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After Black Sunday

La maschera del demonio became one of the most successful and influential horror films of all time. Not only did it put both Bava and Italian Gothic cinema on the map, it made a star out of Barbara Steele, who went on to appear in several Italian chillers, consolidating her position as the Queen of Euro Horror.

It was also a lucrative time for Bava. Thanks to American International Pictures, several of his films were distributed with some success in America. Bava’s association with AIP enabled him to direct several films for the studio as well make use of contract stars Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Even top Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis assigned him a big budget venture in the shape of Danger Diabolik (1967).

But it is fair to say that the critical acclaim heaped on Bava in his first credited movie as a director meant Black Sunday would be a hard act to follow, and Like Orson Welles with Citizen Kane (1941), Bava never quite equalled his early brilliance.

But unlike Welles, Bava was not a director forever searching for another masterpiece. He continued working in a variety of genres, and his links with AIP meant his profile as a filmmaker would remain high. However his subsequent output is variable at best.

Among the high spots included Black Sabbath (1963), Blood and Black Lace(1964), which started the Italian giallo genre and the unique Planet of the Vampires (1965) – a clear inspiration for the science fiction horror Alien(1979). But these efforts were often eclipse by the nadir that was Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1967). Even Danger Diabolik was a long way off cinematic brilliance, and showed that Bava worked better within a tight budget.

By 1970, Bava’s visual style quickly went out of fashion as Italian horror became much gorier with the changing times with Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Bava’s own son Lamberta spearheading this new wave of blood and guts. as the seventies continued, Bava became less prolific as a director although he continued working as a special effects coordinator.

Mario Bava died on 27 April 1980. Although he never quite achieved the brilliance of Black Sunday in subsequent movies, his legacy as one of Euro Gothic’s greatest filmmakers will never be equalled

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