Black Magic (1975)

Director: Ho Meng Hua

Well, I wanted something different from the last thing I watched, and damn me if I didn’t get precisely that. I’m not really au fait with the early Hong Kong horror film, other than that I know Shaws made a number of them, and this was one, probably one of the first in fact… The plot is simple enough; there’s a rich widow and two men, she has her eye on one (but he hates her) and the other has his eye on her (but she hates him). In order to win her over, the latter does the logical thing and resorts to black magic, as you do; hiring the services of the magician Sha Jianmai, his plan doesn’t exactly go to order, but the widow decides to try this black magic thing herself to see if Sha’s skills can win over her beloved architect Xu Nuo. Unfortunately for her, Sha has his own ideas about due recompense for his spells… will his nemesis Master Furong be able to save the day? Black Magic is a remarkably silly film, and what really lifts it to its own level of strangeness is that the above plot doesn’t take place in some remote past where it would make sense, but in contemporary Kuala Lumpur (this film just SCREAMS “1975” in so many ways it’s not funny); the icing on the cake is that the climactic duel between Sha and Furong takes place atop one of Xu’s building sites. And the BLOOD! It’s not as gory as I gather some of Shaws’ other horrors (including the sequel to this which came out a year later) would be, but the blood is so ridiculously bright red it just tips the film over the edge whenever it appears. Look, it’s got sex magic, potions involving breast milk, corpses being disinterred and dismembered, astounding mid-70s fashions, music ripped off from what I presume would’ve been European thrillers of the day (and a few bits of Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon), centipede eating… no one would ever mistake it for a masterpiece of the genre, let alone the art, but sometimes 95 minutes of ludicrousness is exactly what you need at stupid hours of the night when most people would be in their beds…

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