Black Magic Rites (1973) – By Duane L. Martin

Ok, I’m going to start this review off with the synopsis from the Kino website. I’ll get to why I’m doing that in a moment.

Kino’s Synopsis: "In a mountaintop castle, devil worshippers 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. The 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 into the cult’s evil orbit, Laureen is targeted as the final sacrifice in order to restore Isabella’s terrifying power."

Now, as to why I’m using their synopsis. Have you ever watched a film, and when it was over, all you could do was sit there and think to yourself, "What the hell was that?" Well, this is one of those films. Even now, after I’ve had a day to think about it, I still don’t know what the hell I saw. I mean, I watched it. I saw some hot girls and boobs and some gore effects that make Blood Feast look Oscar worthy…and yet, the film is so fragmented, it’s damn near impossible to watch it and actually get anything out of it. The most I could get out of it was that back in the past, this woman named Isabella was burned at the stake and had a stake pounded through her chest, and now in the modern day, some cult is trying to bring her back to life by killing virgins and cutting out their hearts. Most of the people in the film seem to have been reincarnated from the people who were involved in this past incident…and there ya go. Now you know about as much as I do.

You may wonder if I have anything good to say about the film. Surprisingly, I do.

First, visually, it can be rather cool at times. The castle setting is interesting, and the use of color in the film is very effective in creating a mood. Second, there are some very attractive girls in this film, and we get to see their boobs. That’s about it.

About the best way I can describe this film is that some Italian who makes art films that no one understands, dropped LSD and then fell asleep and had an LSD induced nightmare, woke up, and made a film out of it. The LSD didn’t help. Not only is the film fragmented and hard to follow, but the pacing of the film is plodding at best, and when it comes down to it, even in the most exciting scenes, it’s slow to the point of just becoming horribly boring.

The acting is, well…it’s hard to say. It’s in Italian, so we get to hear the original performances, but the only thing I can really say about the quality of it all is that it’s pretty typical of the Italian style of film acting from this time period and in this genre. If you’ve seen films like this from that era, you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like. Otherwise, what I just said will likely be rather meaningless to you. Suffice it to say that there was nothing special in the performances. Mostly, they were as boring as the film itself.

This blu-ray release from Kino Lorber doesn’t have any special features except for the film’s trailer. It was mastered in HD from the original 35mm negatives. Both the audio and visual quality is very good, especially considering the age of the film, so at least about the quality, I have no complaints. This doesn’t surprise me though, because Kino Lorber is a top tier company, and the quality of their releases is always excellent.}

I’ve been reviewing films for over ten years now, and this is one of those incredibly rare films that has just stumped me. I’m well aware of how poor the quality of this review is, and I apologize for that. Mostly it’s just because I don’t really know what to say about this one. If it was bizarre but coherent, it’d be worth seeing. It’s bizarre all right, but coherent doesn’t even enter into the picture, so my recommendation would be to skip this one unless you want to see an psychadelic style Italian art film with boobs. On paper, that sounds pretty cool. In execution however, it’s not.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here. and if you’d like to grab a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.