Now this was a nice surprise. A twisted, loony Seventies madhouse of a movie - originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.
Black Magic Rites
was originally titled Riti, Magie Nere E Segrete Orge Nel Trecento... (which translates to “Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the Fourteenth Century...” and also sometimes called The Reincarnation of Isabel. All in all, a collection of names as loopy and vague as its plot. This is not a bad thing. One character towards the end says “Don't try to understand it,” and this is very good advice indeed.
In short, our plot has walking beefslab Jack Nelson (Micky Hargitay)
buying a share of a castle already occupied by a vampiric cult of
devil-worshipping men in red long underwear (with rear flaps, no doubt)
who are murdering women in order to bring back Isabella, their long-dead
mistress of bad body makeup. The fact that she burned to death in no
way impacts the opportunities to show her topless with a painted ragged
hole below her breasts. As in all horror stories involving
reincarnation, everyone has a past life involving poor old Miss Issy, so
we're asked to care that the cult targets Hargitay's wooden niece (Rita
Calderoni) to be the next piece of kindling on their bonfire.
The local village, seemingly made up entirely of pretty young fashion
victims, is far too superstitious to do anything but go along with all
the killing, past and present. They're also unflappable, as the
occasional orgy, murder, or occurrence of casual public nudity don't
seem to effect them in the least.
From first frame to last,
this is a constant wash of stylish Italian film-making. No opportunity
to add striking washes of colored light, smoky atmosphere, or a clever
camera angle is passed up. Lousy audio dubbing, nonsensical editing, and
overpowering musical cues only increase the psychedelic impact of the
film's style. Most disorienting of all, though, is that no character
acts in any way that even remotely resembles a human being. Be it
bloodthirsty villagers or the most awkward movie-party guests this side
of Midnight Cowboy and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,
they seem to have been directed by Renato Polselli to engage in
highly-stylized “Performance Art” rather than “performance.” The two
main modes are “over-emote” and “meaningfully vacuous stare into the
middle distance.” Comic relief characters like “Eye-twitch Guy” and
flighty Stephy, possibly one of the oddest and most awful performances
in cinema history, somehow only exacerbate the ghoulishness of the
That said, it all adds up to a magnificent
example of dreamlike Eurosleaze with an impact on the viewer reminiscent
of the illogical, idiosyncratic horror films of Dario Argento,
Mario Bava, Jean Rollin, Lucio Fulci (with less gore), and Jess
Franco... and no, I'm not exaggerating by dropping those names. The odd
behavior, leaps of logic, and characters who seem to lack control also
make “nightmarish” perhaps a good descriptive. Polselli definitely
proves to be a director of vision with this film. There's a cumulative
effect these glowering, weirdly behaving cyphers, with their lack of
reason or rhyme and predetermined air of doom, have on the viewer. Taken
in pieces Black Magic Rites is a terrible mess, but as
a whole, this is surprisingly compelling stuff and definitely worth
checking out for discerning genre fans.
Filled with psychedelic '70s style by Italian cult director Renato Polselli (Delirium), this satanic shocker pulses with violently erotic energy, and is a must see for horror aficionados.
In a mountaintop castle, devil worshippers (sic)
hunt down virgins and cut out their hearts to restore life to their
Great Mistress Isabella (Rita Calderoni), a witch who was burned to
death centuries before. Their castle is purchased by the unwitting Jack
Nelson (Mickey Hargitay, former husband of Jayne Mansfield), whose niece
Laureen (also played by Rita Calderoni) bears a striking resemblance to
Mistress Isabella. Drawn to the cult's evil orbit, Laureen is targeted
as the final sacrifice in order to restore Isabella's terrifying power.
Audio & Video:
A remastered 1973 film presented in Widescreen HD, it looks and sounds
as good as it can. There are flecks and flutters in the film that
obviously come from the source materials, but the digital transfer is
pristine. The stereo Italian audio is, as was customary at the time,
Very limited, only trailers and English subtitles.
Overdone, illogical, and nightmarish (in the authentic sense of the word), Black Magic Rites
is a hidden gem of Eurosleaze style. Equal parts awful and compelling,
with candy colors and horrible acting, it's an obscure must-watch for
fans of 70s Italian horror.