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Moldavia, the Dark Ages: Witch Asa (Barbara Steele) & her lover Javutich
(Arturo Dominici) are branded with the sign of Satan, masks with spikes on the
inside to destroy their features are forced upon them & their lifeless
bodies are buried.
200 years later: 2 doctors, Andrej (John Richardson) &
his mentor Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) are passing through the very forest Asa
& Javutich were buried in, stumble over her crypt, &, with the typical
mix of curiosity, ignorance & neglect, they open her coffin, remove her
mask & somehow, some of Kruvajan's blood gets onto her face ... of course,
that soon gives her the power to revive Javutich, who soon goes after local
nobleman Vajda (Ivo Garrani), a descendant of the man who killed them 200 years
ago, but has to refrain from killing him only because that man has taken the
precautions of wearing a cruzifix.
But Javutich & Asa have other plans
& soon bring Kruvajan, who has since taken up residence in the nearby
village with Andrej, under their spell, & he finishes what Javutich has
The next day, Andrej, looking for his mentor at castle Vajda, learns
what his mentor is supposed to have tone from Vajda's son Constantine (Enrico
Olivieri) & daughter Katja, a splitting image of Asa (& thus also
played by Barbara Steele). & while he, together with Constantine & the
local priest (Antonio Pierfederici) still tries to figure out what on earth is
happening here - & how to fight it -, Javutich & Katja already plan to
bring Katja under their spell, to suck out her youth & make Asa young again
In the end, when Andrejh dashes in, the rejuvenation process seems almost
complete, & Andrej prepares to murder Katja - whom he thinks to be asa -
when he notices a cruzifix around her neck ... which she could never wear was
she a witch ...
In the end, an angry mob of villagers burn Asa &
Javutich, & with Asa being destroyed, life (& youth) returns to Katja
Despite a rather muddled screenplay, this is horror-filmmaking
at its finest: A creepy atmosphere of unease effortlessly carries the story
from beginning to end, helped by an ingenious use of the film's cheap &
limited sets, & of course the eeriness of the onscreen-goings-on are
perfectly mirrored uint he otherworldly beauty of Barbara Steele.
By the way
the directorial debut of cinematographer Mario Bava (even though he seems to be
rumored to have co-directed every other Italian film since roughly 1950 -
usually with little proof). & even if he did make quite a few escellent
movies (most notably Terrore nel
Spazio/Planet of the
Vampires) - and quite a few bad ones -, he (arguably) never against
reached the heights of this one.