1979 - Ratu Ilmu Hitam (Rapi Films)
[International title “The Queen Of Black Magic”, also known in various territories as “Black Magic”, “Black Magic III”, “Black Magic Queen”, and “Black Magic Terror”. Released in
Director Liliek Sudjio Producer Sabirin Kasdani Special Effects El Badrun Still Photographer Paulus As
Cast “J.P. Suzanna”/Suzzanna (Murni), W.D. “Muchtar”/Mochtar, Teddy Purba, Sofia W.D., Alan “Naury”/Nuary, Siska Widowati, Dorman Borisman, Jufri Sardan, Mien Brojo, Tizar Purbaya, Gordon Subandono, H.I.M. Damsyik, Adang Mansyur, Belkiez Rachman, Ali Albar, Jafarpree York, Ibu Subekto, Jufri Bardan, Soendoro, Doddy Sukma, Joie “Pacharintraporn”/Vejjajiva
“I know the ancient charms to summon spirits and demons. I can make you skillful and expert in the use of them. I can make you queen of black magic.”
In recent years, Asian horror has taken American audiences by storm. During the 1980s and 1990s, Asian horror output was only seen among die hard horror fans, who looked to the far East for more extreme and graphic output. Most of today's Asian favorites are of the ghost or supernatural variety, including The Eye, Ringu, and One Missed Call (all three of which have also spawned mainstream
On his wedding day, a groom's bride-to-be is cursed by black magic... seeing evil, demonic visions, and leaving her in a terrified, hysterical shock. As a witch doctor is killed during an attempted exorcism, his dying words indicate that the person responsible lives to the west. Falsely accusing an old flame for the sorcery, the groom and the nearby townspeople set fire to her house with her mother inside and toss her from the edge of a mountain. After falling and hitting several rocks and trees, her body is recovered by a man near the bottom. He resuscitates her and hides her from the townspeople. Even after all this, her quiet devotion to the groom is evident, and it takes a motivational speech by the man who rescued her for her to understand that revenge must be taken and that those responsible must be punished by means of black magic (that he, of course, will instruct her in). Kind-hearted, she is soon torn between continuing her revenge until the end or stopping it against her teacher's wishes.
Queen of Black Magic not only takes influence from the superstitions of the people of
I first became aware of the film while watching the Britain-produced horror documentary, Fear in the Dark. A brief sequence of a man in a blue sweater under some sort of bizarre trance gorily pulling his own head from his body was startling, and enticed me want to track down the film however I could. Of course, with such a limited VHS release here in the states, it would be a near impossible feat that I feared I would never accomplish. Enter Mondo Macabro, who has finally released Queen of Black Magic on DVD with all the care and attention that fans have grown to expect from the company (I will go into all this later, of course). The use of cinematography and set design is very impressive. For a film industry with not nearly the same amount of experience as its Western contemporaries, this film looks much better and slickly produced than a lot of
I will say this also, Queen of Black Magic has one of the better and creepier synth scores of the era. It may be simplistic, but it aims to create an atmosphere of foreboding evil and it succeeds. I would compare it at times to a cross between the scores of some of Fulci's films of the early 80s and Goblin's score to Suspiria... with a little Last House on the Left electronica thrown in for good measure. It is really unique and it really impressed me. The film is pretty well-paced. Right from the start, it wastes no time. The opening half hour features the creation of the "queen of black magic" and the last hour is all about her revenge and struggles at redemption. And revenge she gets. The people killed in this film aren't simply killed. They are dispatched of in particularly gruesome and sinister ways. One man is stung to death by a swarm of bees, another falls into a waterlogged rice field, only to resurface with boils and all sorts of nasty slug-like creatures coming out of his face. Another's arms bubble up Scanners style all over and then explode with blood. Just when you think a death can't be more horrible, the next one outdoes it. This pattern continues until the end of the film. I honestly didn't know what could top the head-ripping scene, but the film's ending does. The special effects in the gore scenes are actually pretty impressive for the time period. The presence of gore period is unique, given that a lot of today's Asian horror relies on what is not seen, rather than what is seen. The effects of falling and flying bodies is pretty laughable (very visibly a dummy), but it's the gore you've come to see and gore you get in buckets.
