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John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #3 Of 31!! BLACK SABBATH!!

John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews.  Today we’re heading over to Italy for a horror anthology involving ghosts, vampires and stalkers.

There are three reasons to see 1963’s Black Sabbath:  Boris Karloff, the directorial work of Mario Bava and the three simple yet effective horrific tales that make up its anthology .  

The name of the movie in Italian translates to The Three Faces of Fear.  Here we get a trio of creepy stories that are different enough to stay memorable and scary enough to satisfy.  The first involves a woman who steals a ring off a dead woman’s body.  The make-up on the dead lady is fantastic.  It’s ultra-stylized that stops just short of being cartoonish.  In this ghost story the dead woman stalks the poor soul that stole her ring with patience and horrific elegance.  Then, there’s The Telephone.  A woman, alone in her apartment begins to receive threatening phone calls from a man who is watching her every move.  This is the kind of story that makes you want to run out of your home and buy a security alarm system.  I was a bit taken aback by the intensity of the caller.  He puts the average rapist on an episode of Law and Order: SVU to shame.  Unfortunately the ending of this one gets a bit mucked up as it was retooled from the original Italian version.  We’ll talk a bit more about that later.  The final story stars Karloff whose family must determine whether he has been transformed into a vampire.  Everyone will have a favorite story here based on their horror preferences and I liked this one the least.  It wasn’t bad, but I prefer the simpler and more relatable circumstances of the first two stories more.


Karloff is having a lot of fun.  At this point in his career, he was doing Roger Corman movies and making occasional TV appearances.  It wasn’t exactly a high point in his professional life.  He was not only cast in this picture as one of the leads of the vampire story but also as a host of sorts.  He had been doing the same sort of thing on TV with the horror anthology series Thriller, but it was never as popular as the anthology shows that came after it. Like Rod Serling on the Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock from his TV days, Karloff set up the stories with a coy smile and some fun tongue-in-cheek dialogue.  

The ultimate reason this movie works though is Mario Bava.  The director is a pioneer in the field of horror and science fiction.  He’s credited as the cinematographer on the first horror movie in Italian history The Devil’s Commandment, the director of Italy’s first science fiction film The Day the Sky Exploded, an influence Ridley Scott’s Alien, and an innovator with one of the first slasher films in history Twitch of the Death Nerve.  He knows how to create tension and develop an atmosphere of terror.  He relies less on bloody thrills and more on psychological stress.  He knows how to setup a terrifying situation and successfully carry it through to its chilling climax.  



It should be noted that there are several differences between the American and Italian versions of the film.  The sequence of the stories is different, both feature a different score, The Telephone was changed more into a supernatural tale for Americans and a lesbian sub-plot was dropped, and according to IMDB, the Boris Karloff introductions were cut from the Italian version as well.  I would have loved to have seen a definitive director’s cut.  

Black Sabbath is currently streaming on Netflix.  It’s also available on DVD here.

Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as we get into the head of a deranged serial killer with mommy issues.

For more video news, reviews and interviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter.


Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:18 a.m. CST




  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:23 a.m. CST

    The German DVD that came out years ago is pretty good.

    by DerLanghaarige

    It also features a cool, feature length Mario Bava documentary. And the order of the stories in this version (Don't know if it's the Italian or another different one): 1.) The Telephone 2.) Wurdelak 3.) The Water Drop Which is seriously cool, because that way the movie gets better as it progresses and ends on a very high note.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:34 a.m. CST

    Hey JA...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...are you only going with what's on Netflix or are you including Amazon or any of the others? There's about fifty percent overlap, one to another, but Amazon recently added a bunch of niche popular and semi-obscure stuff to their prime. Still not as strong as Netflix, front to back (in horror...nowhere near as strong overall) but getting closer. Hulu not so much, though they are the only one that has Equinox, which I love.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:40 a.m. CST

    thr first story is definitely the best

    by Monnie Knapp

    That dead lady's face is truly horrific. Karloff is fun here, but I agree that the third story is the weakest. Overall, though, the whole film is worth one's time, it just kinda sucks that the best, and scariest, portion of the picture wasn't saved for last. Tomorrow's gotta be "Maniac", right?

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:42 a.m. CST

    red ned lynch

    by John Ary

    I used Netflix as a basis with about 75% of the titles coming from there. In retrospect, I wish I had pulled more titles from Amazon and Youtube's movie section, but I learned about those too late into the process.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:47 a.m. CST


    by John Ary

    What is this "Maniac" movie you speak of? I'll have to check that out.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 9:53 a.m. CST


    by Red Ned Lynch

    Joe Spinell (obligatory mentioning of the fact that he was in the godfather) and Caroline Munro. Fairly nasty slasher. Overrated, I've always thought, but it certainly caused a stir at the time and has had a cult following since. If you really like it gmork, please don't kill me. I'm not judging and I love things that are much, much worse.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 10:30 a.m. CST


    by Joe Hart

    I love Black Sabbath, especially the end of the vampire story: The only survivor is the horse!

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 10:38 a.m. CST

    Now that is a movie poster! (second one)

    by moonlightdrive

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Quint reviewed this already

    by Davidhessstation

    Quint did this one already a year or so ago. How about some more obscure films?

