Renato Polseli is a director is somewhat obscure to even those familiar with classic Italian horror films and his genre filmography is dwarfed by his peers, which is unfortunate, because his films delivered a one of a kind blend of style, sleaze and straight up insanity!
While his other better known, Delerio Caldo (aka Delerium), is a more straight-forward Giallo, it is an unforgettable experience. filled with ULTRA sleazy lashings of sadistic carnality and some truly over the top 'Nam flashbacks, displayed by lead ham sandwich Mickey Hartigay (Lady Frankenstein, Bloody Pit of Horror and one time, Mr. Jayne Mansfield), that must be seen to be believed.
Opening with a psychedelic ritual sacrifice, Black Magic Rites gets right to to delivering the, uh… Black Magic Rites!! The cult in tight, red underoos, operating out of a pretty low-budget-looking lair.
In the hands of lesser talents, this could be a very weak start but Polseli delivers this opening with some very groovy direction of photography and; some razor-tight editing (which he did himself), that is perfectly synched with the outstanding score by Romolo Forlai and Gianfranco Reverberi. It's these talents that raise this nearly plotless film into a wild, non-stop ride, with a series of incredibly stylized set pieces.
The film then flashes back and forth in time, revealing the central character Isablella (Redemtion Videos' previous release, going under the title of The Reincarnation of Isabel) as a wrongly (?) accused witch, burned at the stake, in front her agonized lover Mickey Hartigay but to the huge enjoyment of the gathering of torch-wielding villagers. Then to the current day (the glorious early 70s, rural Italy), in an ultra gothic castle, that is the home of the dodgy cult, who are hell bent on the Isabella's resurrection. However to their inconvenience, Mickey Hartigay's character has now purchased the castle. Exactly why, is never explained but that doesn't get in the way the sleazy and stylishly-filmed mayhem that ensues. Somehow vampires are brought into the mix (not the fanged type, just blood-hungry ghouls) and all the large breasted female cast take turns getting nude and get sacrificed, seduced, murdered, or just jump in to random orgies for the rest or the films running time.
If you're looking for an understandable narrative, or good acting, look elsewhere but if psychedelic, sleazy, gothic thrills are your taste, you won't be let down, as the action NEVER stops. Everything looks and sounds fantastic, and it's one of my favorite rides through the classic years of Italian horror cinema. A film that could NEVER be made today and can really only be appreciated by cinephiles who live for the wildest moments of 70s horror. The recent Blu Ray release Redemption Videos' Stateside cousin, Salvation and new partner in crime, Kino Video is a must, if you are among the twisted few, who like their horror on the wild side. Black Magic Rites is truly a roller coaster ride through the mind of a truly twisted madman. So when you've seen every Fulci, Argento and Bava film, Black Magic Rites and/or Polseli's Delerium are the ones to reach for. It really delivers the fix that Italian horror/exploitation addicts like myself need.
WRITER: TAD LEGER
Tad is a freelance artist who has created some delicious horror works for Grindhouse Releasing and Hudson Horror Show recently and who is currently working on a new album with the brilliant Blood Farmers. He is a a truly excellent musician. A great friend. A talented warrior of the horror-verse.
Make sure you stop by his website to check out his portfolio and hire him to do things. You will be impressed.