dry and there is over population. So the government issues special crackers called Soylent Green, Soylent Blue and Soylent Yellow. People are addicted to these cookies, but there isn’t enough to go around! Violence and crime are rampant! Its up to one cop to find out the truth about these mysterious crackers they keep giving everybody! An excellent sci-fi film with a really shocking ending! You got to see it to believe it. Charlton Heston plays an asshole cop.

Sings of a Totalitarian Government: People living in poverty on the streets because of bad planning and administration. Some live in rich luxury filled apartments, while the rest of humanity lives trying to survive on whatever else is left. When things get out of control, simply bring in that riot control to take care of the masses as if they were cattle.

Logan’s Run (1976)

Director: Thomas Anderson

Stars: Michael York, Farah Fawcett

Synopsis: In this future, humans live inside of giant domes that have controlled weather conditions and everyone is looking for the ultimate pleasure. It’s an empty life, where you have as much fun as you can while you are alive. Problem is, that to avoid over population, the government has issued a law where you have to kill yourself once you turn 33! Logan doesn’t want to live by these rules and believes there is a better world outside of the dome; so what does he do? He runs from the evil government! This flick is very 70s, the sets, the clothes…everything screams 70s camp! But, the film has some very interesting themes, and the effects are actually not that bad for the time it was made.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When you turn 33 you have to throw yourself into these lasers that disintegrate your body instantaneously! If you don’t do as you are told, you get chased around by these law enforcement officers that will disintegrate you with their own laser guns. Kind of like Blade Runners, but for humans.

1984 (1984)

Director: Michael Radford

Stars: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton

Synopsis: It’s interesting that this film was released on the year 1984. This movie is a faithful translation of the book. Orwell’s vision is brilliantly brought to life here. The film is grim, dark, depressing; this is definitely the world that Orwell envisioned in his book. We follow Winston Smith on his day to day, we see how sad it would be to live in a world that doesn’t let you breathe, doesn’t allow privacy or individuality. It’s a gut wrenching tale, especially once you get to the climax. Sadly, big brother doesn’t want us to watch this movie because it is out of print, and hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time. Curiously, the 1956 version of 1984 isn’t available either. Out of all the movies on this list, I truly think this one is the best one. Its the one that really "got" to me.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Sex is prohibited and only used for procreation. Your children are brainwashed starting at a very young age, they are taught to love big brother. Coffee, sugar, butter and all the good things in life are prohibited.

Brazil (1985)

Director: Terry Gilliam

Stars: Jonathan Price, Michael Palin, Robert Deniro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Kim Greist

Synopsis: Sam Lowry is your regular run of the mill dude who takes pride in being nothing special. He works as an assistant in a government office. And leads a pretty boring life, doing the same thing over and over again. He lives in a cramped little apartment, and is alone. But he dreams. He dreams of being a knight in shinning armor (with wings and a sword!) that goes on a Quixotic quest to save the love of his life. His next door neighbor. Problem is she’s a rebel! And pretty soon Sam finds himself running from the government with her! Will they escape the clutches of the evil government? This film is a masterpiece of fantasy and subversive cinema. Its got Terry Gilliam’s visual flare and is sprinkled with comedy, just so things wont be so dark. The original title that Gilliam wanted for this film? 1984 ½.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: The flood of burocracy you have to go through to do everything, and in the end, nothing ends up getting done. Gilliam tries to show that in their attempt to control everything, what really dominates is chaos, disorder and confusion.

They Live (1988)

Director: John Carpenter

Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster

Synopsis: Nobody knows it, but aliens are slowly taking over the earth. Their method of conquer? They make themselves look like humans, fooling everybody! They control the masses by giving them subliminal messages through the television, newspapers, magazines and billboards. The subliminal messages say “obey” “stay asleep” “Consume” “Buy”. Good thing that Roddy Piper discovers these neat-o glasses that let him see the truth! Suddenly, Piper realizes just how many aliens are walking the streets, and just how many subliminal messages are all over the place! Its time to kick some alien ass! This movie was John Carpenters way of criticizing the consumer mentality that is running rampant in society today. We don’t know it, but were being told to buy buy buy buy buy. Don’t believe me; see how far you can go without seeing some sort of commercial trying to sell you something!

