31 July 2014


The Queen. Barbara Steele was born in Birkenhead, England in 1938. The striking British actress initiated her career by making a few films with modest success, including her debut in 1958 with a minor role in the comedy Bachelor of Hearts.

Then it was on to Italy, where she teamed up with director Mario Bava for Black Sunday aka La maschera del demonio. Steele made an impact in the dual roles of Asa and Katia - and helped contribute to making the gothic terror an overall masterpiece. Horror history had been made.

Steele has said that she did Black Sunday in a panic. She hadn't worked for two years and she was prepared to take anything. Luckily for her, the film was a huge hit and she finally found her niche in the genre.

From then on, it was role after role as a vamp, witch, ghost - or some other dark sorceress. The great thing about Steele is that she was able to be sexy and attractive, yet scare you in the same movie.

Her prolific career includes roles in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) directed by Roger Corman, The Ghost (1963) directed by Riccardo Freda, 1964's Danza macabra (aka Castle of Blood) directed by Antonio Margheriti, Terror Creatures from the Grave (1965) directed by Ralph Zucker, Nightmare Castle (1965) directed by Mario Caiano, The She-Beast (1966) directed by Michael Reeves and 1975's Shivers (aka They Came From Within) directed by David Cronenberg.

Yet, Steele didn't restrict herself solely to Italian gothic thrillers. In 1980, she was featured in Silent Scream, one of the better post-Halloween thriller slashers. She shines in the showy role of a lobotomized mute living in an attic with a penchant for murdering the young borders staying in the house.

Perhaps identifying with some of the character she played, Steele says: "I love witchcraft, the supernatural. All that's intuitive. I don't like people who are too rational."

In his book Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors, author Calvin Thomas Beck writes of Steele and her film career:

'Her emergence in the sixties brought not only glamour to the horror film but also a grand style that was allied with a return to the origins of the genre. Measuring 35-22-35, with raven tresses framing her bone-china complexion and liquid-green eyes...

She is Horror Chic personified.'

Indeed, we couldn't have said it better. Our favorite image? In Black Sunday, as Katia, standing outside Asa's tomb with two huge dogs as companions. Awesome.

NOTABLE FILMS YEAR
Black Sunday 1960
Castle of Blood 1964
Curse of the Crimson Altar 1968
The Ghost 1963
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock 1962
The Long Hair of Death 1964
Nightmare Castle 1965
Piranha 1978
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961
The She-Beast 1966
Shivers 1975
Silent Scream 1980
Terror Creatures from the Grave 1965
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