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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Black Magic (1975) - Black Magic

Black Magic (1975) - Originally titled "Jiang tou" this Shaw brothers story of the consequences of the use of dark magic is a straight up tale for the most part. The Shaw brothers and their studio Shanghai were some of the largest producers of Martial arts films that made their way to Western audiences. Styling their studio like the old time studio, they signed some of the best talent in Asia to exclusive contracts and from 1925-85 produced over 1000 films. Noted by this writer for making one of my favorite martial arts film "Five Fingers of Death". Black Magic is the story of a practitioner of the dark arts who helps those who are willing to pay him with love potions and injury or death spells. His practice is successful since there is always someone looking to get a person to fall in love with them or seek vengeance of some kind. He is introduced through a scene calling for the death of a cheating husband and his mistress. The Magician Shan Jianmi (Feng Ku) needs primarily blood and hair from the victim and with his enchanter skull and some other ingredients can call upon the dark forces to make the spell happen. As we see him work we are also introduced to a good magician who seem stronger than Shan Jianmi and can stop him from succeeding. This dynamic will play an important role in the final confrontation of the film. We do see though that Shan Jianmi's magic is real and powerful in the opening scene.
The plot as it is involves a very wealthy woman Luo Yin (Ni Tien aka Tanny) who has her eyes on her construction architect Xu Nuo (Lung Ti), she is pushy and used to getting what she wants. Of course, he being engaged to Quming (Lily Li), Xu Nuo only spurns Luo Yin's advances which become ever more aggressive as she tries to create problems in his relationship. She is in turn sought by Lang Jiajie a shifty lout who brings our dark sorcerer Shan Jianmi into the picture. When Lang Jiajie (Lieh Lo) can not get anything but hostility from Luo Yin he seeks out Shan Jianmi for a love potion. The shiftless man does not have the money for the fee but figures once the wealthy widow falls in love with him he can use her money to pay. When the potion only last a day it is Luo Yin who has the upper hand. She then goes to the magician for a more potent potion to use on Xu Nuo.
 The story is mostly the repercussions of those actions. The pain and confusion of Quming and Xu Nuo's family as he first cancels the wedding and then takes up with Luo Yin. Through the middle section of the film it seems as if the family and his fiance can not pull him back from the power of the spell. With the help of a good magician there is an exciting and action filled third act where he is finally freed from the spell and the dark sorcerer is defeated.
  Although not the best film for special effects there are some that are noteworthy in the final scenes. A big drawback to the film is the strange soundtrack. Thrown presumably for western audiences it is a strange mix of horror tropes and sixties television movie tunes that strike all the wrong chords. When all is said and done this film though will get the nod from this blog. Nothing spectacular but just enough to keep the viewer engaged.


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