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Controlling the masses by controlling the media. In John Carpenter' s own words: “All they want is our money!”

Dark City (1998)

Director: Alex Proyas

Stars: Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland

Synopsis: John Murdock wakes up one day a little off. He starts seeing and noticing things he had not noticed before, like these mysterious pale dudes walking around in black trench coats. Normally, no one can see them, but John Murdock can! Soon, he starts to search for the truth (like any true rebel will) and comes upon an incredible revelation. Won’t spoil it for you because if you haven’t seen this movie, you have to see it! It’s dark, gothic and just plain weird. Like a big budget episode of The Twilight Zone. A movie heavy on themes and symbolisms.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Independent thought is eliminated. Thinking on your own and making your own choices is not allowed. Play your role in society and shut up. But what happens when you want to go against that? What happens when you start using your brain and seeing things for what they really are?

Equilibrium (2002)

Director: Kurt Wimmer

Stars: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, David Hemmings

Synopsis: John Preston works as an enforcement officer for the government. All forms of emotion are prohibited in this future, so Preston goes around searching out those rebels who show any sign of emotion. Everyone is cold and emotionless because of a government issued drug that everyone takes. At one point, Preston decides to stop taking the pill, and he starts to feel and decides to switch sides and bring down the evil government leader. This movie has some awesome action sequences, involving a new type of martial arts called “gunkata” which is kind of like a mix between martial arts and guns.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Prohibiting emotion and individualism, art, books, music.

The Island (2005)

Director: Michael Bay

Stars: Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johansson, Sean Bean, Djimon Honsou

Synopsis: On this one a pair of clones grow up inside of a cloning complex (which mirrors the way certain governments like to do things in this world) and are told that one day, they are going to win the lottery and go live in a fantastical island where everything is fine and dandy. They offer you the opportunity to end up on this island paradise. You could be next in line to win the ticket there! But two androids begin to think outside the box and start noticing that things are not exactly what they seem, and that there is more then meets the eye with their current situation. So they run! Michael Bay is the director of this film, and usually that means I’m going to hate the film, but this one isn’t half bad. Its Michael Bay’s dumbed down version of 1984, with lots of action and special effects. This movie has elements of many films that came before it like 1984, THX 1138 and Clonus. Actually, this film copied Clonus so much that the director of that film sued and ended up getting money because Dreamworks accepted that The Island had copied more then 100 things from that film!

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: They lie to the masses; everything you think is real is an illusion. When one of the sheep tries to uncover the truth, the sheep must be slaughtered.

                                        A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., Rory Cochrane

Synopsis: A bunch of looser friends all live together on in a crowded apartment, paranoid and crazy, they always think somebody is after them! They are being watched! They are all paranoid because they are all addicted to a new kind of drug called Substance D. But there’s something strange about the origin of Substance D. And an undercover cop decides to figure out exactly what it is. Problem is, he is addicted to the drug himself! This film is interesting, not only because of its themes, but also because the film is animated.

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: When a guy takes out his megaphone while walking down the streets and starts talking against the government a mysterious black van drives by, picks him up and takes him away. Disappearing forever. If you talk too much, you get whipped out and silenced.

V for Vendetta (2006)

Director: James McTeigue

Stars: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt

Synopsis: V for Vendetta is based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. Its about a rebel called “V” who dresses up in a Guy Fawkes suit and goes around trying to show the evil government a thing or two. Thwarting their evil plans and turning the people against them. This movie is great because its one of the few that has a real rebellious aura to it. Its like, you don't like how things are going, then do something about it! I was actually kind of surprised to see this film getting such a huge release; after all it has an extremely rebellious vibe to it, and usually films of this nature don't get much exposure. But I applaud this movie for saying what it has to say: Totalitarian Governments should not be allowed to exist, we the people are the ones who need to make sure of that. 

