The Movie: Viy (1967)
What Is It?: Adapted with greater fidelity from the same Nikolai Gogol novella that inspired Black Sunday, Viy couldn’t be more different from Mario Bava’s masterpiece. Directors Georgi Kropachyou and Konstantin Yershov favor goony humor and Hammer-style color over Bava’s dour tone and dark shadows. The vampire-witch fades into the background to allow us to empathize more with the bearded priest who kills her, played by Leonid Kuravlyov with a delightful streak of comic callowness. When she rises from the dead each night to torment him, the silliness melts away to reveal an effectively creepy core. The demonic orgy she throws on the final night is a tour de force of budget monster design and special effects.
Why Today?: On this day in 1689, Russia instates a beard tax.