Black Magic Terror
Bartok Kinski | Prague | 07/14/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I wouldn't know where to begin to explain this oddity. There's plenty of nasty black magic mumbo-jumbo crap going on like insect attacks, worm-infested drownings, flying heads, exploding sores, fireballs etc. We get to see maggot-infested bodies and food bowls, exploding spellcraft victims, hilarious and stupid dialogue (and dubbing) and exotic locations in the jungles of Indonesia.
Queen of Black Magic (1979) is a "sequel-in-name" to the two Black Magic films that came out from the Shaw Brothers in HK, in the 70's. The sound effects and dubbing department are hilarious, which makes this film all the more worthwhile.
Sometimes I just can't help but think of this movie as a good counterpart to the cannibal films that came out of Italy in the late '70's/early '80's, despite the fact that there are no cannibals in this movie. "Black Magic Terror" is a total trip into weird Indonesian silliness."
'Exploitation Madness' - QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC
Christopher William Koenig | Bolingbrook, IL USA | 01/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Welcome once again to 'Exploitation Madness' as we take a walk on the wild side of cinema, reviewing films that are so out there you may not believe what you're seeing. Or, in the case of these reviews, you won't believe what you're reading either! Indonesian horror is an interesting beast to tackle: the effects are usually cheesy and the films play as if nobody even bothered to write a coherent script, but they are entertaining nonetheless. A major exception in this case is "Queen of Black Magic": it's very tightly plotted and features the ever-so awesome Suzzanna in the title role.
QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1979; Indonesian Bahasa Title: "Ratu Ilmu Hitam"/U.S. Title: "Black Magic Terror")
In a small village in Indonesia, young Murni (Suzzanna) is watching an old flame getting married, despite being promised that she would be the bride-to-be. After Murni leaves, strange things begin to happen at the wedding: the bride begins to have hallucinations and it sends the village into a panic. A witch doctor is brought in and finds out the activity is coming from where Murni lives. The town rallies together and throws Murni over a cliff, at the same time burning down her mother's house. Murni is suddenly rescued by an old hermit (W.D. Mochtar), who helps her get revenge on the villagers by teaching Murni the art of Black Magic. Soon, those responsible for hurting Murni get their just due and the village soon looses their religious beliefs. It's up to a young Muslim priest to help the town get back on their feet and put an end to the curses!
First off, a moment of silence for Indonesian actress Suzzanna: she passed away on October 15th, 2008 due to a diabetic condition. It's somewhat ironic that Suzzanna's death was around the October season: originally a child actress in early Indonesian cinema around the late 1950s and early 1960s, she was later dubbed the 'Queen of Horror' after she hit it big in the horror-thriller "Birth in the Tomb" (1972; Indonesian Bahasa Title: "Beranak Dalam Kubur"). Even after being in "Queen of Black Magic", Suzzanna would play supernatural characters in later horror outings: she would play the title role of "The Snake Queen" (1982; Indonesia Bahasa Title: "Ny Blorong") and "The Hungry Snake Woman" (1986; Indonesian Bahasa Title: "Petualangan Cinta Ny Blorong"), as well as a doomed-vengeful ghost in "Ghost With Hole" (1982; Indonesian Bahasa Title: "Sundelbolong"). Since then, Suzzanna has never been topped by any other Indonesian actress in the horror film scene: she had the ability to play both good and evil characters with such flare, as well as having the good looks on the side. For us American's it's hard to judge her performances due to being dubbed in English or the original versions not available in subtitled form, but if one can just look at her you can see a persona emerge. Once the Indonesian horror genre, as well as the entire film industry, began to slowly fall apart in the early 1990s, Suzzanna was absent from the screen for quite some time. It wasn't until 2008 in which the 'Queen of Horror' came out of retirement and performed in her final horror outing "Haunted Ambulance": despite being unseen for years, Suzzanna returned in good form to the genre that treated her well.
But despite her passing, we still have Suzzanna's older films that show how much she truly embodied the genre and "Queen of Black Magic" is no exception. Produced by Gope T. Samtani's company Rapi Films, "Queen of Black Magic" presents Suzzanna beautiful and sexy as ever, displaying both a sweet persona with revenge in her heart, while familiar Indonesian stage actor W.D. Mochtar is great as the hermit who knows all about Black Magic. The English dubbing is strictly okay as it was dubbed by the familiar vocalists that can be heard in the English tracks of many a Euro cult flick; it's certainly much better than the later English dubbing for the 80s Indonesian films which sound as if they were done in Hong Kong and basically become a parody of themselves! The story is actually pretty decent for a change as most of the really out-there Indonesian horror and action films play as if there was never a script present on the set! "Queen of Black Magic" does have a very good dramatic sense by director Liliek Sudjio and even though it does take a while to get moving you have to give it credit in which it takes everything in smaller doses and doesn't come off as silly like the later Suzzanna outing "The Hungry Snake Woman", a film which took the `everything including the kitchen sink' approach a little too literally. And, as usual in a few Indonesian horror fantasies, we do get some Muslim religion infused in the story so prepare for a culture shock, but don't worry for it's nothing extreme.
The big draws in "Queen of Black Magic" are the death scenes which come with some wacky and over-the-top gore effects. Now sure, 80s Indonesian horror doesn't have the best special effects work, but "Queen of Black Magic" delivers some excellent stuff by make-up artist El Badrun. For example, we have one poor guy being killed via a swarm of bees: this moment is just freakin' awesome as our actor literally has a bunch a bees crawling over his head...for real! Then we have some other victim killed via mental pressure, causing his veins to swell up and explode like bubbles; another is dragged in the muddy waters and pulled out with huge worms crawling over him! And then, the biggest moment comes when Murni's old flame tears his own head off and the blood shoots out of his neck like a fountain! It gets better (or weirder, depending on how you look at it): the man's head suddenly becomes possessed and starts flying around, takes a bite out of the town mayor's arm, and is quickly grabbed by a young Muslim priest, only the head flies off with him hanging on! Folks none of this is scary or horrifying. In fact, some of it becomes either ridiculously gross or just a laugh riot in terms of how far it all goes. But then, does it really matter? At this point, it doesn't! The effects may not be 100% convincing, but I take my hat off to the people responsible for this oddity as they delivered everything in spades. Personally, I find Badrun's effects work in this particular outing much better than what he offered in the later Indonesian horror flick "Mystics in Bali" (1981; Indonesian Bahasa Title: "Mistik")!
Mondo Macabro once again needs praise for releasing such an obscure film on American DVD in such good quality. "Queen of Black Magic" was released in the United States by theatrical distributor World Northal Pictures after producer Dick Randall, who was living in Rome in the late 1970s, purchased the English dubbed version. It eventually showed up on early American VHS, but that release was a horrible panned-scanned from the original 2.35:1 scope print. For this DVD release, Mondo Macabro was able to get access to the original negative materials from Rapi Films and did a brand new transfer of the original scope version with 16x9 enhancement and it looks great: the color is vibrant and the picture is sharp. The English audio track sounds decent even if it's a bit hissy; this is a case I wish the original Indonesian language track with subs would've been nice, but the English track is pretty good for what it's worth. Extras include a new trailer created by Rapi Films that's rather blah looking, while Mondo Macabro head-man Pete Tombs presents his excellently written text essays about the film, the cast, and Indonesian horror cinema in general. And last, but certainly not least, is the ever exclusive Mondo Macabro trailer reel showing off the old and new titles the company has to offer.