Signs of a Totalitarian Government: Controlling television stations and what is said through them. The prohibition of books, movies, music and works of art.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Inland Empire (2007)

Title: Inland Empire (2007)
Director: David Lynch

Cast: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd, William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Nastassja Kinski


David Lynch along witn many other artful directors (like Terry Gilliam) are having a hard time getting their movies made in todays Hollywood. It's not easy for a director like Lynch to get funding or distribution deals for films that are so surreal, so hard to describe and define. Producers and Hollywood executives only want to invest in films that they know will make them millions of dollars for sure, they aren't interested in art. No place for anything too weird or too strange. They are interested in money. Studios want their movies to have some sort of coherence, logic and if at all possible, something that's easy for audiences to digest. Not something that they have to try and use their brains to decipher. Cant say I blame them, after all, they are investing millions of dollars. But where does that leave art films? Films that dont necessarily subscribe themselve to logic or rules on how to make a movie? Theres very little room for films like this, which is why we dont see a hell of a lot of them. Which is why a geniuses like David Lynch have to make their films independently of the hollywood system. Problem is that after these self produced indy projects are made, no studio wants to market them. They dont know how to sell them. This is the reason why well respected film directors like Lynch have to go and promote themselves on the street to try and get somebody to notice their new film. If I remember correctly, Lynch actually went out on the streets of Hollywood California accompanied by a cow and a sign that showed a picture of Laura Dern in Inland Empire and words that read "for your consideration" and "without cheese, there would be no Inland Empire ". Terry Gilliam has also been seen on the streets with a sign that read "will direct for food". Its sad but true. I like the idea of a director like Lynch going out on his own and trying to make movies his way, without any studio interference. Trying to get his films out there into the world on their own buck. So, what was the result of Lynch making Inland Empire on his own terms, without any studios interfering with his creative process?

Lynch catching the bigger fish

The film is about an actress named Nikki Grace, she's ultra famous and rich and she's a celebrity. She's also on the verge of starting to work in a new film project. Problem is that after she commits to working on the project and meets with the director and costars she finds out that the film they are making (entitled On High in Blue Tomorrows) is in fact a remake of a film (called 47) that was actually never finished because the films main stars where murdered before the film could be completed. Now director Kingsley Stewart (played by Jeremy Irons) is interested in remaking this film and actually finishing it. The problem is that Nikki thinks this project will also be cursed and that somehow, she and her co-star Devon Berk will somehow end up dead as well. Will the curse fulfill itself? Are the stars of this movie doomed to die a horrible death before they finish filming the movie?

So as you can see from that plot outline above, the movie is set in mystery, which as some of you may know is a David Lynch staple. Its something he always does in his movies. There's always something we don't know, a mystery which slowly but surely unfolds before us in the darkest most intriguing way possible. And this is not the only Lynchian thing we get in this film. This movie is Lynch unfiltered, pure David Lynch without any restraints at all. As if the floodgates of Lynch's mind were suddenly open! You better be ready for the onslaught of crazyness that will ensue! But Im getting ahead of myself. First I want to talk about what sets this film apart from previous David Lynch films. For starters this film has a different style all together. Lynch's films are always carefully shot and lit in a certain way, every light source, every chair, every room, every curtain, looks exactly the way that Lynch wants it to look. Inland Empire has a very raw look to it; less refined then his previous films. A lot has to do with the way he shot the film. You see, this is Lynchs first film shot entirely on digital video, so it has that rawness that shooting in digital brings to a project. I hate to compare a Lynch film to an action film, but it feels like Lynch has been influenced by the new wave of documentary style films (which is not so new anymore) like The Bourne Identity, The Blair Witch Project or The Wrestler. You know, the kind of film that feels as if someone shot it with a hand held camara. So that's what makes this film different from the rest. An augmented sense of reality. Lots of handheld shots, lots of close ups, and a lots of natural light. Lighting in Lynch films is something crucial to the mood of the piece. On this one he does have his distinctive lighting style, but as I mentioned before its less refined, more in the moment, more natural.