The script is a mixed bag, but the dialogue is the weakest point. Much of it is often obvious, plain and more exposition like, but in a film like this, you kind of overlook the script and instead pay attention to the palpable tension and dread that comes from the feeling of true evil that permeates every scene. The good aspects of the script is that the plot is genuinely involving. Like the best campfire and bedtime stories, we follow the narrative throughout the film and care about what will happen next and how the story will resolve itself. That's always the sign of a good movie, folks, and this film passes that test with flying colors. It is difficult to tell if the actors are good or not, because the dialogue on the DVD version is completely dubbed. They are very expressive, however, in their actions and facial movements. Suzzanna is especially good as the scorned "queen". Her portrayal ranges from being breathtaking, heartbreaking, and even menacing. I don't make it a point to always mention nudity or the lack thereof in reviews, but I really have to comment on the bizarre, fuzzy blob that dances around the naked body of the lead actress whenever she is on-screen without clothes. It is meant to prevent the audience from seeing the nudity, and it strikes me as strange that in a film where blood and gore flows pretty frequently that the filmmakers would actually go to the trouble to blur out female nudity. Coincidentally, there is one tiny bit of nudity that they either missed or left un-blurred for some reason (a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of a nipple before a moment of breastfeeding). The lack of nudity doesn't take away from the film at all. It just makes you wonder why they did what they did.
The video presentation on Mondo Macabro's disc of Queen of Black Magic is nothing short of beautiful. For such a forgotten and obscure film, it looks simply brilliant. A few frames here and there appear washed out, but the transfer is generally solid. The audio track suffices, although there is an occasional pop and hiss or two present. It's never loud enough to detract from the on-screen action. Given the rarity of the film and that we're lucky enough to have it on DVD at all, I think the audio's shortcomings can be considered a relatively minor complaint. "Indonesian Light and Magic" is a brief featurette on Indonesian FX artist El Badrun, who provided the film's grisly effects. Also on the disc is a trailer and a brief text essay about the history and making of the film. Not a bad round of supplements, in all. Queen of Black Magic is such a fun, wild ride that I can't help but call this a definite purchase. The gore is eye-popping and the story is both engaging and tragic, like all the best Shakespearian plays and fairy tales. If you're into seeking out the truly unsung treasures and rarities of the horror genre, look absolutely no further than this film. Thanks to Mondo Macabro, seeking it out is as easy as heading to your favorite DVD locale or ordering it online. It comes highly recommended from me and I think others who view it will agree that in just one viewing, the Queen of Black Magic will soon have you under her deadly spell.
Fred Adelman’s review from his Critical Condition Online website:
During a Muslim wedding, someone puts the bride under a black magic spell, where she hallucinates that her husband-to-be is turning into a rotting zombie and her flower necklace is turning into a snake, which puts a serious crimp in the wedding ceremony. It also doesn't help that the wedding feast turns into a pile of maggots and a storm blows in from nowhere. The bride becomes a complete basket case (she imagines that snakes are everywhere) and the wedding is canceled. This all seems to benefit local peasant girl Murni (Suzzanna; THE SNAKE QUEEN - 1982), who was madly in love with the groom, Kohar, before he callously dumped her and decided the marry the daughter of a wealthy businessman. When the local witch doctor is mysteriously killed by some supernatural magic (his body is repeatedly slammed to the ground by some invisible force), he utters in his final breath, "The evil spirit comes from the west!" Kohar interprets this to mean that Murni is responsible, so he gathers all the townspeople to hunt down Murni (The only thing Murni is really responsible for is losing her virginity to Kohar, who promised to marry her after he popped her cherry). Kohar and the villagers capture Murni, burn down her house (killing her mother in the process) and drag her to the top of a mountain, where they throw her off a cliff ("One...two...three...away!"). Luckily, Murni lands in the arms of a black magician (W.D. Mochtar), who nurses her back to health and teaches her the finer points of the Black Arts. Murni becomes the Queen of Black Magic and uses her newfound powers to avenge her mother's death and make all those responsible pay with their lives, especially the dastardly Kohar. Pretty soon, villagers are being attacked by bees; breaking out in huge boils that explode in huge gushers of blood; swallowed under the ground and devoured by snakes; hung from trees by the neck; and, in one case, Murni steals an infant out of a cradle and breast feeds it, getting a huge sexual thrill from the experience! The appearance of a stranger in town named Permana may be just what the villagers need to battle Murni and her teacher. After Murni kills Kohar, she wants to stop the reign of terror, but her teacher won't let her (it's apparent he has an agenda). Things get weird when Murni and Permana fall in love, not knowing each other's true identities. As Permana gets the villagers to accept religion back into their lives, which lessens the black magician's powers, one villager spots Permana cavorting with Murni in the forest. Mistakenly thinking that Permana is in league with the Devil, the villagers may undo everything good Permana has brought into the village.
