February 16, 1961 [Black Sunday]

I want Black Sunday to be silly--and it complies, every once in a while: the puppet-bat attack in the crypt, the secret passageways and creepy family portraits--but the corpses look like they want to tell a secret--even with tiny scorpions coming out of their eyes and mouths--and one Barbara Steele as the witch-cum-vampire stares like a voluptuous doll, her small round face and big round eyes smooth and black, a Freudian delight without regrets--even though she plays herself also as an innocent.

But this picture doesn't believe in innocence, just guilt and punishment. It is a typically Gothic world--something like the 1930s graveyards in which Colin Clive rummaged around, clammy and expressionistic, with grasping tree branches, as though Snow White had died for good and was haunting the place, making the wind moan through the organ pipes, drawing us underground. And violent, like Psycho last year, eager to show you what happens when flesh is pierced. And OK, the witch/vampire is dispatched, but not before she reaches out her hand and--right there on the screen, the camera refusing to look away--tries to turn the girl into a hag, speeding up time so that it can eat its fill.


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