• Black Magic



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: October 31st, 2016.
    Director: Ho Meng-Hua
    Cast: Lung Ti, Lieh Lo, Ni Tien
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    While the world famous Shaw Brothers studio is a name synonymous with kung-fu and martial arts movies, like most major studios they dabbled in whatever genres would turn a profit for them. So it should surprise no one to find that they also put out their fair share of horror films as well the better known martial arts movies. 1974's Black Magic isn't the best horror offering that the studio made but it's definitely up there and it still proves to be a whole lot of trashy fun forty years after the fact.

    An introduction sets the stage for what is to come by introducing us to two wizards – a good wizard named Furong (Koo Man-chung) and an evil one named San Kan-Mi (Ku Feng). These two, working on opposite sides of the magical spectrum, don't necessarily get along so well. From there the movie switches quite drastically and we meet a construction worker named Xu Nu (Ti Lung). When he's not building stuff, he's making time with his lovely lady friend, Quming (Lily Li) and he fully intends to make this gal his wife sooner rather than later. Unfortunately for our two star crossed lovebirds, there's another lady in town, a foxy widow named Lu Yin (Tien Ni). She's got eyes for the hunky Xu Nu and could care less what Quming thinks about her intentions – she also happens to be his boss! If that weren't enough drama, throw Jiajie (Lo Lieh) into the mix. He's got the hots for Lu Yin, figuring she's a catch as not only is she hot, but she's also got a pretty fat bank account.

    If it all sounds like a bad soap opera, fear not, as soon enough we're back to the wizards from the opening scene. Jiajie knows that on his own he won't be able to win Lu Yin's heart or her riches but with the aid of San Kan-Mi, the evil wizard, he's pretty sure he's got a good shot at it. As such, he hires him to work for him. San Kan-Mi, being an evil wizard and all, moves in and starts working his magic but things don't necessarily go the way that Jiajie had hoped that they would. When San Kan-Mi starts to get out of hand, it looks like only Furong can put a stop to his evil ways.

    A truly bizarre cross between soap opera style melodrama and stylish exploitation, Black Magic is a great mix of romance gone wrong and battling wizards. Things don't take too long to get moving once the plot is set up. Once it all kicks into high gear, the spells and potions start weaving their way back and forth between opposing sides providing plenty of odd results. This allows the movie ample opportunity for gross out effects and strange set pieces, such as the usage of breast milk in one spell or using pieces of corpses in another. While all of this is going on the camera is zipping all over the place and really complimenting the frantic energy up there on the screen in front of us. Meng-Haw Ho, the same man who did The Flying Guillotine and The Mighty Peking Man is stylish and tight and it makes great use of the sets and the set pieces.

    In terms of the performances we're treated to a really strong cast for this film, with Lo Lieh stealing the show as the sinister but ever so slick Jiajie. He's perfectly crafty in his pursuit of the sexy character played by Tien Ni, and they have an interesting chemistry together. Ti Lung and Lily Li are good as the chaste heroes of the story who just want to run off and get married, but as is often the case with a horror movie, the villains here are a lot more fun than the good guys are.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Black Magic arrives on Blu-ray framed in its proper 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. While color reproduction is decent here, black levels look a bit off, maybe the result of some contrast boosting or something – they look closer to dark grey than to true black. The good news is that detail is pretty solid, as is texture. There’s a reasonable amount of depth to the image and skin tones look alright. Even if this isn’t perfect, however, it’s a pretty substantial upgrade over the older Image Entertainment R1 DVD that suffered from some really distracting PAL to NTSC conversion artifacts.

    88 Films has supplied two different audio tracks for this release – the original Mandarin Mono track and the old English Mono dubbed track – both in LPCM Mono format. Optional English subtitles are available that translate the Mandarin track. The Mandarin track sounds better, cleaner and clearer than the dub but both mixes offer properly balanced levels and clean, clear dialogue.

    Extras are slim, limited to the Celestial trailer for the film (originally found on the Hong Kong DVD release), a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase. Also in that case is a booklet of liner notes from Calum Waddell that provide some cultural and historical context for the feature. 88 Films has also provided some nice reversible cover art for this release.

    The Final Word:

    Black Magic holds up pretty well, it’s a fun supernatural picture with some bizarre moments of oddball horror and some very memorable characters. 88 Films’ Blu-ray release offers up a decent transfer that easily bests the old DVD release even if the black levels look off. It’s light on extras but the lossless audio is a nice touch.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!