This is another wild and delirious fantasy film from Rapi Films,
Grady Hendrix’s review from the
As one of the programmers of the upcoming New York Asian Film Festival, I've spent the last six months watching slapstick comedies from
After seven years of programming, I've split Asia up like a giant video store: Action films are from
After Suharto took power in 1967, he jump-started the Indonesian economy with his "New Order" and simultaneously loosened censorship restrictions on local films so they could better compete against foreign product. Six years later, a new law required distributors to produce one Indonesian film for every three foreign films they imported, and Indonesian cinema exploded from 10 local movies in 1969 to 134 in 1977. The budgets were low and the acting made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in finesse, but the filmmakers had access to a head-spinning array of potent material. Indonesian pop and folk culture overflows with legendary heroes, black magic, and grotesque monsters, such as witches who can send their heads flying off into the night with their internal organs dangling beneath like the tentacles of a jellyfish. Indonesian cinema quickly became a delivery device for trippy nightmares.
In the early 1980s, Barry Prima emerged as the major male star thanks to his roles as the nationalist hero Jaka Sembung in "The Warrior" (1981) and its sequels. But it was Suzzanna who came to rule the screen with her recurring role as the evil Snake Queen. She's the titular Queen in "Queen of Black Magic," falsely accused of witchcraft and tossed off a cliff by her ex-husband on his wedding night. She plummets through the air and lands at the feet of an old hermit, who presents her with a proposition: Why not become the evil witch she's already accused of being? One blood shower later, she's the Queen of Black Magic, sending swarms of bees after the man who killed her, causing her lover to tear off his own head (which subsequently flies around and bites people), and cursing one unlucky villager with enormous boils that explode in a shower of gore.
Suzzanna is gravitas itself, channeling late-period Joan Crawford, and the horror is plentiful, weird, and wet. But there's a huge gap between intention and execution in Indonesian horror. When you look at the Snake Queen you may see a woman in heavy eyeliner wearing a polyester robe and a wig made of rubber snakes. But Indonesians see the legendary daughter of the Queen of the
But even for Western viewers, the mix of fear and respect with which women are treated in these cheap, sometimes sleazy films is resonant. Throughout Indonesian cinema, women often play the monsters, and Indonesian horror movies constantly re-enact a morality play wherein wronged women seek revenge and unleash chaos before the patriarchy steps in and restores the natural order. The trend reached its climax in "Lady Terminator" (1988), in which a young female archaeologist is possessed by the wicked Queen of the South Seas — represented by an eel that swims, uninvited, up her birth canal, transforming her into an indestructible killing machine — and stomps through Jakarta, machine-gunning every last pig of a man. This slab of '80s cheese was so popular that the government deemed it a threat, shut the film down after nine days, and rewrote the nation's censorship laws.
While the seams are showing on the special effects, some things speak across all cultural barriers, and the image of a woman in black leather emptying her M-16 into a cop's crotch, then kicking his corpse before striding off into the night to unleash more hell, is the kind of thing that delivers a thrill of pure, exploitation energy, no matter where in the world you are.
Greg B’s review from the Cinesploitation website:
During his wedding to the village leader’s daughter, Kohar’s wife-to-be starts to hallucinate that he is a corpse and that snakes are all around her. Kohar decides that this is the work of black magic and his ex, Murni, must be the culprit. He gathers a mob to hunt her down and kill her for practicing the dark art and for bringing demons to the village. They find her and throw her off of a cliff but unknown to them she is caught (in mid-air) by a witch doctor who is actually the one cursing the town.
