Monday, January 25, 2010

Malocchio (1975)

...aka: Beyond the Exorcism
...aka: Black Magic
...aka: Das geheimnis des magischen kreises
...aka: Eroticofollia
...aka: Evil Eye
...aka: Mal de ojo
...aka: Mas alla del exorcismo
...aka: Secret of the Magic Circle, The

Directed by:
Mario Siciliano

In Rome, wealthy playboy Peter Crane (Jorge Rivero) is having bizarre nightmares involving a screaming red-eyed guru and naked cultists. He's also having headaches and black out periods and the beings in his dreams seem to be able to control him whether he's awake or asleep. While visiting his fashion house announcer girlfriend Tania (Daniela Giordano) at work he meets rich Yvonne Chevrel ("Lane"/ Lone Fleming) who has a connected nightmare where someone informs her "Peter Crane will murder you!" And guess what? That's exactly what happens. Peter goes into a trance, scowls, clinches his fists and then strangles her to death. While visiting his friend Derek ("Alan Collins"/ Luciano Pigozzi) and his unfaithful wife Elizabeth (Pia Giancaro) out in the country, he murders them as well. Peter remembers nothing of the events and goes to a pair of shrinks; Dr. Stone (Richard Conte) and Dr. Sarah Turner (Pilar Velázquez), for help. Police Lieutenant Ranieri (top-billed Anthony Steffen) investigates when the corpses start piling up.

Things get even stranger when Peter checks himself into a clinic. Glass bottles burst, stuff starts moving around and he sneaks out of his room to murder a swinger aquaintance after a topless pool party. His butler Walter (Eduardo Fajardo) tries to blackmail him, murders his lover when she threatens to expose him and then pukes up a frog (?!) and gets shot in the head when a rifle falls off a bookshelf and goes off. The inspector is also being effected by the supernatural presence but his psychic wife sneaks charms in his pockets to help ward off the evil. Peter and his hottie female psychiatrist become lovers. Only in movies, I tell ya. Ethics aside, if you were a shrink, would you immediately jump into bed with one of your patients, especially when he's the chief suspect in a series of murders? And then would you go to an isolated location with said murder suspect for a romantic weekend getaway?

The cast is full of familiar faces for Euro horror buffs but the characters they're playing are dull and you never really care about what happens to any of them. Rivero - a muscular guy who was a major sex symbol in Mexico at the time - and his circle of self-absorbed swinger friends crowding into rooms in a drunken stupor are about at unsympathetic as it gets. Not that the protagonist or side characters need to necessarily get us in their corner, but these people aren't interesting either. They're simply annoying, skeezy and obnoxious. Velázquez is certainly gorgeous to look at but she's stuck playing a complete moron, former Miss Italy Giordano serves almost no purpose in the film whatsoever and Fleming (who has very striking green eyes) isn't around long enough to make much of an impact. Mr. Steffen isn't given much to work with either and his role is actually rather pointless. Kind of like the rest of the film.

BCI/Eclipse have paired this slow, muddled film with BLACK CANDLES (1980) for their Welcome to the Grindhouse DVD release. While this one does have a bit of nudity and some mild violence it's not nearly as outrageously sleazy as Candles and is thus completely eclipsed by that film as far as Satantic sexploitation cinema goes. Instead, what we have here is a meandering tale with a memory half life of about 10 seconds and no real payoff. It's badly written, needlessly confusing and Stelvio Cipriani's score peaks during the first sequence. The film was retitled in Spanish-speaking countries to try to cash-in on THE EXORCIST and never saw the light of day in America on a home viewing format until the recent DVD release.


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