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A mixed bag of horrors
on 22 December 2007
Mario Bava's entry in the Cormanesque compilation horror stakes, The Three Faces of Fear aka Black Sabbath suffers the format's common problem - the variable quality of the individual stories. In this case, in the Italian cut at least, that's somewhat exacerbated by having the best of the three in the middle of the picture, leaving it somewhat anticlimactic. The stories' heritage isn't in doubt, based on stories by Chekhov, Tolstoy and Maupassant, but neither opener The Telephone, about a woman harassed by phone calls that may be from the lover she betrayed to the police, or A Drop of Water, about a nurse who finds herself terrorized by her imagination after stealing a ring from a dead woman she laid out, offer much in the way of surprise or chills. Neither, it's true, does the central and longest story, The Wurdalak, yet that tale of a family gradually picked off by vampires cursed to drink the blood of those they love most in the world is executed with enough panache, striking visuals and unexpected nastiness (a child is the first to die) to keep you intrigued even though you know exactly where it's going. A dubbed Boris Karloff provides the star power for this sequence as well as the introduction and epilogue, which features an initially inept shot that turns into a truly delightful in-joke by the time the end credit is ready to appear (the new intros he filmed for the US version of the film are not included on Anchor Bay's DVD of the original Italian version, although they can be glimpsed in the disc's US trailer, part of an actionably misleading US advertising campaign that included a poster of a headless horseman that doesn't appear in either version of the film!).
Thankfully Arrow's UK Region B-locked Blu-ray/DVD combo offers a much more definitive package, with beautifully remastered transfers of the original Italian and re-edited US versions (the US version rearranging the order to climax with Karloff's Wurdalak), audio commentary by Tim Lucas, a useful half-hour comparison of the two versions and, on the accompanying DVD versions only, an interview with co-star turned exploitation movie producer Mark Damon and a selection of trailers and TV spots for the film.