The witch doctor nurses her back to health and manipulates her into taking revenge on those that have wronged her. It doesn’t take much convincing before she starts her training in black magic and begins killing her attackers in fantastically original ways. Once she has killed them all, she wants to stop but witchy-poo wants her to keep going and tricks her into it by making her see her new love (a mysterious holy man who is helping the village fight the demonic black magic and doesn’t know who she is) with another woman.
The end result is some weird, Indonesian magical mayhem with a, well, “explosive” ending. Murni’s murderous rampages cuts a swath through the village idiots who followed Kohar’s lead with attacks of killer bees, mud snakes, acidic eggs, busticating boils and voodoo doll delights. There is lots of great, well done gore and surprises to keep you completely enthralled. One thing I found odd about the content was one scene with Murni taking a bath and her naked body is blurred… why? They show the better part of her nipple earlier in a too creepy breastfeeding scene. What people decide to edit is perplexing to me sometimes.
Mondo Macabro’s high definition transfer from the original negative looks perfect but the audio was a bit fuzzy. It wasn’t so bad that it was distracting, but it is noticeable throughout. The best extra for me was the MM trailer compilation that reminded me that I need to dive deeper into their surreal, international cinema archives. The interview with the effects dude and the background stuff didn’t interest me, but you may love it. But even if the disk was bare-bones it would be worth picking up.
Jeff’s review from the Cinema Strikes Back website:
In recent years, the Mondo Macabro DVD label has provided Western viewers with easy access to the colorful world of Indonesian exploitation cinema. Highlights have included the delirious Virgins from Hell (which splits the difference between Russ Meyer’s early work and a Cannon action movie) and Mystics in Bali, one of the most notorious films in the East Asian “black magic” genre. Mondo Macabro has now added another “black magic” film, Queen of Black Magic, to its collection. Just like Mystics in Bali and many other “black magic” films, Queen of Black Magic tells the story of an innocent who falls under the influence of an evil sorcerer and is exposed to the weird world of magical rituals, floating heads, blood, snakes, maggots, and other gross stuff. However, QoBM is a much more polished piece of filmmaking than Mystics in Bali. While Mystics in Bali is basically a series of bizarre special effects sequences connected by only the loosest of narratives, Queen of Black Magic is a flat-out melodrama. Fans of Mystics in Bali should have no fear, however, as QoBM definitely delivers the goods, particularly in the final third of the film, which features all of the exploding people, flying body parts and sorcery duels that fans of the “black magic” genre have come to know and love.
In true melodramatic style, the plot of QoBM revolves around a woman who has been wronged, and the revenge she wreaks on those who have wronged her. Our damsel in distress is named Murney, and as the film opens, she is distraught over the impending marriage of her former paramour Kohar to Beta, the daughter of the village’s chief. Unfortunately for all, the Korhar-Beta wedding is interrupted by a series of plagues, which include hallucinations by the bride and an outbreak of maggots. In response, Kohar falsely accuses Murney of being a practitioner of black magic, and organizes a mob to throw her over a cliff!
Murney is rescued at the bottom of a cliff by an elderly sorcerer, whom Murney somehow does not realize is the person responsible for the plagues that marred Kohar’s wedding. The sorcerer convinces Murney to train in the black arts and exact a gruesome revenge on the men who ruined her life. Unsurprisingly, Murney agrees, and the viewer is treated to the expected gross deaths and the occasional flying appendage. However, the plot thickens when a devout stranger arrives at the village and convinces the populace that the best protection from black magic is a devout life of prayer. Murney falls in love with the devout man, and decides to leave her life of black magic behind. However, as might be expected, the sorcerer has other plans …
The legendary Indonesian actress Suzanna, who plays Murney, is the film’s indisputable center of gravity. Although this film was my first exposure to Suzanna, I can see why she was a big star. Her performance, which alternates between overwrought heartbreak and bitchy rage, has a Joan Crawford-like quality to it. Indeed, Suzanna’s similarity to Joan Crawford is only emphasized by her tendency to wear layers upon layers of makeup in every scene. I don’t know if there are any drag queens in Indonesia, but if there are, I am sure that they perform Suzanna routines.
