Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Black Magic Rites (1973)

also known as The Reincarnation of Isabel

So, there's this castle somewhere. In the castle lives this guy with a mustache (Raul Lovecchio) who is often bathed in green and red light and who reads books that contain sentences like "Vampires need blood that's not contaminated by human semen.".

His cousin (possibly one of the dozen characters stumbling through the film, or not) sells his half of the family castle to another guy with a mustache. Second mustache guy moves in with his fiancee Laureen (Rita Calderoni) and a horde of people including Laureen's mother (I think) and a dozen or so young women (relation to everyone else unknown) who are really really into dropping their clothes, fetishistically fondling shawls, screaming hysterically and sex. Especially sex.

Unfortunately, the castle's cellar has a direct connection to The Underworld, where four guys dressed like the Satanist version of the Three Supermen (but with face paint) are performing sacrificial rituals to revive the the witch Isabella (also Rita Calderoni), who hangs crucified on a wall of The Underworld.

There are also vampires around, or one vampire who is possibly Count Dracula himself (Mickey Hargitay) or rather his reincarnation. Turns out everyone in the castle is the reincarnation of someone connected to the witch's death some centuries ago, therefore stuff happens to them. Some get killed, some are dragged into The Underworld, some get buried alive, all get naked (yes, even the ugly pudgy dude, sorry). Other stuff happens. The end.

I admit defeat here. Usually, I am able to distill a small amount of sense even out of the most bizarre Italian sleaze fests, but this thing beats me. I suspect Black Magic Rites was directed by Alfonso Brescia's even more insane evil twin after stealing the identity of Italian filione director Renato Polselli, but as far as I can tell, it might have been made by Nyarlathotep himself.

Though there is much going on during the course of the movie, nothing of it makes any sense at all, be it on a plot level, on a metaphorical level, or just on the level of plain human sanity. When the film "explains" what is happening (after about 50 minutes of flashbacks, dream sequences, possible dream sequences, sudden scenes of Italian sex farce stuff and, well, other stuff), everything makes even less sense.

Even if one starts from the theory that Polselli had a bunch of actors, a cool looking castle and a camera, but most certainly no script as mankind understands the word yet still proceeded to make a film just for the love of the naked female breast, this does not explain the obvious care put into the bizarre flash cutting, the film's sometimes meandering, sometimes jumping between "reality", "dream" and scenes that make no sense as either "reality" or "dream". Or, you know, anything else about this thing.

Really nothing about this film seems explicable in any sense of the word I know of. If the film's goal was just to show us as many naked women as possible, wouldn't there have been easier ways to do it? If the goal was to make a horror film, wouldn't even the Italian style of doing things quick and on the cheap have called for a bit more sense (or sensibility)? Why write a script (if there was one) in which every utterance makes no frigging sense at all, neither in the context of the things we see, nor in the context of people usually using language to communicate something or shout at each other on the Internet? Why set your actors up to act only through blank zoned-out staring or screaming melodramatic hysterics?

In the end Black Magic Rites comes to us as a true enigma, a "film" seemingly made for no audience one could conceive of, consciously or druggedly using stylistic techniques to put its viewers into a state of pure befuddlement, puzzling and bewildering even for the most hardened lover of puzzling and bewildering things. I probably don't have to say that I loved it in all its glorious, sloppy, nonsensical, breast-loving majesty.

Now, some of you, my (mostly silent) readers, might think that this write-up makes no sense at all. You might even feel a tad confused by it. Please be assured that this is only a fraction of the effect the film itself will have on you.


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