Tuesday, January 21, 2020

By the Gods!

Hélène Chanel and Pierre Brice in THE TERROR OF THE BLACK MASK (1963; L'invincibile cavaliere mascherato)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi, this is one of those Zorro/Masked Avenger movies popular back then. Dozens and dozens were made. Some are pretty good while some are just average. I wouldn't call this movie average, even though it is, but derivative. The usually reliable direction by Umberto Lenzi, who directed some of the most solid actioners of the period including SAMSON & THE SLAVE QUEEN (1963), SANDOKAN THE GREAT or PIRATES OF MALAYSIA (both 1964), is oddly uninspired here. The movie feels like it's running in circles, going back and forth with the same 4 or 5 settings, including a dining chamber that's not very convincing. A lot of the action occurs in this set, which looks very artificial. Like a set. The careful, meticulous direction by Lenzi is not present. Instead, we see the same scenes repeat themselves over and over again.

The movie sorta lacks vision. Some have said it's bland, and, again, it is but some good direction or cinematography can elevate a bland story and characters in being better than it is. In this case, both the direction or cinematography are nothing remarkable. The camera angles and composition of the repetitive scenes are sorta lazy. The movie is not bad by any means. As I've already wrote, it's just not inspired.

The story is about a wealthy man, Don Gomez (Nerio Bernardi), killed in an ambush, at the behest of the many villains in this story (see below), with Daniele Vargas being the main bad guy, Don Luis. Luis inherits the 'welfare' of the dead man's estate, including his daughter, Carmencita (Chanel) who is trapped in his castle. The story takes place during an outbreak of the plague, or Black Death. A masked Avenger, called the Black Mask, also terrorizes the populace, and is a thorn on the side of the many villains.

The Black Death storyline is the most interesting aspect of this movie and is sometimes handled in a morbid manner without being too gruesome.

The beautiful Hélène Chanel looks sorta matronly in this movie. Some of the clothes and wigs weren't fitted properly, making her look older and more unkempt than needed be. The climax takes place during a costume party and Hélène is dressed in a gaudy Cleopatra-like costume. The dashing Pierre Brice excelled in these roles and this one is no exception. The odd thing, Brice's first on-screen appearance happens 35 minutes into a 90 minutes long movie. At one point I wondered if his role would amount to a cameo. The denouement of the story is sorta convoluted and I actually need to watch it again to make sure I got things right.

I have the Italian, German and English versions. The English version, which I've recently acquired, is a Fan Dub made by someone not known to me. The opening credits were also remade (on computer) from scratch and are in English. A pretty good Fan Dub but the voices sometimes do not match the actors from time to time.


I give 6 out of 10.

Hero Pierre Brice. Is he the Black Mask avenger?

Hélène Chanel is the 'damsel in distress'.

The many villains: Damile Vargas, Carlo Latimer, Massimo Serato and Aldo Bufi Landi

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