The film is also very well photographed. The dramatic Indonesian locations are presented very effectively and attractively. Moreover, the film makes very good use of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio; most frames feature well-balanced compositions that stretch across the screen. One striking sequence, in which Suzanna (or, more likely, her stunt double) carries out her black magic training by performing backflips against a dark blue night sky and a large yellow moon, is particularly memorable.
The special effects sequences differ from those in Mystics in Bali — although they are somewhat less audacious (no woman-to-pig transformations here), they are also more gruesome and realistic. The effects personnel were clearly proud of their ability to simulate boiling and exploding skin, and accordingly several characters are disposed of in that gruesome fashion. Another particularly memorable and disconcerting special-effects sequence involves a man whose stomach is swollen to grotesque proportions by Murney’s black magic. In addition to these special effects, the filmmakers also were able to make the most of their presumably meager resources by creating an effective atmosphere through the use of dry ice and colored lights in the tradition of Mario Bava.
The lackluster English dub definitely detracts a bit from the proceedings, however. While the goofy English dubbing in Mystics in Bali helps add to that film’s overall sense of fun and craziness, Queen of Black Magic is a slightly more serious effort that would benefit from an Indonesian language track. However, I have yet to see any Indonesian exploitation film presented in a language other than English. In any event, this is a minor quibble, as the visuals are definitely what’s most important here.
Ed Demko’s review from the Bloodtype Online website:
When it comes to true oddities on DVD I would have to say that there is no company out there quite like Mondo Macabro. Every time I see one of their titles I'm amazed at how strange the movies are in general, then that someone would go to the lengths that they do to simply restore them for DVD. Such work should be commended since they are helping insure that some of these films don't simply fall off the face of the earth. The newest film from the great folks at Mondo is "The Queen of Black Magic", a eccentric Indonesian flick in which a woman is accused of witchcraft and thrown to her death only to come back and inflict revenge against the town that executed her. It's much more strange than it sounds and it's certainly something I would expect from a DVD company as odd as the films it releases.
The first major thing about the movie is that despite it being made in 1978-79 or so and the fact that it was made in Indonesia is that it's special effects are incredibly ahead of their time. The look great and really add a strange feel to the movie that you won't quite expect. They show up on screen at the oddest times as well which makes at least for an interesting experience. Another thing about the effects that should be mentioned is that they really stand up even to this day. A lot of them involve worms and slimy little creatures that give it more of a sense of realism. The fact that Mondo really restored this film and it looks great really adds something to the effects as well. Up until this release I hadn't had the chance to see "The Queen of Black Magic" but I do understand that it's original release in America was basically though poorly mastered VHS tapes with terrible transfers. If you picked up on this movie during that release and enjoyed it, this is certainly something you will want to check out.
As usual the folks at Mondo Macabro did a great job with the extras on the DVD too with a exclusive interview with the special effects creator that's an extremely entertaining 10 minutes, the original film trailers (which give you an idea of how bad the VHS really looked years ago), an informal essay about the film, and other Mondo Macabro trailers that make this disc something worth checking out.
Overall the film itself is fun at times, but nothing too special even though it's a pretty odd flick. Mondo has certainly released stranger more entertaining things in the past but if you generally like their releases or have seen and enjoyed some oddball Indonesian movies then this one might be right up your alley. I would say that it's worth checking out for a rental to see if it's worth adding it to your collection. I did think it was a cool movie but I would spend money on it as I wouldn't see it being something I'd watch more than once though.
Mitch’s review from the Video Vacuum blog:
A young bride starts seeing skeletons and snakes on her wedding day so her fiancé calls in a witch doctor to help. The poor doc dies soon after treating her and the villagers blame the death on the groom's ex-girlfriend, who is a known witch. A lynch mob quickly gathers and they throw the (innocent) witch off a mountain, but she is caught (!) by an evil witch doctor, who is really the one causing all the supernatural shenanigans. He nurses her back to health and teaches her some deadly black magic which she uses to get revenge on the lynch mob. She kills her victims via killer bee attack, turning one guy's face into a mass of exploding sores, pulling one dude into the mud and letting his face get eaten off by worms, using a supernatural scarf that has a mind of it's own to hang another guy, making a dude's belly blow up like a balloon, and setting people ablaze using fireballs. In the most insane scene of the movie, she unleashes a flying acid-filled egg on her ex and when it hits him in the face, his head falls off and starts to fly around and bite the villagers! In the end, she turns on the villagers and begins shooting fire out of her hands until a priest with a mysterious past (FLASHBACK ALERT) sets her head straight. (But not before having a Magician Power Battle with her first.)
