Schlock & Awe: BLACK MAGIC RITES
By Kyle Anderson on May 8, 2014
The term “erotic horror,” especially from the ’70s, generally just refers to movies with a lot of bare breasts and a lot of fake blood. Black Magic Rites (a/k/a The Resurrection of Isabel) is an Italian erotic horror movie from the ’70s with a lot of bare breasts and a lot of fake blood. The work of filmmaker Renato Polselli (credited as Ralph Brown), Black Magic Rites is the epitome of ’70s Italian schlock, putting far more emphasis on look and atmosphere than actually constructing a coherent plot. One can’t help but be reminded of the work of French counterpart Jean Rollin, releases of similar subject matter and tone, but it becomes immediately apparent that the French offerings, for all their faults, at least came from a director attempting to do something different. I never thought I’d have to say this, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do a nudity-filled vampire movie.
Annoyingly, this was the best video I could find from this movie.
The “story,” for want of a more accurate word, takes place in a 14th Century castle recently purchased and renovated by Jack Nelson (Mickey Hargitay), a rich guy. He invites a group of young, attractive people for an engagement party for his niece Laureen (Rita Calderoni) and local swarthy Italian gentleman Richard (William Darni). No one seems to care too much that several of the girls in the village have been found with their hearts cut out, not when there’s booze to be a-drinkin’. They also don’t seem to mind the weird occultist and his scarred acolyte who seem to hang out around the castle a bunch. What nobody knows is that the Satan worshippers are in the castle’s extensive cellar feeding the hearts of the young girls to Isabel (also played by Calderoni), the witch/vampire/evil queen who was put to death in the 1300s. She’s in a veritable state of topless, pale suspended animation until the 25th Moon, when she will be able to come back to life, possessing the body of someone else. It’s probably gonna be the one who’s played by the same person.
We then get an excessively long scene depicting Isabel’s heart-staking and burning. All of the people at the party in the present are witnesses to the decades-old incineration. Jack is a vampire (possibly Dracula…okay) who was Isabel’s lover and also the reason she’s being executed. All of the other men are vampires also who’ve come back to see Isabel resurrect. The girls in the present are the reincarnated versions of the same women who shouted that Isabel be burnt all those years ago. None of this is explained until about 5 minutes before the end, mind you, so for the bulk of the film you just think Polselli couldn’t afford other actors or, more likely, you’ve simply lost your mind.
The entire middle of the movie makes no sense at all and goes on forever. I could have turned the subtitles off and gotten the same amount out of the proceedings as I did with them on. One of the girls is apparently killed, but not really, and the occultists bury her in the ground where she tries in vain to break her way out, and then they turn her into a vampire. K. Great. We also get some comic relief in the form of a perpetually nude blonde woman, an irritating virgin who’s scared of sex, and an overweight, hairy guy with a twitchy eye. They roll around on the bed and essentially deflower the virgin. I say it’s comic relief because the musical cue during this scene is something out of a Laurel and Hardy short. I guess Italians thought that kind of stuff was funny.
Black Magic Rites has some interesting visuals and the editing is typically nutty for the time period and country of origin, but mostly it’s just an incoherent mess, only notable for having more bare breasts on screen than an episode of Game of Thrones. I think if you’re interested in certain, ahem, herbal medications, this is probably just psychedelic and bat-sh-t enough to keep your interest, but for those of us who don’t partake, it’s just bizarre. And, let’s be honest, there are far better boobs and blood movies from which to choose.