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Mondo Macabro presents
The Queen of Black Magic (1979)

"Now you must take your revenge on them. You must be merciless on them. You must make them pay!"
- Hermit (W.D. Mochtar)

Review By: Matt Serafini   
Published: May 28, 2008

Stars: Suzzanna, W.D. Mochtar, Alan Nuary
Other Stars: Sofia W.D., Teddy Purba
Director: Liliek Sudjio

Manufacturer: Boum Productions
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Violence and gore
Run Time: 01h:29m:44s
Release Date: May 27, 2008
UPC: 843276013493
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B+ B+

DVD Review

In a lot of ways, The Queen of Black Magic is the type of movie I hope to find when venturing into the horror and exploitation fringes of outrť cinema. Itís been recommended to me several times over my years as a horror devotee, but I never put much effort into tracking it down. Thankfully Mondo Macabro has decided to introduce this forgotten little oddity to the digital age for a whole new generation of genre fanatics to discover.

At first glance, this late '70s Indonesian effort looks and sounds a lot more like a martial arts adventure than a supernatural horror flick, and while it avoids any stylized fighting sequences, the structure and pacing remain true to that genre throughout. Itís very much a revenge story, a womanís quest to right the wrongs done to her.

We open in a small Indonesian village where a lavish wedding ceremony is about to commence. One of the wealthiest villagers, Kohar is about to marry when his wife falls victim to a series of horrible (and really quite amusing) visions. Suspecting black magic, Kohar and one of the most easily assembled angry mobs in the history of cinema track down the suspected party: a mousy villager named Marni. Marni is captured and hurled over a cliff to her doom. Luckily she is discovered and nursed back to health by a mysterious outcast. Here, Marni is educated in the ways of black magic and urged to exercise her newly acquired skills on those who tried to kill her.

As far as the premise goes, thereís nothing new to be found here but, to its credit, it explores character motivations more than expected. The end result helps give the film a richness that distinguishes it among its peers. Thatís not to infer thereís a significant amount of depth to the proceedings, but we learn a great deal about the villain and the title Queen, which lends some weight to the inevitable confrontation.

If youíve ever heard this film mentioned in conversation before this release, itís undoubtedly because of the superb special effects work featured throughout. People are engulfed in flames, bodies explode, faces bubble and puss (bladder effects before Rob Bottinís work in either The Howling or The Thing, wow!) all over the place courtesy of Indonesian FX Maestro El Badrun. Our Queen of Black Magic spares no expense in her quest for vengeance, and seeing it all go down is the reason to watch this sucker.

Credit must also be given to director Liliek Sudjio for crafting an interesting looking little film on an obviously limited budget. Thereís one dynamite shot involving silhouettes set against an oversized, yellow moon that instantly sets the atmosphere for whatís to come. The surreal and mystical nature of the film becomes its own character, surrounding its audience in mysticism and making the outlandish sequences seem somehow plausible.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Any avid horror collector is surely familiar with Mondo Macabro, as they've been releasing weird and wild foreign horror for a number of years now with undisputed success. The Queen of Black Magic is another strong release from a quality standpoint. Remastered from the original camera negative, this is a strong transfer with bold and detailed blacks. Some of the shots are a bit on the soft side, but this appears to be an accurate representation of the way in which the film was shot. That said, it's a clean print that looks remarkable for its age.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Arriving in two-channel stereo, the audio track is always clear. Music and dialogue are always distinguishable and the occasionally pulsing score never drowns out the English-spoken track. This may not be an all encompassing experience, but that's not necessary, either. The track creates a solid viewing experience for this midnight movie.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
18 Other Trailer(s) featuring Not so much trailers as quick clips from Mondo Macabro's existing catalogue:
Snake Sisters
Mystics in Bali
The Blood Rose
The Bollywood Horror Collection
Snake Dancer
The Devil's Sword
Lifespan
Don't Deliver Us From Evil
Satan's Blood
Virgin's From Hell
For your Height Only
French Sex Murders
The Deathless Devil
Living Doll
Satanico Pandemonium
Panic Beats
Clonus
Diabolical Dr. Z
Dangerous Seductress

1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Background information on the film and the Indonesian film industry (text format)
Extras Review: A 10-minute interview with El Badrun is the highlight here, an enjoyable discussion of his craft and how he got involved in the Indonesian film industry. El Badrun created some innovative special effects and he spills the beans on the magic for all those inclined to go behind the scenes of the film's magic tricks. The featurette is informative and fun, thanks mainly to El Badrun's infectious enthusiasm for his craft. My only qualm is that it could have been a bit longer.

The text background is a bit dry but worth the read for fans of the film. It begins with info on the film industry of Indonesia and evolves to discuss the making of Queen itself.

The Mondo Macabro trailer roll is a fun watch; running for nearly seven minutes it offers clips from their existing catalog of releases. Although some of the films look better than they are, the montage gives viewers a good idea of what's in store for them should they decide to seek out any other films.

A theatrical trailer rounds out the package.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Right up my alley, this little supernatural revenge film works thanks to interesting and exotic locales, a thorough script thatís somewhat smarter than usual, and some incredibly fun special effects work. Those tired of CGI blood spurts will find lots to savor here—thereís an undeniable charm and magic to homegrown, in-camera FX work we rarely get today. The Queen of Black Magic is everything a trip to the edges of cinema should be: goofy, outrageous, and fun. If I have one qualm, it's that it never goes as far as it should, but that's carping. This is the perfect midnight movie, and a must-see for any horror enthusiast.

 


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