And that goes perfectly with the type of film Lynch was going for. He didn't have a finished script when he started making this movie. He wrote as he went along, and this gives the movie a feeling of improvisation all through out. But hang on right there, don't think that this movie doesn't have something to say or is just aimlessly wandering about, cause thats not the case. At first glance you might get the impression that Lynch has lost it, that this film makes no sense whatsoever, but it in fact does. This film is like an amalgamation of many of Lynch's favorite themes. Lets see, it has that really dark grimy aura and look of Eraserhead. Blue Velvet introduced us to the unforgettable and incredibly evil character of Frank Booth (played by Dennis Hopper) who got his kicks from physically abusing women, an element that is also shown in Inland Empire through the character of Nikki's husband, who is constantly hitting and abusing her. We also get the crazy chics out of control element seen in Twin Peaks with Nikki's friends, a group of prostitutes that live the wild life. It also has elements from Lost Highway with characters who have double personality and people shifting from one person to another from time to time. But the film that this one is most similar to in more ways then one is Mullholand Drive. First off, the film makes a major comment on the realities of filmmaking. How hard it is to make a film, how tricky and back stabbing the industry can be, how unglamorous the life of some actors and crew members can be. Much like Mullholand Drive, this is a movie in which Lynch poors all his frustrations and anger about the film industry and vents them all out through his script, through his film. And it shows. Some of the situations feel very real and genuine and you can tell that Lynch is mirroring himself in many of the situations. Aside from that, Inland Empire is also sprinkled with your typical David Lynch images and situations, beautifully lit rooms, supernatural undertones, double personalities, people who can communicate with the dead and who can see the future and just good old fashioned weirdness.

The cast is like a wet freaking dream my friends. Laura Dern is a David Lynch veteran having been in four of his films now. Here she returns to Lynch's dark universe giving a damn fine performance which Lynch tried to promote for an Oscar. To no avail. Still, I agree with Lynch, her portrayal of a battered woman trying to escape her violent relationship was Oscar worhty. Laura Dern really went down some dark paths with her character. And by dark I don't mean just dark and gloomy, nope, her character really looses it at one point, and the movie kind of turns into a nightmare, almost like a horror film which is something common in Lynch films, where suddenly you feel like you are watching a horror film. You switch from Nikkis life to the movie shes making, and then there comes a point where you dont know if your watching Nikkis life or the movie shes making, and Nikki looses it, she doesnt know whats real or whats not anymore! That's where Laura Dern went with her character and a fine performance it was. I was really happy to see Justin Theroux back in a Lynch film, his performance in Mullholand Drive was one of the coolest things about it and Im just happy to see him in a film again. We get a slew of cameos in this movie with every one from William H Macy to Nastassja Kinski making some sort of collaboration. It was cool to see all these familiar faces pop up all through out the film. It seems everyone wanted to jump into the David Lynch band wagon this time around, no one wanted to be left out.

So what was this film really about? Whats the underlying theme in this film? Well aside from Lynchs comments on how frustrating Hollywood can be, this movie tackles some issues that have always concerned Lynch. Mainly, women suffering because of the violent and abusive men in their lives. That's always been a reoccurring theme in many Lynch films (most notably in Blue Velvet) where women suffer horribly at the hands of maniacs. And how hard it sometimes is for women to break free of that violence in their lives, how hard it is sometimes for them to break ties with the men that cause them so much pain and suffering. But this movie goes a bit further then that. In one scene we see a young woman (who has obviously suffered abuse) crying as she watches the tv screen. Through out the film we are led to believe that she is watching the movie that we are watching, and shes crying like a baby because she can obviously identify with what she is seeing. Much like you or I would cry if we see a film that is about something that we can identify with, a movie that speaks about something we are living through. We also see a scene in which Laura Dern walks into an empty theater and she sees herself playing the character of the abused woman, telling her tale. With this I think Lynch is trying to tell women that he is talking about them, talking about their situations and that they shouldn't just see a movie, but learn from it, and do something about what's happening to them. Film is a mirror image of our society, and I think that this is what Lynch was trying to address with this movie. How he is mirroring a decease that's afflicting our society, and how we should see ourselves in his films. Lynch has always shown great appreciation for females in his films, they are constantly the central characters of his films. In this sense he is similar to Fellini. Which would explain why he constantly talks about the horrors of phisically hurting one. But that's just my take on it and I could be wrong. Or you could see something else in it, cause that's how Lynch films work. They often times mean different things to different people which is a great thing about them.

