Black Magic Rites aka The Reincarnation of Isabel and Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel trecento… is a 1972 Italian psychedelic horror film directed by Renato Polselli (Mania; Delirium). The movie stars Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni and Tano Cimarosa.
The film initially had trouble with the Italian censor board. It was initially submitted on 31 July 1972 and again on 11 August, where it was again rejected with the censors stating that the film “consists of a rambling series of sadistic sequences, meant to urge, through extreme cruelty mixed with degenerate eroticism, the lowest sexual instincts”. Director Polselli shortened the film, which led to its passing on 11 November 1972.
It was released theatrically by Primula Cinematografica on 17 January 1973, retitled Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Trecento…- an attempt to exploit the current popular trend of “Decamerotics”, sex comedies set in the Middle Ages that had become popular since the release of Pasolini’s The Decameron.
Along with it theatrical release in January, a photonovel version of the novel was released in Cinesex mese #1, using the original title of La reincarnazione. The film was considered lost for decades, until it appeared in 1998 on an Italian video in a 55 minute long version. It was later released to home video by the British home video label Redemption under the titles The Reincarnation of Isabel and Black Magic Rites.
Hundreds of years ago, a Jack Nelson (Mickey Hargitay) was restrained while he watched his lover Isabella (Rita Calderoni) burned at the stake for witchery. His threat that she will live again overtakes his life and he spends the next several centuries refining the method to reincarnate his precious lover. His obsession turns him into a monster, walking the Earth in search of virgins to kidnap in his attempt to raise his lover from the grave. A party of people arrives and Jack closes in…
Polselli is clearly working in the same area that often attracted the likes of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, Jean Rollin and Jesus Franco – not to mention a whole bunch of arthouse directors such as Jacques Rivette, Sergei Paradjanov and Alain Renais – where the narrative takes second place to the visual and the atmosphere.
Here, a coherent, conventional and linear narrative is abandoned in favour of cinematic delirium, resulting in a film that is one of the most hallucinogenic that I’ve ever seen. Everything is heightened beyond reality here – the dialogue, the acting, the characters, the music (which goes from moody to comical to furious progressive rock) and the visuals all reach a point of hysteria that is so far removed from reality that the suggestions that this is a ‘bad’ film that has ended up the way it is through incompetence are rendered laughable.
This is a very deliberate trip into weirdness. The film’s editing (also by Polselli) is furious and often builds all the other elements to a point of absolute hysteria, as well as allowing little off-key touches that help make this a bizarre, dreamlike experience.
The film has more bare breasts than most softcore films (and again includes the nudity so randomly and incongruously that it feels more like a deliberate expansion of the surreal than a desire to titillate) and has gore that is both graphic and unrealistic – not just in terms of the effects, but the execution – when Isabel is staked through the heart, she remains alive and conscious.
The lighting is also designed to startle – four years before Suspiria, this is a film awash with vivid reds and greens. And there is barely a moment when something interesting isn’t happening.
Black Magic Rites is one of the most deranged films you could ever hope to see, a high note of hysteria and hallucination that barely pauses for breath, and where excess is never enough.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
” …there is no real storyline to speak of, but a series of barely connected scenes: the vampires […] abducting and torturing their nubile victims during the cycle of the full moon; the other characters wandering around the castle; and lots and lots of talk.” Roberto Curti, Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1970–1979
“… it’s set in a castle, that there’s an awful lot of female nudity, some very poor satanic rituals executed by men in red baby romper suits, and that some of the fashions were probably designed by blind people who had been cruelly lied to about the materials with which they had been provided.” House of Mortal Cinema
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“I have seen some crazy movies. I have even seen some completely insane, inexplicable and just plain weird movies. But nothing I have been subjected to thus far has readied me for writer/director Renato Polselli‘s madness in Black Magic Rites. The closest film I can think of that even comes close to the absurdity on parade here is Luigi Batzella’s Nude for Satan. But even that doesn’t hold a candle to this madness.” Cinesploitation
“…if it’s a little too absurd to be rightly considered a masterpiece it is still a ridiculously entertaining and completely bizarre slice of Italian exploitation well worth revisiting on Blu-ray.” Rock! Shock! Pop!
” …a bewildering fever-dream procession of Sadean images drenched in psychedelic candy colors by cinematographer Ugo Brunelli. While conventional genre film admirers may find the proceedings baffling and a mite pretentious, one cannot argue that Polselli has a particular talent for combining Gothic horror with disturbing and often indelible erotic imagery.” AllMovie
Under its original production title of La reincarnazione, the film began shooting between December 1971 and January 1972 at Castle Piccolomini and at Elios Film Studios in Rome, Italy.