  • I have never seen this movie, because I never truly knew what it was about. I will rectify that tonight. Thanks ary.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 11:18 a.m. CST


    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...Amazon recently added a crop of Corman/Poe stuff that is no longer on Netflix, gor both Re-Animator and From Beyond and added a bunch of oddities, like some Ossorio Blind Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, House of Exorcism (the bad, recut version of Lisa and the Devil) and cult junk like Don't Look in the Basement. They also tossed in The Haunted Palace (Poe poem in the title, Lovecraft story Dexter Ward as the basis), The Oblong Box (great Price and Lee pairing) and the original My Bloody Valentine. Some good Halloween munchies, there. Still not as good a selection as Netflix, though stupid Netflix lost both Behind the Mask and Trick-r-Treat right before Halloween.

  • It was made out of wax and paint. He did other sculptures for his son's films as well.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 12:37 p.m. CST

    This was the first truly scary movie I saw as a child...

    by DellsDontBounce

    back in the mid-60's. I actually hid behind my couch when it was on TV uncut!

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 1:34 p.m. CST

    red ned lynch

    by Monnie Knapp

    I just recently caught Maniac, but thought it was much better than most 80s slashes pictures. My wife qnd I ended up discussing the feminist aspects of the film. It was much more cerebral than, say, The Burning (though both films feature makeup by Tom Savini). It's also, in my opinion, William Lustig's best picture. Though the casts of Maniac Cop and Vigilante are far superior. Anyhow, no worries, I don't hate people for not falling in step with my film tastes.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 1:41 p.m. CST


    by Monnie Knapp

    Methinks you do protest too much, but we shall soon find out.

  • This movie scared the bejeezus out of me when I saw it as a kid at the drive in. The dead lady's face, along with the floating woman in the original House on Haunted Hill gave me nightmare willies for years, and I believe helped influence the make up for Regan in the Exorcist. Scary stuff for a 10 year old.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST




  • Oct. 3, 2012, 5:42 p.m. CST

    liking the first vignette more doesn't make me insane

    by Monnie Knapp

    An undying devotion to the teachings of David Icke, L. Ron Hubbard and Karl Rove... that makes me fucking insane! That and the "inappropriate pooping."

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 6:15 p.m. CST

    dead old ladies are sooo bone-chilling!!!

    by Goregazer

    Seriously. The one thing that freaks me out in horror movies is decrepit old grannies. I'm a grown adult, and I STILL cannot bear to watch the "Room 237" scene in The Shining. I even have to mute the volume to avoid her laughter. Anyway, Black Sabbath is a classic. I love it when old classics like this one are posted about.

  • It was a really cool way to experience the film (having seen it well into double digits). The Room 237 scene was still effective without the visual, that old lady is forever scorched into my brain.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 7:20 p.m. CST

    You know, The Car...

    by Red Ned Lynch available on Netflix. Just saying.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 7:26 p.m. CST


    by Red Ned Lynch left out Alex Jones...and squishy eyeball syndrome. And hey, I don't dislike Maniac but man for awhile it was hyped as a landmark horror film, and I just never thought it was that. And it seems we both love The Shining anyway.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 7:50 p.m. CST

    Italian version is way better..

    by darthwaz1

    Anchor Bay released a great dvd version of it.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 8:05 p.m. CST

    red ned

    by Monnie Knapp

    The Shining is my favorite Kubrick and definitely IS a landmark film. Maniac was one I put off for years, and when I finally did it impressed me quite a bit, simply because it wasn't terrible and had some depth. The atmosphere of early 80s New York is also grubbily nostalgic. I agree, it's no The Thing or Dawn of the Dead, but it's better than a lot of slasher-film schlock. And it's a hell of a lot better than most of the watered down, vacuous shit they call "horror" now. Yet, I digress... That scene in the Shining with Jack and Danny sitting on the bed? Up there with the creepiest shit in the film.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 8:07 p.m. CST

    Oh look! It's Helena Bonham Carter!

    by tangcameo

    she hasn't aged well at all

  • Oct. 4, 2012, 1 a.m. CST

    This movie is great for one reason.

    by CimmerianWarrior

    It inspired Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi to name their band Black Sabbath. That is far more significant than the movie ever was. The band that created Heavy Metal.

  • Oct. 4, 2012, 1:25 a.m. CST

    The Waterdrop

    by Baragon

    Yeesh! This segment starts off quite normally. Lady swipes the ring off the dead old lady's hand and then....well, the tension just starts ramping up from there. The Telephone is the weakest part but the Boris Karloff segment to finish the whole thing off is superb. Get this dvd because you won't regret it.

  • Oct. 8, 2012, 3:18 p.m. CST

    Thought Karloff intros were cut from US version

    by tensaip

    I've seen the Italian version and it has a wacko BTS epilogue showing Karloff on the film set riding the dummy horse.

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:44 a.m. CST


    by L. Ron Bumquist


  • Oct. 16, 2012, 11:04 a.m. CST

    Too Bad only the Italian version is available on DVD

    by Jack Desmondi

    Other than the improved print quality over the old "American International Pictures" VHS version, I'll take the "Americanized" version every day. Italian DVD doesn't even keep Karloff's voice and is subtitled.

  • Oct. 19, 2012, 3:41 p.m. CST

    Re: When You're Talking About Ridley Scott "Being Influenced" ...

    by ArmageddonProductions

    ... by Mario Bava for ALIEN, don't you mean "PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES" and not THE DAY THE SKY EXPLODED?!? Scott purloined a good fifty percent of the aesthetic for ALIEN, particularly the planet and the derelict, from PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and would then go on to rip off even more of it for PROMETHEUS (aspects of the titular ship, all the stuff he carried over from ALIEN and the spacesuits).