Battered women just dont have any fun

On the downside, I do think that only a Lynch fan can enjoy this film. If you have never seen a David Lynch film and suddenly plunge yourself into this one, good luck my friend, you are going to feel very lost! Then again, you might like this kind of film. I leave it entirely up to you. But it would be good going into this film with a small idea of what Lynch is about. It would certainly help. Or maybe you can just enjoy the film for what it is. David Lynch sustaining the "mystery" vibe for as long as he can. He loves asking questions, and not giving answers! If you like the feeling of being lost, not fully getting it, but feeling, then indulge on this the strangest of David Lynch's films. And thats saying a lot!

So that's my take on Inland Empire . On the negative side I will say that I wish the movie had more of a closure to it. As it is, towards the ending the film sort of looses its momentum and doesn't know where to go. So it just kind of ends and that's it. It leaves a couple of storylines hanging in the air, with no resolution in sight. Also, some of the images are way too surreal and out there for anybody to grasp. What about those bunnies? What about that circus guy who could disappear and hypnotize people? There were a lot of scenes that really did seem to come out of nowhere and you see them, they look beautiful, but will ultimately leave you feeling like you don't know what the hell you just saw and what the hell it has to do with the rest of the film. So be ready for some scenes that will test your logic. Also, the film is long (3 hours long to be exact) and really takes its time to tell its tale. It has a pace which you have to get used to, its in no hurry to tell its story. You will watch the story unfold very slowly. If your one of those people who cant take a slow paced film that very slowly unravels itself, then don't even bother. This is a Lynch film after all, weirdness is part of the package, and Ive only seen the film one time. Im sure upon repeated viewings things will start making more sense. That's one thing I love about Lynchs movies. How we have to try and figure them out like some sort of puzzle. So that's that, get ready cause this is Lynch raw and unfiltered. This is pure Lynch, and with something to say. Pay attention and you just might "get it", in your own way of course.

Rating: 4 out of 5

David Lynch's Inland Empire (Limited Edition Two-Disc Set)Lost Highway [VHS]Lost Highway

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Black Sabbath (1963)

Title: Black Sabbath (1963)
Director: Mario Bava, Salvatore Billitteri

Stars: Boris Karloff, Michele Mercier, Mark Damon, Susy Andersen

I should hang my head in shame for not having seen Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath before. But, as I’ve said a few times before on this blog, it’s for gems like this film that a film fan lives for. I had no idea I was missing out on such a great filmmaker. I think I left Bava in the back burner because when a horror fan sets out to watch the best of Italian horror films, one usually starts by the more talked about horror directors like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Why Mario Bava isn’t mentioned more is beyond me. His films are definitely underrated. Black Sabbath is an anthology made up of three different horror stories. They go as follows:

The Telephone - A story about a beautiful young woman who starts receiving phone calls from a murderer. He says he is going to kill her before the night is over. She is horrified so she calls her lesbian lover to comfort her. Who is this unseen killer? And will he get to these girls?

The Wurdalak - This story is about a vampire who comes home to his non vampire family. Slowly but surely, he starts turning his whole family into vampires or ‘Wurdalak’s’ as they are called in this story. Will the Wurdalak turn his whole family into vampires or will he be stopped in time to save them?

The Drop of Water - This is the story of a nurse who has to prepare the corpse of a dead medium, who died while she was still in a trance with the dead! While preparing the corpse for burial, she notices the dead woman has an expensive piece of jewelry on her finger. She steals it and takes it home with her! What will the price be for stealing from the dead?

So these three stories make up the film, which is tied up with an introduction by Boris Karloff, where he warns us about how frightening and horrifying the film we are about to watch is going to be. Then after the three stories are over, Karloff returns to tell us to be careful when we leave the theater, cause there’s lots of horrors waiting for us out there in the real world as well. The ending reminded me immediately of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. When you see both films you’ll see why.

