Black Magic Rites AKA Riti, Magie Nere E Segrete Orge Nel Trecento AKA The Reincarnation of Isabel A [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (26th August 2023).
The Film

From the mind of one of Italian genre cinema’s most outrageous and uncompromising filmmakers comes Black Magic Rites (Riti, magie nere e segrete orge nel Trecento ... aka The Reincarnation of Isabel), Renato Polselli’s (The Vampire and the Ballerina) delirious masterpiece of erotic horror.

When beautiful Laureen throws a wild party at the castle which she has just inherited, she is blissfully unaware that its dark cellar harbours an occult sect that is hellbent on avenging the death of Isabel, who was burned at the stake 600 years earlier as a witch. The occultists’ satanic rituals call for the blood of virgins … could Laureen be next?

Starring Mickey Hargitay (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?) and Rita Calderoni (A Quiet Place in the Country), this bizarre, psychedelic fusion of eroticism and Italian Gothic horror is presented in an all-new 4K restoration from the original negative.


Speaking personally, this is one of the maddest films I've seen to come out of the Italian gothic horror exploitation scene in over thirty years of interest. I also feel that Black Magic Rites - or to translate it's Italian title "Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the Fourteenth Century - is the film that Peter Strickland had in mind as the model for his film within a film "The Equestrian Vortex" within his classic Berberian Sound Studio (2013). An insane dream logic melange set in then contemporary Italy but with connections to it's historic past with witches, torture, sex, cults ... well, the Italian title says it all really. A film that makes little linear, narrative sense but is best enjoyed as a mood pastiche.

It's a stunning looking film. I have the old Kino Lorber US BD which looked fabulous but they did little cleanup. Powerhouse Films in conjunction with Final Frame have done a new 4K restoration with a view to bringing it up to speed for their concurrent UHD BD release. From the booklet that accompanies this release:
Black Magic Rites was scanned, restored and colour corrected in 4K HDR at Final Frame Post, London, using the original 35mm negative. A combination of MTI and Nucoda DVO image-processing tools were used to remove many thousands
of instances of dirt, eliminate scratches and other imperfections, as well as repair damaged frames. No grain management, edge enhancement or sharpening tools were employed to artificially alter the image in any way. The original mono audio was remastered by Michael Brooke and David Mackenzie.

Flr a film from 1973 on the format (in this case the BD) it's demo quality, at least as far as the image goes. This is a brightly coloured film in practically every frame. One could pause image after image and use each as a picture to hang on the wall. Colours are pin-sharp with no bleed and run the gamut with lots of additional gel lighting effects as well. This is a strikingly colourful production.

Black levels and contrast are excellent with plenty of shadow detail and no unintended crush or blowouts. Grain is constant but always natural, film like and beautifully handled by Fidelity in Motion's encode. The image has it's soft patches, usually involving optical work and some occasional moments where focus slips a but by and large this is sharp as a tack. My highest recommendation and I'm sure the UHD BD with HDR will look even better ('A+').

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.85:1 / 98:14


Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 (48kHz)
Subtitles: English (optional)

The basic mono track is surprisingly strong for one from this period with some nice moments of base and fidelity and little distortion. It was shot silent with all dialogue being post synced afterwards (star Hargitay seems to be speaking English, most everyone else Italian) in Italian so there are some moments where lips and sounds don't completely match. Dialogue has a little of that canned quality that all dubbing has but by and large this is one of the better dub-tracks I've listened to. Dialogue is always clear and the excellent (optional) English subs do a great job of translating the dialogue for non-Italian speakers. The score does dominate this dreamy film and it sounds wonderful throughout; it's not hugely dialogue heavy (and frankly good luck in trying to make sense of it all anyway). About as good as a mono track can be for a low budget Italian genre piece from 1973 can be ('B+')


Audio commentary with David Flint and Kim Newman (2023)

Flint & Newman are old hands at these yaktraks and they hit the ground running with a chatty, happy, good humoured and lively commentary packed with plenty of trivia and information about this chaotic film. They hit the ground running highlighting the dichotomy of it's simple yet incomprehensible plot. The obviously cover Renato Polselli and his career but we also get the plenty on many other key contributors both in front of and behind the camera. Presented in lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (48kHz, 192 Kbps).

"Chaos Magic: Stephen Thrower on Director Renato Polselli and Black Magic Rites" 2023 interview (38:47)

Thrower has written several books on genre cinema and here gives us a superb overview of Poleslli's life and career as well as an appreciation of his films one at a time in order of release. Superb, as usual. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192 Kbps).

"The 7th Art According to Ralf Brown" 2023 featurette (33:43)

A new presentation about the director Renato Polselli (1922-2006) who used the anglicised name Ralph Brown from director Eugenio Ercolani that features 1999 interview material with Polselli from a lessor time coded video source as well as an interview with as filmmaker Luca Rea who discusses many of the late director's films. Polselli talks about his influences and what made him frightened as a child and Rea talks about his experiences in meeting Polselli, collecting and watching his films and his views on those films and their importance to Italian genre cinema. We also get sections from a 1992 video interview with Mickey Hargitay who talks about working in Italy, acting in spaghetti westerns, peplums and horror films. 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy English / Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192 Kbps).

"Rock Delirium: Lovely Jon on Gianfranco Reverberi and the Music of Black Magic Rites" 2023 interview (24:57)

DJ And film music expert Jon on Reberberi's excellent score setting his career in context especially his jazz, classical and pop influences and achievements. The piece also covers his work with others including his brother. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192 Kbps).

"When We Were Crazy: Gianfranco Reverberi on Black Magic Rites" 2023 interview (18:32)

A career spanning interview with the composer of the films' superb score presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 192 Kbps).

Theatrical Trailer (3:32)

Vintage promo presented in 1080p24 1.85:1 with

Black Magic Rites Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (15 images)

Adequate HD gallery.

80-page liner notes book with a new essay by Miranda Corcoran, a career-spanning archival interview with director Renato Polselli by Jay Slater, an archival autobiographical piece by Polselli, a look at the career of actor Mickey Hargitay, an overview of contemporary critical responses and full film credits

Another chunky and typically comprehensive hardcopy companion to Polselli's delirious film.


Not sent for review.


Holly zarking fardwarks! One of the best looking and most outrageous Italian gothic horrors this side of Mario Bava and Dario Argento gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films and not a moment too soon! Superb image and sound quality and extras to die for make for an essential package all fans of Eurocult and Euro horror MUST have ... highly recommended.

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: A+ Overall: A+


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