Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Reincarnation of Isabel (1974)

Sometimes you wonder about the intentions of filmmakers. Usually it’s easy, and you don’t have to be many minutes into a film to realise that the object is for it to entertain, to move, to uplift, to educate or occasionally (God forbid) to preach.
            But then there are other films, films whose reason for existing we can only guess at. Films probably produced to cater to only the most desperate, rather than the most discerning, of exploitation audiences. But these films, whilst delivering the goods in terms of sex, violence, blood and deviant behaviour, provide them in such an obverse manner that you do wonder what on earth was going on in the minds of those responsible, before realising that you probably wouldn’t like to meet them.
           THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL (which goes by the title BLACK MAGIC RITES on Redemption’s Region 2 DVD) was made in Italy in 1973 and is meant to be a horror film. I say meant to be because having sat through it this bizarre effort here in the Eurotrash Screening Room at the House of Mortal Cinema, and having given the entire endeavour some serious thought, I still can’t work out what it’s meant to be about, despite the fact that one of the characters spends a good ten minutes totally unsuccessfully explaining the plot at the end. What I can say is that it’s set in a castle, that there’s an awful lot of female nudity, some very poor satanic rituals executed by men in red baby romper suits, and that some of the fashions were probably designed by blind people who had been cruelly lied to about the materials with which they had been provided. Other than that nothing’s very clear I’m afraid. I think the back story is about a witch named Isabel who is put to death for vampirism in the fourteenth century. Her husband thus becomes Dracula, the ‘first vampire ever’ (see – two sentences in and this doesn’t make sense). Despite being staked graphically between the breasts and burned alive Isabel takes ages to die in an interminable sequence that in any other film would generate suspense / allow the witch to curse everyone / show her horrible death, but because this film is this film nothing of interest happens at all.
            At a Big Old Castle there’s an engagement party going on for the girl who is the image of our witch. We’re told that this is ‘500 years later’ so we should be in the nineteenth century but it looks suspiciously like 1972. We are also told several times that Isabel will be reincarnated on the coming of the 25th moon, although from when is anyone’s guess, and seeing as it seems to only take two and a bit years for her to come back why they’ve waited until 1972 is also a mystery. Girls (and there are lots in this castle) start to disappear and end up naked and dead. This goes on for a bit to justify the movie and then suddenly, at about the hour mark, everything suddenly becomes another film, with the male members of the cast attacking women we’ve never seen before in what look like a succession of hotel rooms. Just when we think the budget for filming at the castle must have run out two naked girls run back to the castle pursued by villagers in a sequence in which day becomes night and then turns back to day again every time the camera cuts from them to the castle. Anyone still with the film at this point then gets treated to the ‘virgin sacrifices’ which are so trippy anyone watching them on a big screen would have needed years of therapy and lot of antipsychotic medication to enable them to cope with reality again. A man with an enormous moustache and sideboards who has been lurking throughout the film with his Donald Pleasance look-alike hunchbacked friend does the aforementioned completely unintelligible explanation and our heroine is saved when she stabs the villain. Having read other reviews of this I think that more than does justice to the plot and I really do wonder what Mr Renato Polselli was on when he made this, even though it couldn’t have been half as mind-bendingly disorientating as the people who gave him the money to make it.


  1. Yes but...Naked Girls Lord P!


  2. People always complain about movies not making sense. Sometimes I am shocked when I am reading reviews on the IMDB trashing some movie without any cause because they were seemingly unable to pay attention for two lousy minutes. Or are really that dumb.

    Still, you are correct. ISABEL doesn´t makes sense. There are Paul Naschy movies out there which let this one look bad, and that is saying much. People tend to make fun about the laughable lame "satanic orgy-scene" in Hammer´s The Devil Rides Out - well, I do :-) - but after I saw this I had a better opinion of it. This wasn´t so far removed from Plan 9 ineptitude.

  3. Well as with all the films I write about on here I definitely enjoyed it, but it's a weird kind of love I feel for some of the stranger ones!