• The Queen Of Black Magic (Mondo Macabro) DVD Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: May 27th, 2008.
    Director: Liliek Sudjio
    Cast: Suzanna, W.D. Mochtar, Alan Nuary, Sofia W.D., Teddy Purba
    Year: 1979
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    The Queen Of Black Magic - Movie Review:

    Indonesian scream queen Suzanna (sometimes credited as J.P. Suzanna), the star of films such as The Snake Queen and The Hungry Snake Woman, stars in this picture as Murni, a woman who lives in a small village. She has had an affair with a man named Kohar who has decided to leave her and marry another woman who just so happens to be the daughter of the wealthy village chief. Completely devastated by this turn of events, Murni decides to get her revenge by learning black magic. She ruins the wedding by making maggots appear and killing off an attending shaman type guy.

    Kohar will have none of this, and so he goes to Murni's house and attacks her mother, then tosses poor Murni off a cliff! Thankfully for her, an aged wizard is at the bottom of the cliff and after she bounces off of a tree, he catches her and takes her home. There she trains in the art of black magic and tells the wizard her sob story of how Kohar deflowered her and tossed her away like yesterday's newspaper. The wizard talks Murni into getting revenge on those who wronged her and she begins her training by bouncing around nude in the middle of the night out in the woods. Later the wizard will poor blood on her head and cut off some of her hair but the nude bouncing seems to make up the bulk of her training. Before you know it, she's ready to go.

    Once she's trained, Murni attacks those responsible with a few interesting tactics - a swarm of bees engulfs a guy, another guy sinks in quicksand - but she saves the best for last. Kohar is forced to rip his own head off of his body and once it's been removed, it flies around and bites some of his pals! What Murni doesn't realize, however, is that the hunky fisherman who she meets down by the river is more than just a random hunky fisherman - he may have something to do with her past and he may play a key part in all of this craziness...

    Underneath all the snakes, skulls, flying heads and whatnot is a completely unexpected but heavy handed message about the power of prayer and one's devotion to Islam (Indonesia being a predominantly Muslim country). If the film is to be believed, the only way to keep yourself free from the dangers of black magic is to pray constantly, otherwise you'll be left completely susceptible to the evil powers of those who practice the dark arts.

    The film is well paced and moves along nicely from the beginning wedding disruption through to the big finale, with plenty of quirky gore scenes and obtuse dialogue in between. Suzanna makes for a solid lead actress - she's unconventionally sexy enough to be evil in an an alluring and convincing way, but she also looks innocent enough that we can completely believe that that jerk Kohar would fuck her and chuck her. As such, you can't really blame her for getting pissed off at him, even if having him rip his own head off and bite people was maybe a little farther than she needed to go to get back at him. The cinematography and effects work are all pretty effective, even if they don't do such a good job of hiding the picture's low budget.

    Dick Randell released this Rapi Films production theatrically in North America as Black Magic III in an attempt to cash in on the domestic success of the Shaw Brothers Black Magic films. While culturally there are a lot of differences, thematically this film isn't all that far removed from Ho Meng-Hua's 1975 classic or its excellent sequel.

    The Queen Of Black Magic - DVD Review:

    While the image may not be perfect by big studio standards, anyone who has seen the film before (the Canadian Lettuce Entertain You VHS release or the US Twilight Video VHS release being the easiest way to get the film previously) will be astounded at how good the 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is on this disc, at least by the standards of 2008 (an HD upgrade would be very welcome!). Yes, there is some fluctuation with the colors, some mild print damage and some noticeably heavy grain here and there but the transfer, taken from the original negative, is overall quite good. Some mild compression artifacts show up in some of the darker scenes if you want to look for them but detail is fairly strong and seeing the picture in its original aspect ratio really lets you appreciate the cinematography.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track has a bit of background noise in some spots but is perfectly audible for the most part. Everything is properly balanced and you won't have any problems understanding anyone in the film. There are no alternate language or subtitles included on the disc.

    Mondo Macabro usually goes above and beyond when providing extra features and this disc continues that tradition starting with an interesting essay on the history for the film from Pete Tombs. Detailing the history of its cast and crew and pointing out the strange religious message in the picture, this is a very interesting read.

    Also included here is Indonesian Light And Magic: A Tour Around The Studio Of Effects Maestro El Badrun. This is an interesting ten minute look at the career of the man who provided the special effects for this picture. We get to see his studio, some of the props he's made over the years, and we learn about how he got into doing special effects work after getting out of film school. El Badrun learned his trade not from film school training, but from American 'how to' books that he found over the years.

    Rounding out the extra features are the ever expanding Mondo Macabro promo reel, the film's original three minute theatrical trailer (English language, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and sourced from an old tape), some keen animated menus, and chapter stops.

    The Queen Of Black Magic - The Final Word:

    Mondo Macabro did a great job with their DVD release of The Queen Of Black Magic. The film is presented in very nice quality with some solid supplements. The movie itself? Crazy, gory, psychotronic fun!