Although completely unrelated, the film was released in some regions as the third entry in the Black Magic series. Like those films, the plot of Queen of Black Magic is probably way too complicated for it's own good and features a lot of unnecessary flashbacks and assorted rigmarole. While the flick works like gangbusters whenever the witch is dishing out her vengeance, the screen time spent on anything other than people getting attacked by bees, worms, and eggs is pretty lame and extremely boring. For the most part, it's like watching a porno. You have to sit through all the talking and stuff to get to the action. If you fast forward through all of the plot, Queen of Black Magic would get Four Stars easy; as it is, it's only good for about Two.
Best line: "Everybody knows that prayers frighten the devil! Maybe you people oughta pray then!"
Jared Auner’s review from his Worldweird Cinema blog:
Do you have that tired haunted feeling? Are you seeing snakes, skeletons, maggots in the bean sprouts? Have you been fasting for five days, and yet it still goes on raining?
Don’t look now, friend, but you’ve been bewitched!
The wedding between bastard playboy Kohar and the daughter of the Village Chief has been called on account of devil’s rain. And after the local witch doctor determines that the evil spirit comes from the west, he is promptly raised in the air by unseen hands and repeatedly slammed into the ground until dead. Things are getting serious, and folks are demanding answers. Kohar remembers a girl, Murni, who was once in love with him and who happens to live just west of the village. That’s it! She’s jealous that he is getting married to someone else, so she’s using black magic to plague his betrothed and ruin his special day! No second opinion or proofs of purchase required, it’s gotta be her, and she must be destroyed.
Kohar leads an unruly gang of men to Murni’s home where he slaps the shit out of her mom, and sets their shanty on fire with mom inside. Then the gang takes a kicking and screaming Murni and throw her off a fucking cliff.
That’ll learn ‘er.
After bouncing a couple of times, Murni’s fall is broken by an old man who catches her and takes her back to his place where he nurses her back to health. Murni recounts her horrible ordeal, but insists she isn’t responsible for cursing anyone. Even though Kohar said he loved her, robbed her of her virginity in a rice field, with roaming bison as an audience, telling her “It was bound to happen sooner or later, so what difference does it make where it happens? One place is as good as another when you’re in the right mood.” Even though he dropped her like a hot chakra to marry some brat with money, she’s innocent. Why, she doesn’t even know black magic. The old sorcerer convinces Murni that she’s been wronged to the point of being justifiably revenged, and if she won’t do it for herself, then she should do it out of gratitude for him for saving her life. Murni’s training in the black arts commences, which includes nude mid-air flips off a trampoline in the moonlight, having hot blood poured on her head, and getting her bangs trimmed.
Murni’s revenge on those who tried to kill her is made manifest through death by a deadly bee swarm, gory body part explosions, turning water to quicksand, babynapping, good ol’ fashioned tree-hanging, and-- get ready-- forcing Kohar to rip his head from his body with his bare hands so that it can fly through the air and bite people on the neck! YEEEEHAAAW!
But there’s a stranger in town. A holy man from the city with big ideas. And here’s where things start to get really fucked up...
Starring the lovely Suzzanna, this Rapi Films release is smooth & fast-paced, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to gruesome spectacle. A perfect double feature “opening act” to a film like THE BOXER’S OMEN. I especially dug the short scene where Murni tries to breast feed the baby she stole, and ends up enjoying it a little bit more than a wannabe mommy should.
I don’t know where she thought the milk was gonna come from, anyway, seeing as how she’s never given birth.
Two things THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC taught me:
“A ghost can’t appear so early in the morning!”
“It’s impossible to prove black magic because it leaves no evidence.” You betcha.