But one cannot talk about Black Sabbath without mentioning how beautiful the film is. This film could quite possibly be one of the most beautiful looking horror films I’ve seen in my life. Right up there with Dario Argento’s Suspiria because of how the colors over saturate the screen. I haven’t seen all of Mario Bava’s films (yet) but if the previews are any indication of what his films are like, then it seems he loves drenching the screen with the most vivid colors. I absolutely loved this about Bava’s films! They are eye candy! On Black Sabbath, colors are placed on the screen to enhance the mood and feeling of dread. To augment atmosphere. I thought Argento was so original with his usage of color, now I see where that comes from. Bava is the true master, Argento was simply following in his footsteps. It seems Bava has influenced a great deal of directors, including Wes Craven who obviously saw this film before writing the opening sequence for Scream (1996). That whole opening sequence with Drew Barrymore talking with the killer on the phone? Bava had already done it here with the opening segment called The Telephone. Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) borrowed heavily from this segment as well. I think Tim Burton was also influenced from a visual standpoint by this film as well for Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Okay, this is the part of the review where I gush over the hot babes that Bava put on this film. Sorry but I just got to do it. And this is not from a chauvinist pig point of view, this is just from a normal regular dude’s point of view. My hats down to Bava for using such beautiful actresses on this film! I’m sure I’m not the only one who agrees with me because I was watching this one with a friend and we were both like “Wow! These chicks are so hot!” We kept doing this through out the duration of the whole film, because there’s beautiful women all through out the film. These actresses were more then just beautiful, these girls were the reason why the word “bombshell” was invented. I loved how Bava starts out “The Telephone” story with this sexy character (Michele Mercier playing Rosy) undressing. Bava cleverly manipulates the male audience to cheer. He wants guys to scream and holler for this beautiful girl. I loved how Bava orchestrated this scene because when Rosy picks up the phone, the killer tells her “your body is so beautiful, it could drive a man insane!” This scene is interesting because if you are a guy and you were cheering like a wolf for this beautiful girl, after you hear what the killer says you feel like a douche bag because you are thinking same way the killer was. Genius directing right there! Speakin of Bava's directing abilities, they guy sure can direct a suspenseful scene. I felt that this movie was directed by a true director, cleverly manipulating his audiences feelings and expectations. There is a scene in "The Drop of Water", where the tension is built by simply having a drop of water falling, and a light flashing on and off outside of the house. Bava completely understood the importance of mood, and atmosphere. He understood the importance of music and sound effects in a horror movie.

One thing that I noticed about this movie is the care and attention that was paid to the art direction and the lighting. The colors are beautiful, they compliment the mood and augment the atmosphere, but the art direction, the sets, are a beauty to look at. I love it when directors take special attention with the art direction, it makes everything that much more special. I felt as if extra care was put in making everything look perfect, every pot and pan, every chair, every flower vase, lamp, everything carefully selected and lit. Loved that about this movie. Its visually rich. Attention was paid to conveying a dreadful mood and atmosphere, specially on the last two stories; “The Wurdalak” and “The Drop of Water”. There are moments when the wind never stops howling! I loved that! The dead trees, the spooky forest, the fog, the old house…hell, this movie even has a scene with werewolves howling in the background! It was all pitch perfect! "The Wurdalak" felt like a true blue old school horror movie, augmented by Boris Karloff’s amazing performance. Speaking of Karloff, his performance on this one is one of his best. His Wurdalak was a truly evil character, but in a very non traditional and subtle way! This certainly is an unconventional take on vampirism.

What I loved the most about this movie is that its purely a horror movie. It had so many classy looking horror moments. I will go down as saying that I liked Black Sabbath more then any Dario Argento movie I have seen. I thought Argento was the master in using colors, but the truth is that Bava was the first and original, Argento was simply his pupil. This film felt like a horror comic book come to life, like an old EC horror comic, which I’m pretty sure is what Bava was going for when he made this one, with Boris Karloff as the crypt keeper. That was genius! Its also a film that was ahead of its time. Its very edgy playing with lesbian themes and even having children die! Black Sabbath is a true work of art and one of the best Italian horror films ever made. It’s one of the best horror films, period. Not to be missed.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Black SabbathBlack SundayBlack Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan)


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