-- By Brett Stillo
1960 was a year of change for the horror film. Alfred Hitchcock drove a knife into the collective consciousness of movie audiences with Psycho, and movies soon followed that twisted the blade. Peeping Tom, Eyes Without a Face, House of Usher...these films took a darker, twisted path, going further than most contemporary horror movies of the era. Two standout films of this seminal year, the supernatural thrillers Black Sunday and City of the Dead will play Tonight, Wednesday, May 25th, at San Francisco’s historic Balboa Theatre at 7pm.
Black Sunday is the stunning directorial debut of legendary Italian director Mario Bava It’s an old-fashioned tale of witches, ghosts, and vampires set amid rotting Victorian splendor, but Bava conjures a grisly visual style that’s bold and shocking. It's a bit ironic that this master of vivid color cinematography launched his directorial career with a black and white movie, and yet the color seems abundant in this gothic-goes-to-the-Drive-In opus. Bava crafts a tapestry of shadows, layer after layer of dark images from a palette that ranges from thick walls of black to opaque shades of pale grey. These monochromatic layers create a weird pseudo-3D effect that makes the backgrounds seem to reach out beyond the screen. Add the haunting beauty of a 23-year-old actress named Barbara Steele and you have one of the true classics among horror films.