Black Magic Rites
Director - Renato Polselli
Cast - Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni
Country of Origin - Italy
MSRP - $19.95
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (3.5/5)
Renato Polselli created a couple of the absolutely most insane pieces of early 70's Italian horror cinema, yet his work is known only to those truly obsessive genre aficionados. His giallo the Mickey Hargitay starring Delirium truly lives up to it's name with a blend of sadomasochistic violence, and a truly bizarre lead performance. However, his psychotronic masterpiece would have to be his later gothic work, Black Magic Rites (The Reincarnation of Isabel).
Black Magic Rites reunites the Delirium duo of Rita Calderoni and Mickey Hargitay in a truly bizarre gothic horror tale. The films stars Mickey Hargitay as ummm Jack Nelson/Count Dracula who in the 14th century watched his one great love the Isabella get staked in the heart, and burnt alive. He has spent the intervening centuries attempting to resurrect her.
In order to do this he organizes a cult of red leotard wearing blood drinkers to rip the hearts out of local virgins. Once they reach the night of the 25th Moon, and have collected the hearts of enough virgins, the spirit of Isabella can enter Laureen (Rita Calderoni) a modern woman who just so happens to be the spitting image of Isabelle herself.
Honestly, this movie has no plot at all. I pretty much got this off the back of the box, coupled with what I could from my viewing (which happens to be my third). Black Magic Rites falls into the nonlinear, dreamlike category of European horror films. However, in most of those films you can seemingly put a plot together from the sequences you are seeing on screen in Black Magic Rites it is much more difficult to truly discern the plot, even after multiple viewings.
The first half an hour of the film to give an example shows the sacrifice of a young girl in a torture chamber. While this sacrifice is occurring this film cuts to the images of other young women from the surrounding village, and then cuts back to the torture chamber, from a conversation later on in the film it appears that these girls had a simultaneous vision of the sacrifice in progress, and were thus destined to be virginal sacrifices themselves.
However, if this review were here to complain about the plot of this film, I could probably film pages upon pages. I, however, decided to take another approach with this viewing, and just shut off my desire for a cohesive plot, and watch Black Magic Rites as a sort of Experimental Horror Film, and lot the images, and performances work there way over me, and while this method does not make the film a masterpiece, it does offer a better experience than trying to discern a plot where their truly isn't one. What we are left with is a film by a director with a great visual eye, excellent colors, interesting violence, and copious amounts of nudity on display.
Hargitay as usual makes an interesting lead performer, and any reason to get Calderoni (Nude for Satan) on the screen is always a good one. Overall, Black Magic Rites makes for a bizarre, fun slice of psychotronic Eurohorror cinema. I would simply suggest going in with tempered expectations in regard to conventional plotting, and possibly have a few drinks, and you may find yourself having a fun time.
Kino/Redemption have presented Renato Polselli's Black Magic Rites with a completely solid 1:78:1 AVC encoded transfer. I have watched this film on 3 separate occasions on 3 separate disc (Redemption DVD, CheezyFlix DVD, and now the Blu-ray), and I have to say if you are a fan of this film than all other editions can now be safely retired. The transfer on this disc is a wonderful thing to see, the garish color scheme of the film practically POPS from the screen. The black levels are inky and deep, and flesh tones are largely accurate. Their is a nice level of film grain throughout the transfer. That being said there is print damage throughout, but that does not really detract from the experience, and really offers a more filmlike viewing experience. Overall, another stunning transfer from those awesome folks at Kino/Redemption.
The audio is presented in a similarly excellent LPCM mono track in Italian with Optional English subtitles. The dialogue (and frequent screams) were clear and crisp throughout. The music and effects were mixed well. I did not detect any audio anomalies such as cracks, pops, or hissing on the track.
I know Renato Polselli's dead, but a film this weird deserves a few extras to give it some context. We get the films theatrical trailer.
A truly bizarre psychotronic Eurohorror trashterpiece. This film is chock full of violence, nudity, and completely bizarre plot twist. It is directed in the vein of a non-linear experiment in horror, and has an amazing comic like color scheme. The A/V is fantastic on this disc, and although the extras are slim this definitely comes recommended to EuroHorror aficionados, and those looking for truly bizarre cinematic experiences.