Color, 1979, 90m. / Directed by Liliek Sudjio / Starring Suzzanna, W.D. Mochtar, Alan Nuary, Sofia W.D. Teddy Purba / Mondo Macabro (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

When international horror first infiltrated the home video market back in the early 1980s, the Indonesian supernatural freak-out Queen of Black Magic was many viewers' first taste of low budget but outrageous Eastern filmmaking insanity, albeit in a badly cropped and borderline unwatchable form. Its title, which was often shortened to simply Black Magic or some variation thereof, caused it to often become confused with the gross-out Shaw Brothers series from Hong Kong in some reference guides, but this is pure 100% Indonesian insanity all the way. Even if it doesn't quite hit the madcap heights of the legendary Mystics in Bali (heck, what could?), this make a fine companion feature all the same.

After ditching the sexy Murni (White Crocodile Queen's Suzzanna), young dolt Kohar decides to marry his more traditional fiancee, Beda. However, their wedding day is disrupted when the bride is subjected to traumatic visions which the groom naturally blames on his ex. Naturally, he does what any normal humiliated bridegroom would do-- namely, rally up the villagers to burn down her house and chuck her off a cliff. Unfortunately for him, Murni survives and, understandably in a foul mood, enlists the aid of a dark magician hermit to get revenge. As she crafts her evil powers in a remote cave, those who wronged her begin to die in outrageously gory sequences with the impulsive groom saved for last on her supernatural hit list.

Featuring one of the most memorable decaptation scenes ever committed to film and enough bright red plasma to satisfy any country's drive-in audiences, The Queen of Black Magic still holds up as a raucous, entertaining joyride through the Asian horror catalog of ghoulish treats and would make a fine introduction for anyone willing to dip their toes into this exotic territory. The more extreme elements of some Asian horror films (bug eating, flying entrails, etc.) hadn't really settled in yet, so even novice horror viewers should find this perfectly accessible. While the gore effects are certainly memorable (including some nasty skin bubbling), the real showstopper here is Suzzanna herself, who manages to ramp up the melodramatic fury to a delicious degree by the end of the film. Whether whirling around practicing her sorcery in front of a full moon or inflicting bloody whoopass in the finale with evil yoga (yes, really), she's always the center of the film and understandably is still a busy actress in the industry. Director Liliek Sudjio only directed a handful of features after this, but he displays a sure command of scope framing and works up a slow, creepy atmosphere of provincial dread punctuated with grand guignol insanity.

If ever there were a prototypical Mondo Macabro title, this would be it. Not surprisingly, they've gone all out rescuing it from VHS bootleg hell with a perfect new anamorphic transfer that looks as vivid and colorful as you could ever imagine. Like most Indonesian films, this was primarily made for an export English-speaking audience, so the English dub here is all that seems to be lying around. It's an amusing but not particularly good track, and the hissy sound quality isn't much of a boost over the old VHS, but it's tolerable enough all the same. Extras include a really dire-looking, VHS-sourced trailer prepared for the home video release, and a great 10-minute "Indonesian Light & Magic: A Tour around the Studio of SFX Maestro El Badrun," which features the make-up artist goofing around with some his monstrous creations, demonstrating a few molding effects, and generally showing off his studio, which looks like a straw shack in the middle of the woods with lots of preteen local boys helping him out. Definitely worth a look, and a far cry from the usual FX featurettes found on Hollywood DVDs. Also included are a typically well-written essay about the film and that beloved Mondo Macabro promo reel.

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