Barbara Steele

Authored by: Nia Edwards-Behi

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter I will offer an overview of Barbara Steele’s career as an actress, with a focus on those films which confirm her position as a cult star. While best known for her essential presence in Italian Gothic cinema of the 1960s, Steele also boasts several films later in her career which confirm her cult stardom. In many ways, Steele’s cult status seems inextricably linked to her roles in Italian Gothic films, including foremost her dual role as Asa and Katia in Mario Bava’s The Mask of Satan (‘La Maschera del Demonio’, 1960). This star-making role set the precedent for the interpretation of the majority of Steele’s subsequent (mostly Italian) horror film roles. Her roles in Italian Gothic films were often dual – at once playing a monstrous figure and an innocent victim. In some ways this duality is reflected in her cult status too – while initially known and loved for her Gothic films, the later part of her career is notable for a string of appearances in a variety of cult films. More recently, Steele has been featured in several films which have utilised her position as a cult star as representative and iconic of the films for which she is best known.

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